Source: Red Sox to ink Carl Crawford

Updated: December 10, 2010, 8:17 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona called left fielder Carl Crawford a game-changer. Turns out he might have been guilty of understatement.

Between the multitalented Crawford, who a source confirmed came to terms Wednesday night on a seven-year, $142 million deal with Boston, and slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, acquired by trade last weekend from San Diego and in line for his own seven-year deal for an estimated $154 million, the Red Sox appear set for the next decade.

Crawford passed his physical on Friday, a team source confirmed, and the Red Sox have scheduled a 10 a.m. ET Saturday news conference to announce his signing.

"Adrian already heard about Carl," Gonzalez's agent, John Boggs, e-mailed Wednesday night. "He's very happy."

A team that has often complained about the spending habits of the New York Yankees, who two years ago swooped in and outbid Boston for Mark Teixeira, has abandoned fiscal restraint by making Crawford the first player in Red Sox history with a contract with an average annual value in excess of $20 million.

"Great move. Great player," said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, for whom signing free-agent left-hander Cliff Lee now takes on even greater urgency. "Boston's got the money and they had a need."

Crawford also becomes the first Red Sox player since John W. Henry and Tom Werner purchased the team in 2002 to be given a contract of seven years. General manager Theo Epstein evidently made a persuasive case to Henry late in the process to do so.

"When things come together the way we hope and expect, we'll be real satisfied," Epstein said Thursday. "You go into every winter with a Plan A, and sometimes it's hard to pull that off, then you move on to Plan B and C.

"Adding an impact player was very important to where we were for the short and long term, and adding two -- as long as they were the right players for the right spots in the right situation -- would be even better."

Without mentioning names, Epstein made it clear he had accomplished exactly what he wanted to in the last few days.

"We did this objectively over months and months and months," Epstein said. "We realized there was a shot if things came together the right way, we could be pretty aggressive on a couple players we really liked."

The agreement with Crawford was first reported by The Boston Globe on its website.

Crawford received four offers, according to a source close to the negotiations, with the Red Sox and Angels making the most substantial offers. The Angels made an offer that was termed extremely competitive with Boston's offer.

"It was a very difficult decision for Carl," the source said. "In the end, it came down to his desire to become a member of the Red Sox, move to Boston and the ability to win."

The Angels' offer to Crawford was six years, $108 million, league sources told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney on Thursday.

The Red Sox had been aggressive in their pursuit of Crawford and Jayson Werth, the other elite outfielder eligible for free agency. Last week, Epstein flew to Houston to meet with Crawford, then met with Werth in Chicago.

But Sunday night, Werth was eliminated as a potential target when the Washington Nationals stunned their peers by signing the 31-year-old outfielder to a seven-year, $126 million deal.

While the Red Sox remained involved with Crawford, they also explored other options for a left fielder, preferably one who batted right-handed. As late as early Wednesday evening, a team source with direct knowledge of negotiations was pessimistic about Boston's chances of signing Crawford.

"The market is getting too crazy," he said, anticipating that the Angels were preparing to make an eight-year offer for the 29-year-old outfielder, a four-time All-Star and a winner in 2010 of his first Gold Glove.

But Epstein called Red Sox owners Tom Werner and John W. Henry in Liverpool on Wednesday night to make a passionate case for upping the offer to Crawford.

Werner listened first, expressed his reservations about adding a seventh year to the team's offer, then advised Epstein to make his pitch to Henry.

Henry, who had a few reservations of his own, gave Epstein the green light.

"That shows you,'' Werner said Thursday, "what kind of faith we have in Theo.''

And so Epstein presented Crawford and his agents, Greg Genske and Brian Peters, with a proposal that included a seventh year, and late Wednesday night they informed the Red Sox of their decision to accept the offer.

The failure to land Crawford had to come as a bitter blow to the Angels, who were viewed by many as having the best chance of signing the Houston native. He is good friends with Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, likes the warm weather and was considered more temperamentally suited to playing in Anaheim than Boston, according to several people close to him.

But Crawford -- who in his career against the Red Sox hit an even .300 and stole 62 bases while being caught just four times, and tied a major league record in 2009 by stealing six bases in a game against Boston -- elected to remain in the American League East.

"Behind the scenes, they're going to get one of the hardest-working ballplayers in the league," said Rocco Baldelli, who was Crawford's teammate in Tampa Bay and also played for the Red Sox. "There's nobody out there that's going to give himself a better chance to succeed than Carl is.

"They're going to get one of the best defensive left fielders that I've ever seen in baseball. He's one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball. They're going to get a guy who is an exciting player, probably as exciting a player as there is. He's going to be active and he's going to make things exciting. People are going to appreciate everything he does."

When the deal becomes official, it will be the sixth-largest free-agent contract in terms of total value in MLB history, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Crawford's contract also would be the second largest in terms of average salary all-time among outfielders, trailing only the $22.5 million contract given to Manny Ramirez by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Crawford's career high for single-season home runs is 19, done last season. That's significant because Crawford would become the first position player to sign a $100 million contract without ever having had a 20-homer season.

Even with the enormous sums meted out to Crawford and anticipated for Gonzalez, the Red Sox might stay under the luxury-tax threshold in 2011. Gonzalez is signed for $6.3 million for 2011, and if the Sox wait until after Opening Day to announce his extension, it will not be counted against the payroll for luxury-tax purposes.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Information from ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald was used in this report.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

EDITORS' PICKS

ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES