Red Sox steal the show

CHRIS RUDDICK, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

The Boston Red Sox kicked off Major League Baseball's winter meetings with a blockbuster deal and closed the festivities with an even more shocking one.

Just as Wednesday night's events were drawing to a close, news broke that Boston had agreed to a seven-year, $142 million deal with free agent outfielder Carl Crawford.

The Boston Globe broke the story, and several other outlets confirmed it, including MLB.com.

The Red Sox, who have not confirmed the deal, were mentioned in passing with regards to Crawford, but it was the Angels and even the New York Yankees who had been considered the favorites.

Turns out all the Yankees talk was speculation, because they never even discussed money with Crawford.

You have to hand it to Boston GM Theo Epstein. The man is a ninja.

What a signing by the Red Sox. Crawford is a tremendous player who is coming off perhaps his best season in the majors. Couple him with the recently- acquired Adrian Gonzalez and you have the makings of a pretty lethal lineup, especially from the left side of the plate.

Crawford becomes the first position player without a 20-homer season to sign a nine-figure contract. While the reported money falls short of the eight-year, $160 million the Red Sox gave Manny Ramirez a decade ago, Crawford's annual pay day of just over $20 million is the richest ever handed an outfielder.

It's well deserved, too, for a player who is coming off a season that saw him hit .307 and set career-highs with 19 home runs, 90 RBI and 110 runs scored. His eight four-hit games were a major league-high.

Crawford, who also won a Gold Glove for the first time in his career, stole 47 bases last season and has led the American League four times in that category. His 13 triples this past season also led the league.

As much as the Red Sox are winners here in Lake Buena Vista, is there a bigger winner than Cliff Lee? The Yankees have to land him now. General manager Brian Cashman confirmed he offered a deal to Lee that is believed to be worth six years and $140 million.

Guess what? Whether Cashman likes it or not, that offer is going to have to be higher. Why? Well, for one, the Red Sox lineup is now loaded with lefties. The Yankees need another lefty starter. And also, don't underestimate the Los Angeles Angels with regards to Lee. They were left at the alter with Crawford. They were on the outside looking in at Lee all along but Crawford was always their top choice. This could make them go all-out in trying to land Lee and Adrian Beltre.

The two biggest losers here? Well, Texas might as well kiss its chances of keeping Lee goodbye. I thought all along that Lee would return to Arlington. Not now. The Yankees won't be outbid, especially now.

I'm not sure Texas is going to keep pace with the Yankees, and when was the last time a player turned down more money? The list is very short and Lee doesn't strike me as a guy who will.

Then there are the Tampa Bay Rays. Not that anyone thought Crawford was going to return to the Rays, but where does his signing with Boston leave them? The team has now lost Carlos Pena and Crawford, dealt shortstop Jason Bartlett, they are going to lose Rafael Soriano and are shopping Matt Garza.

Is it crazy to think the Rays finish dead-last next season in the competitive AL East? I don't think so. In fact, I am predicting right now they will be in the cellar.

We had been waiting all week for a big signing like Crawford's and we got one. But, really, did it have to go down right before midnight here on the East Coast?

Oh, by the way, Philadelphia also added reliever Dennys Reyes.


Videos

Photos