LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Amid speculation in recent days that his team wouldn't be a player for Carl Crawford after a blockbuster trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, all Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein would say is that he wouldn't rule anything in and wouldn't rule anything out. Now, you can rule it in.
Crawford, arguably the top position player on the free-agent market, has been secured by the Red Sox with a seven-year, $142 million deal, two Major League sources have confirmed. That will make him the second-highest-paid outfielder in history, both in average annual salary and overall contract value.
"I can't acknowledge any signings at this time," Epstein said on Thursday morning. "I don't want to talk about specifics about the negotiation -- about any negotiation -- really, until the signing is officially made. Over the next couple of days, we'll be working [on things]. If there were agreements that were reached at the Winter Meetings, we'll be working in the 48 hours after the Winter Meetings trying to cross the t's and dot the i's."
The somewhat stunning news was first reported by The Boston Globe via Twitter late Wednesday evening. There are still some details to be worked before the deal is official, including a physical.
The news came just hours after Epstein told the Boston media he didn't think he was close to signing any position players.
|Here are the 27 contracts of more than $100 million that have been signed since Kevin Brown's deal first broke the barrier in 1999 (asterisks identify contract extensions).|
|Ken Griffey Jr.||CIN||$116.5M||2000-08*|
|Sources: Cot's Baseball Contracts, the Associated Press and MLB.com archives|
The Red Sox had already gotten a big bat in Gonzalez, a star first baseman they acquired from San Diego for three highly-rated prospects. Seventy-two hours later, they made another big acquisition, boldly bolstering a lineup that could be overpowering in 2011.
Boston now has a projected lineup that could look something like this on Opening Day: Jacoby Ellsbury CF, Dustin Pedroia 2B, Crawford LF, Adrian Gonzalez 1B, Kevin Youkilis 1B, David Ortiz DH, J.D. Drew RF, Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Jason Varitek C, Marco Scutaro SS.
Boston had laid the groundwork for its deal with Crawford by meeting in person with the outfielder and his representatives in the Houston area last week. Epstein and manager Terry Francona were both present for that.
But shortly after that, Epstein immediately pushed forward in his pursuit of Gonzalez, a deal he finalized on Sunday. Though Boston's current financial relationship with Gonzalez is just the $6.3 million he is owed for next season, the sides discussed parameters on a seven-year, $154 million pact that could be formalized before the slugger is eligible for free agency.
Because of that potential commitment, there was wide-ranging speculation that the Red Sox wouldn't make such a sizable investment in Crawford. Also, when Jayson Werth signed with the Nationals for seven years at $126 million, the Red Sox even wondered if that might put Crawford out of their price range.
Throughout the Winter Meetings, most of the Crawford rumors surrounded the Angels. The Yankees were also involved, as their general manager Brian Cashman met with him on Tuesday.
For the Yankees, however, Crawford seemed like more of a fallback plan in the event they couldn't land Cliff Lee, the lefty they reportedly have a six-year, $140 million on the table to.
If the Bombers do add Lee, the rivalry will have even more fervor next season, given the marquee acquisitions on both sides.
"Great player, great move," Cashman said of Boston's acquisition of Crawford.
Crawford, 29, hit .307 with 110 runs scored, 30 doubles, 13 triples, 19 home runs and 90 RBI for the Rays this past season.
The combination of Ellsbury -- who stole 70 bases in 2009 -- and Crawford will be arguably the top speed tandem in the game. Throw in the table-setting capabilities of Pedroia, the relentless combination of discipline and power from Youkilis, the elite production from Gonzalez and the thunder that Big Papi still has in his bat, and Boston could be an opposing pitchers' nightmare in '11.
The Red Sox know Crawford well from competing against him for so many years with the Rays.
Crawford will be the first position player to receive a $100 million contract without hitting 20 homers in a season. Ichiro Suzuki's $90 million deal was the previous record.
The contract will be the 10th largest in MLB history, behind deals previously signed by Alex Rodriguez ($275 million and $252 million), Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Manny Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki and Miguel Cabrera.
Crawford's average annual value of $20,285,714 will also be the 10th highest in history. And his average annual value will trail only Ramirez all-time among outfielders. Ramirez had a two-year, $45 million deal with the Dodgers in 2009-10. Crawford's deal also ranks second among outfielders in overall value -- also to Ramirez, who signed an eight-year, $160 million with Boston in 2001.
Crawford is the first player in Red Sox history to receive more than an average of $20 million annually.
Crawford's legs make him an impact player on both sides of the ball. He has the ability to find the gaps and hit his share of longballs, even though he'll likely never be a slugger.
He has played 1,235 games in the Majors, hitting .296 with 215 doubles, 105 triples, 104 homers, 592 RBIs and 409 stolen bases. In 78 career regular-season games at Fenway Park, Crawford owns a .275 average with 24 doubles, 35 runs scored and 26 stolen bases.
After winning the World Series in 2004 and again in 2007, the Red Sox advanced to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series in '08, but were ousted by Crawford's Rays.
The Red Sox had a slight downturn the last two years, being swept in the Division Series by the Angels in 2009 and missing the postseason in 2010 when their injury-riddled team recorded 89 wins.
But now, Boston has made a strong push to play deep into October again. Though Epstein has never been shy about making moves during the Hot Stove season, these two transactions probably mark his most dramatic winter splash since the acquisitions of Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke seven years ago fueled the '04 title run.
"You know, if things come together the way we hope and expect, we'll be really satisfied," Epstein said. "I think you go into every winter with a Plan A, and sometimes it's hard to pull that off, and then you move on to Plan B and C. I think adding an impact player was very important for where we were for the short-, medium- and long-term. Adding two, as long as they were the right players, in the right spots, in the right situations, would be even better."
With their offense more than solidified, Epstein's main focus now will be to solidify a bullpen that was Boston's glaring weakness in 2010.