I can’t take it anymore; the conventional wisdom is driving me crazy. Carl Crawford is overrated! I can say with confidence that whoever signs Crawford in the coming days will make an even bigger mistake than the Nationals did yesterday with Jayson Werth.
Crawford, the so-called “prize” of the 2010 FA class, is actually only a slightly above average hitter. He has a career .781 OPS --- 21 points lower than Marcus Thames. He has never hit 20 homers in a season, nor recorded an OBP north of .364. Yes, he is a prolific base stealer, but is this really something that teams should bank on as he gets into his thirties? (any contract he signs will likely take him to about 35-37). According to Baseball Reference, Crawford’s career progression compares most closely to Roberto Kelly, a sometimes starting outfielder for 8 different clubs (most notably the Yankees) between 1987 and 2000.
Even in his career year of 2010 (which was also his contract year), Crawford posted an .851 OPS…about 20 points lower than Pat Burrell --- who just signed a 1 year, $1 million deal with SF.
Jayson Werth, who also has speed and plays a great rightfield, was clearly the best offensive free agent on the market this year. Werth has posted a higher OPS than Crawford’s career year in each of the last 4 seasons. And somewhere after Werth, Adam Dunn and possibly a few others (Adrian Beltre, V-Mart, Lance Berkman) lies Carl Crawford.
I understand that rate stats aren’t everything, but Crawford represents the other extreme. He is the prototypical “tools” player… the guy who can “hurt you in so many different ways.” But baseball isn’t about hurting the opposition through various methods… it’s about net production. On that count, Carl Crawford is a good player who probably represents the 70th percentile of big league outfielders. Despite this, he’s about to be paid like one of the 3 or 4 best players in all of baseball.
The Nats may have erred by committing big money and years to Jayson Werth, but I applaud them for at least identifying the best outfielder on the market in 2010.