Thursday, November 5, 2009

Don't fall in love with Carl Crawford, Cubs fans.

So now that the World Series is over, the hot stove can finally begin! We already have some movement via Kenny Williams and the White Sox/Royals but taking a look at some of the more attractive free agents out there (and there's quite a few) Cubs fans can salivate over what could be next year.

It is no secret that the Cubs need more outfield power and speed. No longer can the Cubs rely on a healthy Soriano because, well, he hasn't been healthy since being in a Cubs uniform. And to get the most out of their current outfield, Soriano will have to stay in left and Kosuke must be moved back to his "normal" position (RF). That leaves CF open. Reed Johnson is a free agent now but I expect the Cubs to resign him because he's a solid defender and can platoon with another person (Sam Fuld perhaps?). But that still doesn't address the issue of power and speed. You would essentially have the same team next year as the 2009 team.

I took a peak at some of the outfielders available and I immediately fell in L-O-V-E with Carl Crawford. His speed, stolen bases, on-base percentage, slugging percentage are as attractive to me as Kim Kardashian in a Jasmine Halloween costume--it can be love at first sight. But what lurks underneath the costume and makeup?

The GOOD: In 2009, Carl Crawford had: -UZR 17.6, -60 stolen bases with a success ration of 79%, -on base percentage of .364, -slugging percentage of .452, -BABIP of .346, -wOBA .367, -WAR 5.5, -Dollars 24.6 mill -Salary 8.3 mill

Defensively, Crawford has been a S-T-U-D in left for Tampa Bay since 2002 (with some great UZR numbers in '03,'04,'05,'08,'09). His average UZR equates to 13.2.

The BAD: He plays LEFT FIELD (a position known by most in baseball where you stick your worst outfielder). If the Cubs were to legitamitely pursue him, they would have to move him to center. The reason why Crawford is in left is because of his arm, sure he could cover a lot of ground with his speed but what's the point if he can't throw to the cutoff man? AND he would be playing in the cold for a good month and a half. I don't care if the field in Wrigley has been redone, cold earth is cold earth and when you dive, it will hurt. Another thing to ask is how will he fair when he reaches that warning track? The warning track is the great equalizer at Wrigley because it separates the men from the boys. The men know they will be colliding with an immovable brick wall but they go after the ball anyway, the boys do not. They hesitate and allow the ball to pass their glove. Another thing to consider is his leadership quality. The center fielder is the captain of the outfield. Could he take on this added responsibility?

More BAD: One major problem is his age. He's 28 now. His best years could have been 2008, 2009. Plus, whenever a team signs a free agent, there's always an adjustment period (that includes, getting use to the city, fans, ball park, coaching staff, pitchers, etc, etc) and sometimes these players take the majority of the season (or a whole season) to adjust. So expecting the same level of production is too high of expectations. PLUS-his agent will more likely find a team that signs him to a 5 or 6 year contract basically handcuffing this team when Crawford is well past his prime (but hey, it's all in the best interest of his client).

My colleague Brad had to take off my beer goggles about Crawford's stats and told me the following:

"Carl Crawford is a beast, no doubt. However, his knees are getting old and beat up on Tropicana Field's turf. His arm is definitely not super high quality (i.e. he'll likely never play RF) but he's got more than enough wheels to play left or center. Also, he's a free swinger that rarely lets off the first pitch. Guys like that can be really frustrating: he's got the legs to steal two bases in one wind-up, but never draws a walk. I wouldn't want him at CF just because his arm. A lot of players would advance to third or home of the course of the year. Also, his best years may be behind him and his pricey years are definitely ahead of him.

Someone recently asked me, "So you wouldn't take Carl Crawford right now over any of your prospects in CF?" My answer is a solid "No". Too many question marks as I mentioned above plus it will not be cheap. We're looking at a similar contract (in terms of dollars and length) as Soriano's. I would be surprised if Crawford is signed for less than 12 mill per year. If the Cubs weren't handcuffed with Soriano's contract, paying Kosuke 10 mill a year, and eating at least half of Milton Bradley's, I would definitely be on the Carl Crawford bandwagon here. But as of now, I think the risk outweighs the reward.

In summary, Cubs fans, don't fall in love with the numbers. Sure they may look good on paper; all the stolen bases, OBP, SLG, UZR, etc, etc...

...but so did Soriano's.

3 comments:

  1. Excellent point. Pursuing Crawford (who's still under contract with the Rays, so we'd have to trade just to get him) would be far too similar to the Soriano acquisition. Assuming we sign him long term, and the Cubs would likely do that, then we'd be putting a lot of faith in his already banged up knees. The age of 28 is young in baseball terms, but I watched almost every Rays game in the last 2 years, and it seemed like he got a TON of regular off days because of his knees. And on days his knees didn't feel well, more balls dropped in front of him and he rarely stole a base.

    Crawford might be a decent 1-year rental, but he's about to get ridiculously expensive. So unless we find a suitor for Soriano or Bradley, I don't see Crawford in Cubby blue.

    I would like to point out, though, that generally RF -- not LF -- is where you put you're most god-awful defender (see Adam Dunn, Jake Fox, Pat Burrell w/the Phillies) unless they have a noodle arm. Generally left-fielders can get away with noodle arms because third base is so close, but they have to be better defenders because right handed batters (which there is a majority of) tend to pull the ball to left.

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  2. As for center field, I'm excited to see Tyler Colvin play that position a little in Spring Training this year. Out of college, he played center, but has split time in RF, CF, and DH in the minors. I doubt he reaches the team this year, but he could be starting out there every day by mid-2011.

    He's got an average-to-below-average eye, moderate speed, and good power.

    His stats:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=colvin001tyl

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  3. AH Carl Crawford he is under option for 2010. Darn asterisk...they hide on me sometimes.

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