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The Angels set a deadline, but the Red Sox got there first to land Crawford

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  December 11, 2010 12:00 PM

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Lots of newspaper work to do. But a few things to let you know about in terms of today's activity at Fenway Park:

Carl Crawford pulled on his new No. 13 jersey and in a hoarse voice (he's fighting a cold), talked about his desire to stay in the American League East.

"That was important to me, I feel like the American League East is so exciting and the fans are so passionate," Crawford said. "I really wanted to stay in the AL East. When I got the call the Red Sox were interested, I really was excited about it."

It was clear that beyond the contract, he was impressed with what the Red Sox told him on Nov. 30 when Theo Epstein and Terry Francona flew to Houston to meet with him.

The Red Sox had been following Crawford's progress for a while. Allard Baird, Epstein's top scout, watched most of his games in person after the All-Star break and the Sox decided Crawford was worth the cost.

Baird saw a player maturing as a hitter, showing an improved ability to shoot the ball the other way and hit for power. His career high of 19 home runs, 90 RBIs and a .495 slugging percentage had come this season.

The Red Sox also had the financial wherewithal to sign Crawford because Adrian Gonzalez had been acquired from the Padres on Sunday and would pay 2011 on a contract that called for him to make only $6.2 million.

What the Red Sox hoped could happen was starting to come true.

The situation came to a boil at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday. According to Major League sources, the Angels made Crawford an offer of six years and approximately $108 million and set a deadline of 11 p.m. that night for him to accept.

The Angels, sources said, were unnerved when Crawford had dinner with Yankees GM Brian Cashman on Tuesday, which apparently led to their decision to set a deadline.

The Angels were confident that Crawford wanted to play there and that a contract with an average annual value of $18 million would get the job done. Their confidence was badly misplaced given that Jayson Werth's seven-year, $126 million deal from the Nationals had changed the landscape.

Crawford's agents, Greg Genske and Brian Peters, were convinced their client was worth at least $20 million a year, a belief that was only strengthened by the deal Werth received. They actually started the process hoping for a contract of 8-10 years.

The Red Sox welcomed the deadline, knowing that it would speed up the process. Their concern was that Cliff Lee would make a decision and the team that lost the prized lefty, either the Yankees or Rangers, would immediately turn its attention to Crawford.

There also was a suspicion that the Yankees would try and sign both Lee and Crawford, especially if they were convinced Andy Pettitte would retire. Speed was of the essence.

At the same time, the Red Sox made an offer to Lee (a low-ball, seven-year bid) to try and muddy those waters and delay his making a decision.

As the deadline approached, Epstein reached out to Tom Werner and John Henry, who were in England. He was given clearance to offer seven-year and $142 million, a deal Crawford swiftly accepted. Though Crawford didn't get the eight years he wanted, he was able to get an average annual value of just over $20 million.

The Red Sox had what they wanted in terms of length of contract as their projections showed Crawford would be an impact player through the age of 35.

The Angels raised their bid at the end but it was too late. Crawford by that time was more comfortable with the Red Sox.

Thanks to the Gonzalez contract, the Red Sox will have roughly the same payroll as they had in 2010. When Gonzalez signs an extension, that money will come from the expiring contracts of J.D. Drew, David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon. So the 2012 payroll will not need dramatic alterations to fit both of the new stars.

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