Crawford Boxes

Of all the times of the year in which baseball is not being played, the winter meetings are undoubtedly my favorite. I love rumors. I love trades. I love thinking about what could happen, and the repercussions that would occur if they did. During the winter meetings I mainline baseball gossip like I do at no other point during the year, constantly refreshing Rotoworld and MLB Trade Rumors and rosterbating furiously.

The big news out of this year’s winter meetings was, of course, the Red Sox upgrading their lineup by both hypnotizing the Padres into believing they wanted to trade Adrian Gonzalez for a handful of magic beans and sweeping Carl Crawford off his feet with a seven-year, $142 million contract. There’s a lot of the usual talk about parity and salary caps that springs up whenever an AL East team does anything, and while I don’t normally go for caps I do have to admit that it’s discouraging to see other teams nail down All-Stars to big-money deals while the Braves would consider the winter meetings a victory if they could con some team into talking $4 million of Kenshin Kawakami’s contract. I’ve been generally happy with the Braves’ offseason so far, but the Red Sox and Yankees are playing on an entirely different level.

As for on-the-field value, I don’t think these moves help the Sox as much as it’s being portrayed. They lost Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre already this offseason, remember. Gonzalez and Crawford just bring them back up to par, maybe a little better, and they were a third-place team last year (albeit in a ludicrously strong division). Crawford, in particular, seems like a pretty severe overpay for me. I know he’s been great by WAR, but I find it hard to believe that a left fielder who has never slugged .500 in his career could ever play good enough defense to merit $20 million a year. The key to the Red Sox season in 2011 is going to be health — Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Jacoby Ellsbury all need to stay healthy, Josh Beckett  and John Lackey need to regain their effectiveness, and Clay Buchholz needs to consolidate his 2010 gains. I think the Sox will win or lose not based on the new guys, but rather on whether the guys they already have perform up to expectations.

Other news… Cliff Lee’s agent is still hemming and hawing about starting negotiations. I’ve heard there are multiple seven-year offers out there, and that’s a bridge too far for me. Even if we accept that CLIFF LEE is here to stay (as opposed to cliff lee, who Lee was not three years ago), he’ll be 32 next year, and 38 at the end of a seven-year deal. Is he really going to be effective at that age? Hell, is he really going to be effective at 35? I’m pulling for the Rangers to re-sign him just because I don’t want the Yankees to get him, but that contract could go albatross in a hurry for anyone without a Yankee-sized payroll.

The Phillies have reportedly been lurking around the periphery of the Lee negotiations, and they’ve also kicked the tires on Zach Greinke. I’m not ashamed to admit that the Phillies getting either of those two would scare the crap out of me. The Phillies as currently constructed are a good team, but shallow — they’ve got excellent high-end talent, but the back of their rotation is crappy, they’ve got question marks in the outfield, and their bullpen is eminently beatable. They’re a beatable team right now, but if they keep adding more stars, I’m not sure that will continue to be the case. Luckily, it looks like their payroll is more or less maxed, and Ruben Amaro is one of the shittiest GMs in baseball when he can’t just throw around cash.

I have no idea what the Marlins are doing. The Gnats have apparently gone mad in the absence of Stephen Strasberg’s calming influence. The Mets? Make me laugh.

The Yankees have been quiet, and they could be in trouble if they don’t land Lee. Then again, no one is better than Brian Cashman at convincing other teams that what they really want is large, steaming plates of shit in exchange for their best players, so I suppose there’s still time for them to trade Joba Chamberlain and some non-prospects for Ryan Braun or whoever. Either way, the Yankees are probably still the favorites, even if their defense gets worse with each passing year.

Are there even teams on the west coast, or are they a mass fever dream?

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