Theo Epstein is One Tricky Bastard


Let me set the scene for everyone. I’m sitting in my living room, hanging out after a long day at work and I decide to check out the latest news on the MLB Winter Meetings. I’m sitting there reading Theo Epstein’s comments on how he felt Wednesday went and it appears as though not much is happening in Red Sox land. He says that a few negotiations are moving forward and a few are moving backwards, but all-in-all, a fairly quiet day in the wake of the massive Adrian Gonzalez news. I’m certainly not surprised with Theo’s comments and at that point, was thinking it was going to be a slow news night for once. I walk away from news sources for about 30 minutes, watch some TV, then get ready to head to bed. As always, I check twitter and my other collection of reliable news sources 1 last time for kicks and what do I see? @PeteAbe Source: The Red Sox have a seven-year, $142 million deal done with Carl Crawford. I couldn’t believe my eyes and at that point didn’t know how to react. Was this a joke?

Then immediately you can envision dozens of sports writers picking up their blackberries, droids and iphones scrambling to contact their team and league sources. Over the next 5-10 minutes, sportswriters from all over the baseball world were confirming the reports that the Red Sox had indeed signed Carl Crawford to a 7-year, $142 million deal and it was only pending the finalization of some language and a physical. I was so shocked I began having a conversation with my wife about the deal and everything that was going on, only to realize she was fast asleep. From nothing, dead-calm waters, to category 5 rapids in a matter of minutes, once again giving Red Sox fans something to cheer about. I guess Tom Werner wasn’t kidding when he said this would not be a bridge year…it’s gone from a bridge year to a potential World Series championship caliber team in less than 5 days. Whether you love or hate the Beantown team, it is impossible to overlook the incredible strides forward Theo and his team have made this off-season. Many people have compared it to the CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira off-season for the Yankees a few years ago and it’s looking eerily similar.

I am still in shock that the Sox have spent (or will spend) around $300 million on long-term contracts that quickly. It speaks to the nature of what the free agent market has become in baseball…players wanting long-term job security in an otherwise uncertain profession. The tone was set early and then once the Washington Nationals signed Jayson Werth to his monster 7-year deal, it became even more apparent that Crawford’s deal would be massive. In that same vein, the winner in all of this is Cliff Lee, who will now get an even more over-inflated salary thanks to the standards set forth by those who signed before him. The Red Sox are trying to bring in the best talent to win 95+ games and as the curve of salary grows, so does the overall investment in winning. The ultimate prize is a World Series title and teams need to do everything in their power to achieve that ultimate peak. It’s never easy, but having the top financial backing certainly helps a whole lot.

After hearing the news, I also began to wonder if part of the motivation for the Sox was to just keep Carl Crawford from stealing bases against them. He has racked up so mind-numbing numbers over the last several years, single-handedly scoring many of the Tampa Bay Rays runs against the Red Sox. Is $20+ million a year excessive to prevent a player from stealing bases on you? Yes, but now the Sox want to unleash the speed on others, with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford likely hitting in 2 of the top 3 slots in the lineup. By hitting Crawford 3rd, it doesn’t allow opposing pitchers to pitch around the outfielder either, giving him more opportunities to get big hits and they wreck havoc on the base paths. It’s hard to not be impressed with the Sox lineup and for other AL East teams, it’s hard to not be afraid of that grouping of talent. Assuming the roster remains relatively healthy in 2011, they should easily break 90 wins and maybe even jump into the vaunted 95-100 win category. The way the AL East is made-up, a team basically has to win 95 games in order to have a shot at the post-season.

The 2 blockbuster deals are behind the Sox, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Bullpen, bullpen, bullpen…the only missing piece of the puzzle.