Headline from the great Ken Rosenthal (4/9): “Is Crawford destined to wear pinstripes?”
If you asked me at the beginning of the season, the answer to that question would have been a resounding yes.
Just take a look at some of these articles from the beginning of the season:
Still, as one competing executive says, “The Yankees absolutely love Crawford.”
And what the Yankees love, they usually get.
“Short term, I think you are looking at Carl Crawford. Both teams love the guy. They are waiting for this guy to come on the market and I don’t think there is anyway the Rays are going to keep him. That being said, I don’t know how he’s not a Yankee, because the Yankees tend to get what they want. Nobody is going to outbid them.”
“(The Yankees and Red Sox, naturally, were named by the group of executives and agents as the most likely destinations for Crawford in 2011.)”
“One reason the Yankees were reluctant to go for a two-year deal for Johnny Damon might have had little to do with Damon and been a greater reflection of what they think of Carl Crawford. The Yankees love him. Crawford is almost sure to be too rich for the low-revenue Rays, and the Yankees jump to the head of the class for interested teams. Remember, too, that the Yankees passed on Matt Holliday. It all seems to set up nicely for Crawford.”
Ok, so we get it. The Yankees love Crawford. And as we all know, when the Yankees love a player, they almost always get him. Just ask CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, or AJ Burnett. The Yankees’ extensive resources combined with the allure of playing in pinstripes is just too good for most players to pass up on.
In addition, by showing restraint (yes, restraint!) last winter by NOT signing Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, or John Lackey; the Yankees prevented themselves from taking on yet another long term contract at a rate of $10-$15 million annually. This seemed to bode well for Crawford next winter.
And finally, the most compelling reason why Carl Crawford was destined to be a Yankee in 2011 was twofold: Randy Winn and Brett Gardner. Yes, these two were expected to split time in left field this season, thus holding down the fort until the Yankees could bring in Carl Crawford. At the beginning of the season, Winn was thought of as a player in decline, who could contribute to the Yankees in 2010 and not much after that. To date, Winn is batting .167 in only 18 at bats.
Why has Winn struggled to get playing time? Because of Brett Gardner. Just in case you weren’t aware, Gardner is hitting a ridiculous .346 this season with a staggering .427 OBP, 12 stolen bases, 21 runs scored, and a impressive 10 to 9 BB/K ratio. Sure it’s early, but those are some mighty impressive numbers from a guy who many thought was nothing more than a fourth outfielder. As long as he stays healthy and productive, there is every reason to think that Gardner can steal 50-60 bases this season while scoring over 100 runs.
Obviously the long term implications of Gardner’s hot start are yet to be determined. But if Gardner continues to hit and utilize his speed on the base-paths, then it’s possible that the Yankees already have a younger and much cheaper version of Carl Crawford. While Gardner has not shown Crawford’s power to date, he brings the same dynamics to the table that Crawford does, namely speed and athleticism.
Then again, Gardner’s hot start could be just that: a hot start. But his performance at the dish has to make us think-or at least reconsider-whether or not the Yankees will need to invest $90-$100 million in Carl Crawford this winter when they already have -gulp- Brett Gardner.