Carl Crawford just signed with the Red Sox last night for $142 million over seven years. That's $16 million more than the Nationals signed Jayson Werth for. Whether you prefer either player is just a matter of preference. Power and and hitting, or speed and defense. Overall, they are pretty comparable players, and were considered as such when free agency began.
So why did the Nationals get blasted for the contract they gave Werth, when the Red Sox got a resounding "attaboy" for signing Crawford to a much larger deal? Jamie Mottram over at Mr. Irrelevant has a pretty good idea why; The Nationals (or any other bottom feeder) just aren't allowed to spend that kind of money. Basically, rest of baseball:
I think it’s as simple as MLB being a league of haves and have nots. Boston has, and they spend accordingly. Washington hasn’t, and they haven’t, until now. People — fans and media alike — aren’t used to them acting out.
And the Nats shouldn’t be ridiculed for it either. They didn’t "set the market" here. This is a free market. It’s not their job to keep player prices down for the Bostons and New Yorks. If it were, I think there’d be a word for that. It might rhyme with illusion.
Jamie is right. The Nationals might have overspent for Werth, but the Red Sox might have overspent for Crawford too. But it's acceptable for the big boys to overspend on a player, that's called being aggressive. When a bottom feeder sings someone who is considered out of the range it is irresponsible and destructive to the rest of the free agent market. If the Red Sox had been able to sign Werth to the same contract, it would have been lauded as the first great move of the offseason.
Let's take a look at Werth and Crawford by the numbers (batting average/on base %/slugging - also known as a slash line) in 2010. We'll do it in a blind, coke vs. Pepsi kind of way.
Player A: .296/.388/.532 - 27 HR, 13 SB
Player B: .307/.356/.495 - 19 HR, 47 SB
Ok, so the home run and stolen base totals give it away, Player A is obviously Werth, and Player B Crawford. But in terms of sheer offensive production, measured in OPS (On base +Slugging) Werth actually has the edge over Crawford .921 to .781. It's not a total measure of their impact, but it certainly means that Werth and Crawford are at the very least comparable players. And the Nats paid Werth more than $2 million a year less than the Red Sox will pay Crawford. How is this a bad deal again?
Maybe it's because nobody is used to seeing the Nats spend that kind of money. Maybe it's because they aren't allowed to have the type of talent normally reserved for the contenders. But none of that matters. They offered Werth a pretty fair contract and he accepted; that's all there is to it. They added one of the best available players, and they did so at the expense of the larger teams that would have liked to add him themselves. Maybe that is why everyone is so mad.