2011 Dodgers Unlikely Free Agent Target: Carl Crawford

Carl Crawford says, "Why not me?"

We all know the Dodgers need offense. After scoring 4.8 runs per game before the All-Star break, the Dodgers slumped to a horrific 3.3 runs per game in their final 74 games this season. Ned Colletti has said he wants to acquire a big bat this winter, and our aim to look at the four biggest offensive names on the market. They may not be very likely to join the Dodgers, for various reasons, but our job is to try and see what might fit and what might not.

Phil Gurnee extolled the virtues of Adrian Beltre, hoping you can come home again. Mike White kicked the tires on Adam Dunn, and liked what he saw. David Young thought positive thoughts in the direction of Jayson Werth, trying to lure the bearded one back to Los Angeles. Last, but certainly not least, that brings us to today's free agent profile, Carl Crawford.

Crawford picked the right time to have a career year, as he hit .307/.356/.495, a .378 wOBA, 134 OPS+, and 141 wRC+ for the Rays in 2010. He has a 107 career OPS+, and has a 115 OPS+ over the last five years. Bill James projects Crawford to hit .300/.350/.453 in 2011. His bat doesn't quite pack the punch of Werth, Dunn, or Beltre, but Crawford more than makes up for it in other ways.

Baserunning

Year SB Gain BR Gain Net Gain MLB Rank
2003 +12 +35 +47 2nd
2004 +24 +29 +53 3rd
2005 +3 +30 +33 6th
2006 +9 +40 +49 1st
2007 +10 +30 +40 9th
2008 +8 +11 +19 NR
2009 +4 +28 +32 9th
2010 +25 +27 +52 2nd
Total +95 +230 +325  

Not only is Crawford is volume stealer -- he has 400 steals in the last eight years, leading the American League four times -- but he is efficient as well. His career success rate is 81.96% on stolen base attempts, making Crawford one of 12 active players with at least 100 steals and an 80% success rate.

In addition to stolen bases, Crawford also excels at taking the extra base. Bill James Online tracks stolen base gain (SB Gain) and baserunning gain (BR Gain), which it defines as "the total of all the types of extra baserunning advances minus the (triple) penalty for all the BR Outs compared with what would be expected based on the MLB averages. Zero is average. Plus numbers are above average and negative numbers are below average."

Crawford has been in the top ten in baseball in net gain in seven of the last eight seasons.

Defense

Crawford won his first Gold Glove award this week, and is rated above average to excellent by various fielding metrics:

Year UZR Rank +/- Rank Total Zone Rank
2005 +12.4 2 +11 2 +16 2
2006 +10.3 4 +6 7 +2 n/a
2007 -2.5 NR 0 19 -1 n/a
2008 +16.4 1 +13 1 +18 1
2009 +17.5 1 +18 1 +12 3
2010 +18.5 2 +12 1 +1 n/a
Thanks to Fangraphs, Bill James Online, and Baseball-Reference

Health

Crawford has played in at least 151 games in six of the last eight seasons. In 2007, he was shutdown in the middle of September with a groin injury, missing the final 12 games of the season. He appeared in 143 games that season, and played in 109 games in 2008. He missed almost seven weeks in August and September 2008 with right middle finger tendon subluxation, an injury he suffered while swinging a bat, not unlike Andre Ethier's pinkie injury this season. Crawford has averaged 146.5 games per year for the last eight seasons.

Intangibles

If the Dodgers don't sign Crawford (or Werth), they will end up with someone like Scott Podsednik manning left field next season, and we can't have that. Besides, the seats near the foul pole in left field need a name now that Mannywood is no longer. Juantanamera never caught on with Juan Pierre, but what about naming those seats the Crawford Boxes? Suck it, Houston.

Like Beltre, Crawford doesn't wear a cup.

Also, I can't say that I have ever heard Crawford called this, but his nickname on Baseball-Reference is "The Perfect Storm." How cool is that? Then again, the perfect storm could be the Dodgers having an opening in left field and Crawford very capably filling that need, or the perfect storm could mean the Dodgers are stuck watching an expensive horrible movie for five or six seasons.

Total Package

All those little things add up to a very complete player. Here are his Wins Above Replacement totals using both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference:

Year fWAR brWAR
2004 4.8 4.4
2005 4.6 3.9
2006 4.6 3.3
2007 3.0 2.9
2008 2.5 2.3
2009 5.7 4.4
2010 6.9 4.8
Total 32.1 26.0

Crawford turned 29 in August, making him the youngest of our four potential (albeit unlikely) free agent targets. That also means he will seek the longest contract. Back in August, Fangraphs polled its readers for Crawford's upcoming contract, and here's what they found:

Average length: 5.5 years
Average salary: $16.4 million

Median length: 5 years
Median salary: $17 million

Standard deviation, years: 0.93 years
Standard deviation, salary: $2.91 million

Something like five years, $85 million, maybe six years, $100 million seems about right to me, especially for a player worth between three to five wins or more. It's about time the Dodgers had a good player from Houston, something they haven't had since 2007.

Keeping in mind that it is extremely unlikely that the Dodgers will sign Crawford, or any of the four players we have outlined this week, which one of the four players would you rather have the Dodgers sign? Voting will stay open through Sunday night.

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