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Thursday, December 9, 2010

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Boston Red Sox reportedly have agreed to a seven-year, $142 million contract with Carl Crawford, bookending the Winter Meetings with a pair of earth-shattering moves. The Boston Globe first reported the Crawford deal, citing a major league source. It includes a partial no-trade clause and will become official when Crawford passes a physical Thursday or Friday in Boston.
Generally considered the top free agent position player available, Crawford will be a huge upgrade to a Red Sox lineup already bolstered significantly by Sunday's trade for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. And the Red Sox didn't have to do much scouting to know what they were getting from Crawford; they've seen it firsthand from the other side during Crawford's nine seasons with Tampa Bay.A four-time All-Star, Crawford is an all-around threat in the field and at the plate. He had a monster season in 2010 as he headed into free agency, hitting .307 with 30 doubles, 13 triples, 19 homers, 90 RBI and 47 stolen bases while also winning his first Gold Glove award.             The 29-year-old never seriously considered re-signing with Tampa Bay, the franchise that drafted him in the second round of the 1999 draft, knowing the Rays' payroll limitations wouldn't accommodate his market value. That value was expected to be massive even before the Nationals raised the bar with Jayson Werth's seven-year, $126 million deal Sunday.
The Red Sox and Angels were considered the most likely suitors for Crawford all along, but any buzz that Crawford might sign with Boston diminished after the Red Sox traded for Gonzalez -- who reportedly already has agreed to a seven-year, $154 million extension that will begin once his current contract expires following the 2011 season.

Boston went big, though, immediately reestablishing itself as a World Series favorite after a disappointing 2010 season in which its injury-riddled roster managed only 89 wins and missed the playoffs.

Crawford has played more games at Fenway Park (76) than any stadium but Tropicana Field in his career, and his numbers aren't great -- a .275 average, a .708 OPS, an OPS+ of 81. But obviously the Red Sox see him settling in and continuing to be the impact player he was in Tampa Bay but on a much larger stage.

The Red Sox might have had an added sense of urgency to get a deal done after hearing that Crawford met face-to-face with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman over dinner Tuesday night, and the Rangers also had jumped into the mix by meeting with the outfielder's agent. In the end, though, Boston got its man, and in doing so cemented its place among the top contenders for 2011.

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