Sunday, November 6, 2011
Why Reyes Deserves Carl Crawford Money
Last winter, Theo Epstein made a huge splash by signing Carl Crawford to a seven year, $142 million contract. Crawford was fresh off his best major league season after getting selected to the All-Star team, winning his first Silver Slugger and Gold Glove, and finishing seventh in the AL MVP race on the strength of career highs in runs (110), home runs (19), RBI (90), SLG (.495), OPS (.851) and OPS + (135). He also led the league in triples with 13 and helped Tampa Bay win their second AL East title in three years. Crawford was so alluring that Epstein passed on Jayson Werth, a slightly cheaper option who seemed like a better fit for the Sox given his right-handed power bat and track record of succeeding in a high pressure baseball town (Philadelphia), to basically sign a player he already had in Jacoby Ellsbury. Werth wasn't much better than Crawford last season anyways, but I think they'll both bounce back in 2012 (Crawford could be next season's Curtis Granderson without the 41 homers).
This winter, Jose Reyes is a free agent and apparently wants a Carl Crawford kind of contract even though he has not played more than 133 games in a season since 2008. He has a case, though, especially considering the switch-hitter plays shortstop and will be nearly a full year younger than Crawford was when he signed his gargantuan contract. And while he isn't quite the same dominant player who teamed with David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado to form a powerful Mets lineup from 2006 to 2008, he proved he's still a superb, exciting leadoff hitter by edging Ryan Braun for the NL batting title, leading the Senior Circuit in triples and walking more than he struck out. Unstoppable before the All-Star break, Reyes had forced himself into the MVP discussion before a midseason injury derailed his season and slowed his momentum. The hamstring issues have robbed him of some of the speed and aggression that once made him a threat to steal 80 bases in a season, but the rest of his skills are clearly intact and no one will complain if he "only" swipes half as many.
After comparing their careers (minus Crawford's dreadful 2011 debut in Boston), I noticed some interesting parallels besides their similar player profiles as top of the order speedsters:
-Both entered free agency after playing nine big league seasons, the last of which was their age 28 season
-Both were 4-time All-Stars
-Both had exactly one Silver Slugger
-Both led their respective leagues in triples four times, with career highs of 19, and had more career three-baggers than four-baggers
-Nearly identical OPS+ (107 for Crawford, 106 for Reyes)
-The last year either one led the league in stolen bases was 2007 (after also leading in 2006)
-Their career triple slash stats were all within four points of the other's
-Almost same career totals in runs, doubles, triples, caught stealing, and sacrifice hits
-Played for good teams ('06-'08 Mets, '08-'10 Rays) and some bad teams ('03, '04, and '09 Mets, every Rays team before 2008)
-They had arguably their best seasons in their walk years
As you can see, their pre-free agency careers are eerily similar, and Reyes is undoubtedly headed for a big pay day. The only question is who will employ his services.