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The Aftershock: Baseball world reacts to the Red Sox signing of Carl Crawford

12.09.10 at 1:03 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The reverberations continue to be felt.

The morning after the news of Carl Crawford‘s agreement to a deal with the Red Sox, it remained the foremost topic of chatter as the Winter Meetings drew to a close. It was not merely that the Sox had delivered a baseball bombshell by acquiring an All-Star player in Crawford. It was the combination of the Sox’ acquisitions of Crawford and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, one of the best offensive players in the game who is also a Gold Glove defender, that proved dizzying.

Immediately, the suspicion emerged that the Yankees and Angels would have no choice but to scramble for counter strikes. New York GM Brian Cashman was peppered with questions about whether he felt compelled to sweeten his offer to pitcher Cliff Lee in the aftermath of the Sox’ deal with Crawford. He insisted that he did not feel such a compulsion, even as he acknowledged that the Sox had just delivered a haymaker.

“It’€™s a great move. They’€™ve got a great team. Significantly improved. They were a great team last year. They got derailed by injuries,” said Cashman. “They’€™ve had two huge acquisitions. They’€™re loading up like they always do. This is even more significant than a typical Red Sox reload. They’€™ve done a good job so far.”

The Angels, meanwhile, had been involved in the Crawford bidding as well. One source thought that Los Angeles had bid $108 million for the outfielder, though the term for which they were interested was unclear. Halos GM Tony Reagins, whose team was viewed as a consensus favorite to win the services of the outfielder, did little to clarify where the Angels were in the Crawford sweepstakes.

“‘€˜Favorites’€™ is used a lot but I don’€™t know how accurate that is,” said Reagins. “I think to put the label on as a favorite, I think we’€™ve seen this before with other players in this offseason that were quote-unquote favorites for a particular club and ended up signing elsewhere.

“What we do is we evaluate a player, evaluate his skill set, assign a dollar value to him in terms of AAV and years and the level that we’€™re comfortable with. Once it exceeds that, we have to make a decision one way or the other.”

With Crawford gone, the Angels — who are still trying to upgrade their offense — may have little choice but to throw their full efforts into a bid for third baseman Adrian Beltre. Or, perhaps they will intensify their own efforts to acquire Lee.

While big market clubs were left to react to the Sox’ financial muscle-flexing, the situation was arguably even more stark for teams with even more limited payrolls. Andy MacPhail, the GM of the Orioles, could not hide his own distress at the fact that a division that has featured the most ferocious competition in baseball in recent years just became even more daunting for a team that has proven unsuccessful in landing key free agents.

“We’€™re going to start a mid-Atlantic Division,” he joked. “Frankly in our view, Boston was a powerhouse and a force going into 2010 and suffered injuries that are almost inconceivable, and still had a pretty good year. Now, when they get Pedroia healthy and they get Youkilis healthy, they add Gonzalez and they add Crawford ‘€¦ ooof. Oooof.”

Jays GM Alex Anthopolous suggested to reporters that it was difficult to assess the impact of the acquisitions of Gonzalez and Crawford. Because those two stars will be replacing a pair of players (Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre) who performed at a star-caliber level for their positions in 2010, he implied that it is not clear to what degree (if any) the Sox improved strictly based on their two acquisitions and their two free agent departures.

But, what he did find daunting was the prospect of having to contend not just with the two Sox newcomers but also the returns to health for several key Sox — Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury — who missed much of last year.

‘€œLet’€™s see, the subtracted (Victor) Martinez and (Adrian) Beltre, and they added Gonzalez and Crawford,” reasoned Anthopolous. “The thing is, you have to look at the years that they had. Beltre had a great year. He hit .320, 30 home runs, and then, Martinez hit about 20 home runs. Hard to say (how much better the Sox are) because they both had very good years. They’€™re a different lineup because of Crawford and the speed that he brings. Certainly, Gonzalez is much more of a power threat and a left-handed bat. I think they’€™re an improved club strictly from a health standpoint. Health alone, if they had just kept the same team, I felt that team kept intact was a 100-win team. You can argue that the loss of Martinez, Beltre, whether that’€™s an upgrade or it’€™s the same or close. We’€™re talking about four great players. It can be debated. Martinez and Beltre are great players, and now you’€™ve got Crawford and Gonzalez. With Ellsbury, Pedroia (healthy), Beckett’€™s going to be better, Lackey’€™s going to be better. To me, they’€™re an improved club just because of that.”

While the baseball world was stunned by the sheer magnitude and audacity of the Sox’ two offseason moves, few seemed startled that they had indeed proceeded in such ambitious fashion. The moves were bold, and, most expect, the results may be as well.

“They probably looked at it, looking at their division, [as an] opportune time to maybe get back on top of the division,” said Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers. “I talked about Adrian (Gonzalez) knocking the paint off the Wall. Jeez, you’ll have to have some guy hanging from the wall there constantly doing that during the game. Pretty impressive lineup.”

Read More: Adrian Beltre, adrian gonzalez, alex anthopolous, andy macphail
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