Carl Crawford signs with Boston, Angels lose out

December 9th, 2010 by Staff

Reporting from Lake Buena Vista, Fla. — The Carl Crawford derby took a stunning turn late Wednesday when the left fielder, who was the Angels’ top target this winter, agreed to terms on a seven-year, $142-million contract with the Boston Red Sox.

News of the agreement, which beat the seven-year, $126-million deal Jayson Werth signed with Washington on Sunday, was first reported on the Boston Globe’s website. Greg Genske, Crawford’s agent, confirmed the deal to The Times.

“I’m crushed, man, I could have sworn he was coming here,” Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, who had been courting Crawford since the All-Star break, said by phone from his home in Texas. “I’m sitting here in a daze right now, like, what the heck just happened?

“It’s crazy, ain’t it? Geez, $142 million, that’s amazing. He’s like a key piece for us, but this is a business, you’ve got to keep going, go to the next one. They’ll figure out what we’ve got to do, and I’m pretty sure they’ll get it done.”

Hunter was confident the Angels would sign Crawford, and in an interview earlier Wednesday, he said, “I think the process is just about done, and hopefully we can land him this week. The Angels are really trying. I know that for a fact.”

Indeed, Genske, in a text message, said the Angels “were very competitive in negotiations for Carl’s services, and it was a very difficult decision for him.”

A major league source said the Angels offered a six-year, $108-million deal.

That won’t soften the blow for the Angels, who have that same punched-in-the-gut feeling they had when Mark Teixeira spurned their eight-year, $160-million offer to sign with the New York Yankees two winters ago.

The failure to sign Crawford, a two-way threat who was seen as a perfect fit for Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, is expected to push the Angels toward free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre and, possibly, closer Rafael Soriano.

There is an outside chance the Angels could jump into the bidding for pitcher Cliff Lee, a star left-hander whom the Angels have inquired about but not pursued seriously.

The Angels, according to a source familiar with negotiations, have expressed “serious” interest in Beltre, who hit .321 with 28 home runs, 49 doubles and 102 runs batted in for Boston last season. The feeling appears to be mutual.

“Obviously, Adrian has a home in Los Angeles and he’s played in L.A.,” said Scott Boras, Beltre’s agent. “He’s very comfortable in the marketplace.”

Boras said negotiations for Beltre, the former Dodger who is seeking a deal in the five-year, $75-million range, are “moving quickly” and that a decision could be made by the end of this week.

Even if the Angels land Beltre, some fans might consider him a consolation prize compared to Crawford, the former Tampa Bay star.

Crawford, 29, last season hit .307 with a .356 on-base percentage, .495 slugging percentage, a .359 mark with runners in scoring position, 30 doubles, 13 triples, 19 home runs, 90 RBIs, 110 runs and 47 stolen bases.

And there is a belief among some that the extremely athletic, 6-foot-2, 215-pound Crawford is at the beginning of his prime and is on an upswing.

“One thing I believe about Carl is he’s not fully developed yet, there is still room for him to grow,” said Joe Maddon, who managed Crawford in Tampa Bay the last five years.

“Carl has been developing in the major leagues. He didn’t come in as a finished product. He’s still learning things, he’s still relatively young, he’s really motivated to get better every day, and he works really hard.”

Crawford has long been considered one of the best left fielders in the game, though he only won his first Gold Glove last season.

“We see him closing on balls that other left fielders just don’t get to,” Maddon said. “He really makes left field shrink.”

The addition of Crawford, whose contract is the ninth-largest in baseball history, was the second high-impact move of the week by the Red Sox, who Sunday acquired star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres.

With Crawford, Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew, the Red Sox should have a potent lineup to support a superb starting pitching staff.

If the Yankees, who reportedly offered Lee a six-year, $140-million deal Wednesday, land the best pitcher on the market, it will make baseball’s most-heated rivalry even more intense.

And the American League pennant even tougher to win for the Angels.

“Those are two beasts from the East,” Hunter said. “We have to beat those guys.”

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