So the Boston Red Sox—you remember them, the Cardinals were supposed to play them in that one World Series that got cancelled—just signed Carl Crawford to a deal that will pay him $142 million over seven years. That's a lot of money over a lot of years, and although Crawford, at 29, is really young for this kind of free agent—Boston can thank the late Devil Rays for deciding that he was ready to go in the Major Leagues for good after hitting .287/335/.456 over 83 AAA games as a 20-year-old—they're still paying a corner outfielder with a post-breakout career OPS+ of 113 until he's 36.
I'm not especially worried about how he'll age, and i doubt the Red Sox are either; after all, they employ Bill James, the first writer of note to suggest players with stereotypical young player skills like batting average, speed, and defensive value age better than the Jack Custs of the world. (It's why Johnny Damon is fewer than 500 hits away from making Hall of Fame voters really uncomfortable!)
What would worry me is just how good he is now. Crawford is the kind of player who, because of his uniqueness in a particular time, reminds people of better players. He's the active leader in triples; he's stolen fifty bases five times; he even hits some home runs. Very few players, especially now, offer value in that shape, which is why his Similar Players list is peppered with guys like Sam Crawford and Sherry Magee.
But he's not as good as the guys who used to do it. Tim Raines and Kenny Lofton walked twice as often; Ichiro's on-base percentage (again ignoring Crawford's apprentice years) is 30 points higher; even Marquis Grissom walked more often, before he inexplicably became a low-OBP slugger. Crawford is coming off his two best seasons, and the free agent market appears to be undergoing some serious inflation, so I don't think this is going to be a comical deal by any means five years from now. But he's no more a franchise player than Jayson Werth was.
After the jump, a eulogy for dearly departed LOOGY Dennys Reyes, who apparently signed a $1.1 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies last night. Godspeed, fair Diner—like your chromed-out trailer-hitched brethren we always knew you'd be hooked to a truck and towed away eventually.
Like Ray King, the last LOOGY the Cardinals had who could fairly be christened with a food-related nickname, Reyes followed up a successful Cardinals debut with a vaguely disappointing second trip. Unlike King, it was impossible to ever feel quite comfortable groaning when Reyes would get up.
In 2010 Reyes faced the dreaded and inexplicable reverse split for the first time since 2004, and what was especially terrible about this was that Tony La Russa was utilizing him imperfectly at the same time. Over his career Reyes has been one of the LOOGYest left-handed relievers in baseball, with career OPSes-against of .669 and .801.
In 2009 La Russa picked his spots really well, giving Reyes 36 more plate appearances against left-handers, and he responded by having an excellent season—he held left-handers to a .207/.288/.228 line, compared to .276/.408/.466 against right-handers. In 2010 Reyes got just 13 more plate appearances against left-handers, and I want to be pissed about that!
Every time he brought Reyes out to pitch to some right-hander or switch-hitter I wanted to be pissed about it. But at the same time—even though Reyes struck out just five right-handers in 62 at-bats—he was having a catastrophic reverse-platoon-split event, thanks to a .190 BAbip against righties. So either by sheer luck or an over-confidence in an extremely small sample size La Russa managed to avert Reyes-related disaster, and I wasn't happy about that at all.
The Phillies probably won't be disappointed, if they use him like they should; I doubt he'll allow a .396 BAbip to left-handers again next year. But if he does, I hope Charlie Manuel at least gives their fans a chance to complain about it.