Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Can the Tigers Get Carl Crawford?

I recently wrote that catcher Victor Martinez would be a good acquisition for the Tigers and that I thought the Tigers had a reasonable chance to sign him.  While he may be the most realistic option for the Tigers, he wouldn't my first choice.  That would be free agent left fielder Carl Crawford, who was recently linked to the Tigers by Ken Rosenthal

Unfortunately, Crawford has also been linked to deep pocket teams such as the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees.  I'm sure there are plenty of other teams interested as well.  I'm not going to write the Tigers off just yet.  Dave Dombrowski and Mike Illitch will likely make a strong pitch for the talented outfielder and it won't be impossible for the the Tigers to get him.  However, they have no history of being able to beat out the big boys of New York, Boston and Los Angeles for the most attractive free agents in the market.

Dombrowski has said that the Tigers are primarily interested in acquiring a power hitter to bat behind Miguel Cabrera.  However, they really need any kind of hitting they can get.  With the departures of Johnny Damon and perhaps Magglio Ordonez, that includes guys that can get on base and hit for average.  Crawford is not a classic power hitter or on-base man, but rather does a little bit of everything.  Over the last three years, he has batted .297/.349/.454 and has averaged 23 doubles, 10 triples and 14 homers per year.

In addition to his hitting, he has averaged 44 steals in 55 attempts per year over the last three years. He was also sixth in the majors with 7.5 Equivalent Baserunning Runs(EQBRR) in 2010.  That means he produced an estimated 7.5 runs with his baserunning beyond what you would expect from the average player in the same opportunities.  Center fielder Austin Jackson ranked ninth, so that would certainly give the Tigers a dynamic duo on the bases, something they haven't had in decades.   

Defensively, Crawford is one of the premiere left fielders in baseball.  He and Yankees speedster Brett Gardner are tied for first with 14 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS).  Using the Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) Statistic, Crawford (19) is second to Gardner (23).  Crawford would be particularly useful in Comerica Park's big left field.  I'm sure flyball pitchers such as Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer would be especially happy to see Crawford and Jackson running all over the outfield.

Crawford is said to be overrated as a hitter by some, but there is little question that he is an outstanding all around player.  He is currently just 29 and probably has three or four more all-star type seasons in him. It's probably going to take six years and a boatload of money to land him, but he'd make a substantial impact on any team that can sign him.

Can the Tigers get him? Yes, it's possible.  They have a lot of money coming off the books and they will probably be aggressive.  Will they get him ? I think it's unlikely, simply because there will be so much competition.  It's certainly fun to think about though.

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