There's been a lot of questioning of Crawford because of his shaky start with the Sox, let's analyze a few things, and people are surprisingly ready to jump ship on a fantastic player. Let's look at him for a minute, while we’re at it, let’s clear J.D. Drew of his bad name!
You cannot argue against having Crawford on your team when it comes to the player. He’s a great on both offense and defense, can hit for power, gaps, and has speed. The only thing you can argue against is whether or not he’s worth 20 million. Where not player is truly worth that much money, you can justify signings based on other signings. Perspective worth if you will.
To judge Crawford’s 20 millions you need to start by looking at why he was signed. It's easy to look at 20 million dollars and assume that you should be expecting a 30 home run guy, but that's not what the Sox signed him to be.
For 14 million dollars a year the Red Sox signed, J.D. Drew. This signing was made for his high OPS, and his defensive skills he had shown throughout his career, not for the 100RBI's he batted in the year before like many say. Modern day baseball GM’s try to stay away from RBI as a tool to figure out who to sign, because it can vary year to year, especially dependent on who is around you.
J.D. is not a bust, it’s easy to look at his RBI totals and proclaim that he was, but he has not been a bust. He’s given us an OPS of above .790 in every year of his contract, and in ’08 and ’09 he gave us OPS’s above .900, (to put that in perspective, Jason Werth has only cracked above an .900 OPS once in his career). In this is final year, he isn’t putting up great numbers, true, but this is expected of any long contract. J.D. has given us exactly what Theo signed him for, OPS and defense. This is why Drew gave us a good WAR if around 5, 2 out of the 4 years he played for the Red Sox.
Now, if we can say that Drew wasn’t a bust for 14 million, we can predict if expected contributions from Crawford makes him likely to not be worth 20 million for seven years. Expected contributions not being 20 home runs and 100 RBI’s.
To start, let’s justify the seven years. The easiest way to do this is really just to look at age, we signed J.D. for five years when he was 30, ending his contract when he’s 35. Crawford was signed for 7 years, at 29. This means if they have comparable declines, we can expect 1 more bad year from Crawford, but also 1 more good year. Crawford however, has not had the injury problems Drew had throughout his career, which may relieve him of as sharp of a decline.
Then we need to look at the 20 million, if Drew is worth 14 million, then Crawford should be worth 6 million more than him. This is pretty hard to judge up, but both Crawford and Drew were signed for OPS and defense. All the monetary amounts at the end of the comparisons are certainly up for debate, this is just how if I was a GM I’d break down the justification of the extra money.
In every field metric I’ve looked up, Crawford has been a much, much better defender than Drew throughout his career. It’s pretty decisive, who’s the better defender. We’ll say that earns him 2 million on Drew.
Crawford has a lower OPS by about 100 points than Drew throughout his Career Pre-Sox, we’ll say that, lowers him 2 million, putting him back to J.D.’s contract number.
Crawford’s WAR going into the Sox was about 36.5, Drew’s is about Pre-Sox 34.5. This is the same amount of major league seasons. We can say this gets Crawford an extra mill or so.
Crawford brings speed to the table, averaging 50 stolen bases in each healthy season (2008 he missed a large portion of the season due to injury). This should push his value up as well. I’d say this gives Crawford an extra 2 million.
This puts Crawford at most overpaid 3 million dollars in comparison to J.D. Drew. However this year Crawford was the best available outfielder on the market, having 12 more WAR over Werth, in 1 more season and he was younger. Werth’s ridiculous contract, paved the way for the market for outfielders.
In Crawford and Drew we got great players, looking beside the RBI and Home Run totals makes this clear.