Does Carl Crawford have a future in Detroit?

I love baseball’s offseason.  There is always plenty of speculation and there is never a shortage of rumors.  Also, because baseball has no salary cap, there are always more options for each player and that makes it a lot more fun for the fans.  While Cliff Lee to the Yankees seems like a match made in heaven hell, there is always a chance he’ll return to Texas or sign with a team like the Washington Nationals.

The Tigers had a lot of cash come off of the books this season, which could make them major players in the free agent game.  The club has already locked up Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta to two-year deals, but there could be plenty of money left to spend.

Carl Crawford is considered one of the top, if not the top, offensive talent on the market.  The Tigers have been connected to Crawford in some rumors already, so let’s shake this thing out and see just how good the guy really is.

Crawford has nine big league seasons under his belt, and each of them was spent with team that drafted him, the Tampa Bay Rays.  He debuted back in 2002 and has racked up nearly 1,500 hits since.

The bulk of Crawford’s value is tied to his speed.  He is routinely among the league leaders in triples and stolen bases.  He also covers a ton of ground in left field, making him above-average defensively.  Crawford has led the American League in steals four times and in triples four times, including this past season.  His career batting average is .296.

That all sounds pretty good, but Crawford is not without a weakness.  He is not the most patient hitter at the plate, something Tigers players have struggled with over the past ten years or so.  Crawford has a career on-base percentage of only .337, which is typically not good for a top-of-the-order bat.  To put things in perspective, Ramon Santiago had an OBP of .337 last season.  Just saying.

That being said, Crawford has done a much better job of getting on base over the past two years.  From 2009-2010, Crawford reached base at a .360 clip, a very good number.  It is possible that some credit for his lower totals and for his recent upward tilt are due to the quality of team for which he played.

Crawford turned 29 this past August, so a five-year deal for him seems realistic.  Do the Tigers want to be in that bidding war?  If the Yankees or Red Sox get involved, it’s possible that a five-year deal could net Crawford $90M or so.

Can you picture Crawford and Austin Jackson patrolling the outfield of Comerica Park for the next few years, though?  I can’t see many balls falling in anywhere with that much speed out there.

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