Carl Crawford Makes Most Sense as Offseason Addition to Red Sox Lineup

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Carl Crawford Makes Most Sense as Offseason Addition to Red Sox Lineup Sorry, Red Sox Nation, but when the hot stove heats up this fall and winter, it will be time to curb your fascination with the quirky, bearded, long-haired slugger.

Since the Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar idiot days, the Boston clubhouse has lacked an off-the-wall, lovable slugger who can be relied upon to dish out postgame one-liners just as quick as his bat can turn around a baseball game. But as much of a talented and seemingly fan-favorite type Jayson Werth looks to be, the Phillies’ outfielder can’t bring to the table what Rays outfielder Carl Crawford can.

Over the weekend, NESN.com readers voted Crawford to be the top free-agent choice to join the Sox this offseason, so it appears that the Nation is yearning for speed this offseason — a far cry from the days when the Fenway Faithful craved the long ball. In fact, Crawford received more votes than the three other choices (Werth, Derek Jeter, Adam Dunn) combined.

Werth would look great in the middle of Boston’s lineup. He averaged 29 homers and 84 RBIs over his three years in Philadelphia and smacked 27 this year while hitting .296. While those numbers may seem to be a better fit in the middle of the Sox lineup next summer, the speedy (and younger) Crawford would be no slouch hitting No. 3 in Terry Francona‘s batting order, either.

In 204 career games in the three slot, Crawford has a .294 average to go with 107 RBIs and 108 runs. In his primary role as a No. 2 hitter, Crawford owns a .305 BA in 594 games, but the likelihood of moving Dustin Pedroia, who has a .313 career BA in the No. 2 slot, is understandably slim.

But why would altering Crawford’s game be a smarter choice than simply going after Werth, the experienced five-slot slugger? The Sox will have speed and consistency at the top of the order in Jacoby Ellsbury and Pedroia. Assuming the team will lose out on retaining Adrian Beltre, won’t they need power?

Yes and no.

To win in today’s game, teams need athletes to win, and the more tools, the better. While the few extra homers per season appear sexier on the stat sheets, the runs Crawford can create with his speed and consistency will make everyone around him better, especially cleanup hitter Kevin Youkilis. Crawford’s versatility also makes him a more comforting option as the potential flexible lineup could change on a daily basis, depending on health and matchups.

Another intriguing angle regarding the left-handed hitting Crawford is that he’s batting .338 in 17 games at the new Yankee Stadium and .301 in 138 career games against the Yankees overall. Did someone say Yankee killer?

Another stat giving Crawford the edge is in regards to runners in scoring position. Crawford hit .359 with a .938 OPS this year and is .311 with .843 OPS in his career in those situations. Werth would have been better off stepping in to the batter’s box with a pitching wedge with runners on this season, as he hit just .186 (26-for-140) with ducks on the pond.

But where would Francona put Crawford next year, assuming Ellsbury and Mike Cameron return to full health? And now knowing that Ryan Kalish has a shot at being an everyday player in his baseball future? The answer might be as simple as platooning the aging Cameron and Drew in right field until both contracts are up after 2011.

Despite Crawford expecting a $20 million per year contract this offseason, teams will be pushing hard to score the nine-year vet. Keeping him in the AL East may be a challenge for Theo Epstein and company, but the 29-year-old can be the Yankee (and Rays) killer this club needs next summer.

Is Carl Crawford the right fit for the Red Sox? Share your thoughts below.

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