Look who rises from the grave like a Phoenix after over 3 months of no posts. I’m not going to delve into why I fell off the map. The important thing is that I am back and I didn’t just use a fake catchy headline to get your attention. There is at least something to this. How much I don’t really know though we will know pretty quickly into the Hot Stove season following the World Series.
The notion of Tampa Bay Rays free agent leftfielder Carl Crawford coming to the Tigers came from Buster Olney during his appearance on the Bill Simmons’ podcast, the BS Report (10/11 episode). The two were discussing Crawford who is likely to be the most coveted hitter this offseason and of course Simmons was curious about Boston’s prospects for signing him. Olney mentioned that they would go hard for him and then mentioned three teams who would also be gunning for him: Los Angeles Angels, Chicago White Sox and our very own Detroit Tigers. He didn’t expound on the prospect of any of the other team besides Boston so there isn’t a ton to go off of and thus not a ton to get overly excited about at this juncture.
With so much money coming off of the books (Magglio Ordonez, Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson, Jeremy Bonderman, Gerald Laird, Johnny Damon, Brandon Inge and Adam Everett), the Tigers should be able to get in on the best free agents, financially speaking. This isn’t a shmuck team they are trying to attract free agents too, either. Crawford is the type of game-changing signing that makes an entire offseason. He’d be a perfect fit for the Tigers given what ailed them during this 81-81 season of 2010.
He’s a defensive superstar out in leftfield and the combination of he and Austin Jackson would not only be a marked improvement, but it would also offer some stability out there coming out of a season that saw seven different guys log time in leftfield and six patrol rightfield. There were four guys who logged serious time at each corner outfield while the five remaining players played just a few games.
If Crawford were brought in, that would leave rightfield to Brennan Boesch for the most part (even if Magglio is re-signed, I don’t think it would be to be a full-time RF’er). He was a negative value fielder and though the hardcore sabermetricians suggest not putting too much stock into one year of defensive data, I’m not surprised Boesch came out with a negative rating. There were too many times he just made the wrong play. That said, I would be fine with him out there because a) I think you could reasonably expect improvements from a 26-year old and b) despite the second half collapse, I still want his bat in the bottom four of the lineup.
According to FanGraphs.com UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) for 2010, Jackson was the 4th-best centerfielder in the American League and 6th-best overall, while Crawford was the 2nd-best leftfielder in all of baseball behind only Brett Gardner of the Yankees. In fact, Crawford’s UZR was the 3rd-best in all of baseball, regardless of position (Gardner, Jay Bruce).
Crawford would already be a major addition before you even get into his contributions at the plate, which are vast & many. I consider Crawford a 5-tool player, though some overlook him because they don’t realize that he actually does contribute a decent bit of power. This past season he popped a career-high 19 home runs and he has been in double digits in 6 of his 8 full seasons and in the mid-to-upper teens for 4 of those. Everyone knows about his dynamic speed as he has topped 50 five times, four of which led the league. This year he didn’t reach the mark (47), but no one is complaining.
He would be a perfect #2 hitter behind Jackson who would actually do what we all expect Damon to do this year and much, much more (ed. note: no one was banking on Damon to steal or hit triples like Crawford does, not at 36, but I expected twice as many home runs as the eight he logged and a batting average better than .271). He could also hit 3rd if needed, though that would likely sap some of stolen base prowess with Cabrera hitting behind him. But let’s not put the cart before the horse too much more here and just settle on the fact that Crawford would be a MASSIVE addition, one that would make the offseason a complete success almost regardless of whatever other moves were made.
Luring him won’t be easy, but I certainly hope the Tigers are in on the bidding as Olney suggested.