During the last few days we've heard some rumblings about the Yankees' apparent lust for free-agent-to-be Carl Crawford, hence why the team might not be that keen on a hypothetical Curtis Granderson/Brett Gardner flip-flop in the outfield, despite the fact that both offensively and defensively Curtis in left and Grit in center probably represents the most effective deployment of resources.
This got me thinking what kind of contract Carl Crawford might realistically expect on the open market next year. Is he a $10-$15 million/year player? A few years ago the answer might have been a resounding yes, but given teams' clear willingness to scale back on player salaries during the last two offseasons, one would hope his expectations might be somewhat tempered.
Additionally, how many teams aside from the Yankees are even going to be bidding on Crawford? The Red Sox won't need a new left fielder next year, and the Rays have seemingly already waved the white flag on resigning Crawford.
Let's take a quick look at Carl's OPS+, wOBA, UZR and FanGraphs dollar values since 2003, his first full season:
Crawford's certainly been a very productive left fielder in nearly every season of his career, and rebounded quite nicely last season after a rough, injury-riddled 2008 campaign. Also, according to UZR, Carl's defense is the tits.
Here's what the various projection systems have Carl wOBAing (probably not a legitimate conjugation, but whatever) in 2010:
Every system projects a regression from his near-career high .367 in 2009 -- which strikes me as a tad bearish for someone entering their Age 30 season -- but three of the four at least have Crawford bettering his career average. SG's CAIRO projection -- which tends to project slightly more favorable numbers than some of the others -- really surprised me here. SG just uploaded his latest projections, so perhaps there's a change in the methodology that I'm not seeing, but I'd think a lot would have to go wrong for Crawford to post a wOBA .09 points lower than his career average.
In any event, per FanGraphs Crawford has been worth well above $10 million annually in nearly every season of his career, not to mention nearly $25 million in 2009. Even if Crawford merely matches his career wOBA, the combination of his defense and speed will almost surely trigger an asking price of around $15 million/year if not more.
Is Crawford a $15 million/year player? I'm not so sure about that, but if you're the Yankees and you can get Crawford on a four-year deal for $15 million per, you probably have to do that. This is of course assuming he continues to produce at similar levels -- if he falls off a cliff this year then obviously this all gets thrown out the window.
Crawford will almost certainly want more than four, but teams don't seem to be interested in signing anyone other than the elite guys (Tex, Holliday, etc.) to significantly lengthy pacts, and I don't see the Yankees wanting to commit to any more than four years to a position player that's not one of the two best players at his position in the game.