I’m pretty whipped after four tiring days in Orlando, so today’s post isn’t going to be a complete argument as much as it is an interesting tidbit to digest. Using the ridiculously awesome new mutli-year capabilities of the leaderboards, I decided to filter my personal dashboard for position players to show the 2006-2010 years, giving us the best players in the game over the last five years. This is what it looks like (click to expand).
It’s the usual names at the top, though you might be surprised how highly Matt Holliday ranks. But, this isn’t about the Cardinals left fielder. Go down to the bottom, where I’ve cut the screenshot off after the 18th spot on the list. You might notice the last two names have something in common – they were both acquired by the Boston Red Sox this week. That’s right, over the last five years, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford have been virtually identical in value.
They’re nine months apart in age. Gonzalez has a shoulder problem that required surgery this winter, and he also cost the team three of their better prospects to acquire in addition to all the money they’re going to owe him in a long term extension. And yet, Crawford is seen as the guy who cost too much. Interesting, no?
This all comes back to the different perceptions of skillsets. Gonzalez has been labeled a high on base slugger, while Crawford has gotten tagged with the slap-hitting speedster label. These labels do more to obfuscate the truth than anything else. Crawford’s skills produce value in a different way than Gonzalez’s skills, but they do produce value. Given Gonzalez’s shift out of Petco, and Crawford’s potential move in front of the Green Monster, I’d expect the first baseman to outproduce the left fielder over the next five years, but the prices Boston paid also reflect that expectation.
Our reactions to these deals should be similar. If you liked the Gonzalez acquisition, you should like the Crawford one too. If Crawford was too much money for the expected production, than so is the upcoming Gonzalez contract. They are more similar than they have been portrayed.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.