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Red Sox Interested In Carl Crawford: Are They Willing To Commit?

The Red Sox offseason is becoming more and more interesting by the day.

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein has finally woken up since the departure of catcher Victor Martinez. The Red Sox have reportedly expressed interest in reliever Matt Guerrier, outfielder Jayson Werth, and have also been keeping tabs on Adrian Beltre as they hope to re-sign him. But the biggest news surrounds one Carl Crawford.

As of Today, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports and Gordon Edes of have reported that the Red Sox have stepped up their pursuit of Crawford, with Epstein having met with the 4-time All-Star in his hometown of Houston, Texas. Crawford away from the meeting "Very, very impressed" with what the Red Sox have to offer according to Peter Gammons, appearing on NESN Daily.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are putting Crawford on the back-burner, instead focusing on free agent pitcher Cliff Lee, whom the Rangers offered a 5-year deal today. This could open a window for the Red Sox to get a deal done with Crawford while New York remains uncertain of it's budget situation until after Lee makes his decision.

Crawford is a favorite among the entire Red Sox organization, with manager Terry Francona calling him a "game changer" in a radio interview.

The only catch to Crawford is that he has reportedly been seeking an 8-year, 160 million dollar deal. While Henry has been calling the shots, the Red Sox have yet to offer a contract larger than the 5-year, 82.5 million dollar one they gave John Lackey last offseason (one that many Sox fans would sooner forget).

The question that arises in all of this is whether or not this "game changer" is worth a long-term commitment?

2010 - Carl Crawford 154 600 110 184 30 13 19 90 46 104 47 10 .307 .356 .495

Crawford was in peak form in 2010, managing career highs in numerous categories, including RBI, homers, OPS, and WAR. While his 47 steals were noticeably fewer than the 60 he managed in 2009, this may be due to his reaching base on doubles and triples more often this year instead of any drop in speed or ability.

The scary part about Crawford is that at just 29-years-old he is only now entering the prime of his career.

For the Sox, the decision comes down to whether or not they would be willing to break the bank and commit long term to Crawford, who would be 37 at then end of his desired 8-year contract. The Red Sox have generally been averse to making this kind of commitment to any player in the past.

Still, the Red Sox haven't been completely unwilling to break the bank when it comes to top talent. Some may have forgotten, but Boston offered outfielder Matt Holliday a 5-year, 82.5 million dollar contract last year before he signed with the Cardinals. And, of course, in 2008 they offered Mark Teixeira--about Crawford's age at the time of the negotiations--an 8-year deal in excess of 160 million dollars before the Yankees (somehow) came in at the last second and signed him.

While the Red Sox could cave and make that same offer to Crawford, one last temptation remains: Jayson Werth.

Currently the second best outfielder on the market behind Crawford (by WAR), Werth is reportedly seeking a 4-5 year deal worth about 60 million dollars. The Red Sox were unwilling to match those numbers last year when Jason Bay signed with the Mets on a 4-year, 66 million dollar deal.

In recent years, the Red Sox have been able to extend the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Jon Lester at their own price. All three have turned out to be great players for the Sox, and all three were developed within the organization. While the Sox do have money to spend, if the free agents' demands prove unreasonable, they may choose to see if they can luck out with rookie Ryan Kalish, who showed a lot of potential last season.

Crawford and Werth do seem to be Boston's top priorities right now. Both of them are complete players, performing both at the plate and in the field. But only the following weeks will tell us if the Red Sox are willing to make the commitment necessary to pick up these top talents.