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Sox sign up Crawford for $142m

Seven-year contract lands top position player on market

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / December 9, 2010

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Red Sox threw a curveball at the rest of major league baseball last night, agreeing to terms with All-Star left fielder Carl Crawford on a blockbuster seven-year contract worth $142 million.

The deal came to fruition late last night according to a major league source with direct knowledge of the negotiations. The deal will be complete upon Crawford taking a physical, which could come today.

Crawford’s contract language includes partial no-trade protection.

The Angels had been in pursuit of Crawford, the top position player on the free agent market, and offered him a seven-year, $108 million deal. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had dinner with Crawford and agent Brian Peters Tuesday night. The Rangers also were involved.

But the Red Sox acted quickly and decisively and just days after trading for Adrian Gonzalez, have added a second premier player. Crawford hit .307 with 19 home runs, 90 RBIs, and 47 stolen bases last season for the Tampa Bay Rays. The 29-year-old is a four-time All-Star and this year won his first Gold Glove.

Crawford’s market was set Sunday when right fielder Jayson Werth agreed to a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Washington Nationals. The Red Sox topped that contract by an average of $2.3 million a year.

With Gonzalez reportedly having agreed to a seven-year, $154 million extension to his contract, the Red Sox have invested $296 million in a span of four days. The additions of Gonzalez and Crawford, two stars in their prime, should set the team up as contenders for years to come.

Crawford is under contract through 2017, while Gonzalez would be with the Red Sox through 2018 once he signs the extension.

The Red Sox see the speedy Crawford as having the ability to hit third, adding depth to a lineup already bolstered by Gonzalez, who was acquired from the San Diego Padres for three prospects Sunday.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona called Crawford “a game changer’’ last month.

“He’s that guy that can change a game defensively, offensively. When he gets on base, he gives you a headache,’’ Francona said.

Crawford is generally considered the best defensive left fielder in the game and his ability to cover ground within the small confines of Fenway Park was something the Red Sox prized as well.

Crawford is Tampa Bay’s career leader in batting average (.296), doubles (211), triples (105), stolen bases (409), and runs scored (765). Crawford, who is from Houston, was Tampa Bay’s second-round pick in the 1999 draft. He had been with the organization his entire career. With Crawford in the fold, the Red Sox could trade Mike Cameron or use the righthanded hitter off the bench, as a spare outfielder, or as a designated hitter.

Before the sudden signing of Crawford, the Red Sox had been considering other scenarios, including free agents Magglio Ordonez or a trade for New York Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran. But now the Red Sox need only to bolster their bullpen to have a team ready for the coming season.

General manager Theo Epstein said yesterday the team has offers to several pitchers and is waiting for responses.

By signing Crawford, the Red Sox could force the Yankees into making lefthander Cliff Lee an offer he cannot refuse.

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