Boston Lands Carl Crawford, Angels Left Behind


The big market Angels have chosen once again to operate like a small market club.

The Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim) were supposed to be the team that signed Carl Crawford. The Angels had a need for a left fielder, Crawford was the best available left fielder. The Angels like to play a game of speed on the bases, Crawford was the most adept base-stealer available. The Angels have boatloads of money, Crawford was going to command boatloads of money. The Angels were the obvious choice. Right up until Crawford signed with the Red Sox.

Crawford’s deal with Boston will pay him $142 million over the next seven seasons. The Angels’ offer was reported to have been for those same seven seasons, but at a total value of $108 million. That’s nearly $5 million per year less than what Boston offered. What were the Angels thinking?

The Angels have the funds to compete with the bullies on the East coast. They have perhaps the best manager in baseball in Mike Scioscia, they have Torii Hunter, everybody’s best friend, who was campaigning to get Crawford signed. But they also don’t seem to have a great idea about how free agency works, at least not when it comes to big time players. The same club that gave Gary Matthews Jr. a five-year, $50 million contract was content to think that Hunter’s influence was a bigger draw than an extra $5 million per year. And that’s why Crawford will be playing at Fenway for the foreseeable future.

Now, this news doesn’t mean the Angels will go home empty-handed this winter. They still are in the mix for closer Rafael Soriano and third baseman Adrian Beltre, but even if you consider the Angels the favorite for both of those players, as most observers do, you now have to wonder if there won’t be another club that swoops in and snatches them away by offering a better deal.

The Angels spent the better part of a decade going to playoffs each year, but the division has begun to catch up to them. Though Arte Moreno has greater resources than Texas, Seattle, and Oakland, the Rangers have new ownership and the momentum of an American League pennant, Oakland has shown a greater willingness to spend in recent years and they already sport one of the game’s best young pitching staffs. Even the Mariners, coming off a 100-loss season haven’t been shy about spending big to acquire talent.

Perhaps the Crawford deal is more an indictment of the Red Sox overspending to get their man. Maybe Crawford isn’t a $20 million per year kind of player. But there was no one, outside of Anaheim I guess, that thought Crawford would accept a contract that paid him $18 million less than Jayson Werth. I’m not suggesting that the Angels should throw their money away on free agents just because they have it, I’m simply saying that if there ever was a time to spend on any player, this was the time and this was the player. The fit was too perfect, the player, just entering his prime, was too perfect. If not now, when?

In recent seasons, despite their success in their own division, the Angels have been content to operate as a small market club. Despite their financial advantage, GM Tony Reagins has steadfastly refuse to trade away prospects in order to bolster his big league club with veteran talent. Had Reagins been willing to part with prospects, Miguel Cabrera would be wearing a halo on his cap. In free agency, the Angels has shopped at the bargain bin, waiting on over-the-hill former Yankees to lower their asking prices and settle for a small, one-year contract.

After a decade of dominance in the AL West, the field caught up to, and passed, the Angels in 2010. There was no way that Moreno and Reagins would allow that to continue. This was the time to flex their financial muscle. Instead, the Angels maintained the status quo and watched as another superstar suited up with a rival club.

They may still get Beltre, there doesn’t seem to be anyone else in on him. They may still get Soriano, as the market for his services is shrinking as well. But with each passing day, as each free agent gets snatched up by another club, the likelihood is that more clubs will turn to those guys as targets. With Anaheim’s history of underbidding, there’s no reason for rival teams not to join the fray. Just by offering what the market projected, Boston got the Angels man.

If Reagins and Moreno don’t alter their thinking quickly, the Angels will challenge the Mariners for the cellar long before they’ll challenge the Rangers and A’s for the division title.

What an example of the thinking I referenced? Check out a pair of tweets from ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick.

"A reporter asked Reagins if the team has to make a “huge splash” after losing out on Carl Crawford.~~~“I think I already made a huge splash with (Hisanori) Takahashi,” Reagins said. “He adds a lot of value to your club.”"

Yep, that about sums it up.

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