MLB

Would Crawford make sense for Yanks?

Image: Carl Crawford (J. Meric/Getty Images)
Do the Yankees really need Carl Crawford?
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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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Of course the Yankees are expressing interest in Carl Crawford. They expressed interest in him almost immediately, just as they express interest in virtually every major free agent.

The larger question is: How serious is the Yankees’ interest?

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That remains to be seen.

The Yankees’ biggest need is pitching — and it will remain pitching even if they sign the top starter on the free-agent market, left-hander Cliff Lee.

For that reason, one rival executive Friday said he was skeptical that the Yankees actually would sign Crawford, saying, “I don’t buy it. I would be absolutely shocked.”

The Yankees might only be trying to raise the ante on Crawford for the Red Sox or Angels, but nothing they ever do in free agency is shocking.

To sign Crawford, they would need to either . . . :

• Trade one of their other high-priced outfielders, either Curtis Granderson or Nick Swisher, or…

• Lose at least one of the free agents they currently are pursuing — left-hander Cliff Lee, shortstop Derek Jeter and left-hander Andy Pettitte.

Crawford always has loomed as a possibility if the Yankees failed to sign Lee. For the Yankees to add both players, they surely would need to move another salary, barring a dramatic — and unexpected — payroll increase.

Lee’s eventual price figures to be in the range of six years, $140 million. Crawford’s price is less clear, but with the Angels, Red Sox and other teams interested, he, too, figures to top $100 million.

Three other Yankees already boast contracts of more than $160 million — third baseman Alex Rodriguez, first baseman Mark Teixeira and left-hander CC Sabathia.

And the team already has $144.367 committed to 10 players for 2011, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Even if the Yankees sign Crawford and trade Swisher or Granderson, it would lead to a net payroll increase.

Swisher is signed for $9 million next season, with the Yankees holding a $10.25 million option on him for 2012.

Granderson is signed for $8.25 million next season and $10 million in ’12, with the club holding a $13 million option on him for ’13.

Crawford’s average annual salary in his new deal will be considerably higher, perhaps in excess of $15 million. And unlike Swisher and Granderson, he has not proved that he can play in New York.

Going forward, designated hitter Jorge Posada is the only high-salaried Yankee entering the final year of his contract, though Sabathia can opt-out after next season.

The Yankees eventually will need to replace Pettitte. They are paying the erratic A.J. Burnett $16.5 million per season through ’13. Their future rotation remains an open question.

Thus, a major investment in Crawford might be ill-advised unless the Yankees struck out on Lee.

If that happened, the Yanks could view Crawford as an offensive, defensive and baseruning upgrade.

But their pitching needs still would be acute, and next year’s free-agent market is less than promising.

Tagged: Yankees, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson

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