By John Mitchell
Just days after making the biggest team acquisition in years, the Sox made an even bigger one on December 11th. The Red Sox have agreed to sign Carl Crawford to a 7 year, $142 million deal. The 28-year-old Crawford has spent his entire 8-year career in Tampa, posting a career .296 batting average and averaging 54 stolen bases per season.
The Sox have long coveted Crawford, who now joins Adrian Gonzalez on the most improved team this offseason. The Sox had to send their 1st round draft pick to Tampa for compensation, but will receive 1st round picks from the Tigers (for the Victor Martinez signing) and from whichever team signs Adrian Beltre.
Gonzalez and Crawford should have more defined roles on the team then Beltre and Martinez had. With the gold glove Gonzalez playing first, Youkilis can now move back to his natural third base position, and Crawford’s gold glove defense will help an outfield that had the third worst defense last season.
But the only real concern Sox fans have going into the season is, as always, will the Sox be better than the Yankees? Once you dissect the two teams depth charts, the Sox now have a far deeper outfield than the Yankees, along with a much deeper pitching staff, even if the Yankees end up signing Cliff Lee. The Sox infield last year was filled with injuries, but now that Pedroia and Youkilis are healthy, the two teams’ infields could put up almost identical numbers. Gonzalez and Mark Teixeria are projected to have similar numbers, and the same is true of Youkilis and Alex Rodriguez.
While Robinson Cano has proven himself to be an all-around better 2b than Pedroia, those numbers could be made up at shortstop. Derek Jeter had his worst year last year, and other players such as Marco Scutaro, Jed Lowrie, or Jose Iglesias could put up better numbers than him next season.
In a season that was truly injury-ridden, the Red Sox still won 89 games in 2010 and with both the Yankees and Rays taking steps back this offseason, the Red Sox should be the favorite in the AL East next season. Remember, after the Sox missed the 2006 playoffs, they came back to win the 2007 World Series, and after missing the playoffs this past season, let’s all hope the pattern remains unchanged.