Crawford ready to wear out Boston's bases

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Crawford ready to wear out Boston's bases

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When the Red Sox signed free agent outfielder Carl Crawford to a landmark seven-year, 142 million contract last December, it was an extraordinary investment, the second-largest deal the franchise had ever given.

The Sox were motivated to spend as much as they did because of Crawford's unique skill set, which features virtually unmatched speed and defense.

But surely, it must have been more than a passing thought to Red Sox executives that the commitment would almost be worth it just knowing that the Sox would never again have to watch Crawford torment them as an opponent.

In eight seasons, playing the Red Sox as often as 19 times during the regular season, Crawford wore out the Red Sox, particularly on the bases. Over that time, Crawford successfully stole 62 bases in 66 tries, including 35 steals in a row without being thrown out.

Now, that's someone else's problem.

If you can't beat him, sign him.

"All the things that use to aggravate us when he was in a Tampa uniform,'' said Terry Francona, "hopefully will excite us now that he's in a Red Sox uniform."

Told that Crawford and catcher Jason Varitek had jokingly "buried the hatchet,'' now that they are teammates, Francona cracked: "I still have some animosity. He looks awfully good in our uniform, though. When he walked in today, I said, 'It's amazing how you can hate somebody so much when they were in a different (uniform) and then fall in love with him when he's in your (uniform).''

Indeed, Crawford seemed to save his best for games against the Red Sox. In his rookie season, he hit a walkoff homer off Chad Fox to beat the Sox on Opening Day of 2003, and only last season, stole six bases against them in a single game.

Recalling the six-steal game, Francona said: "It felt like he was going right from first to third, not even (stopping) at second.''

After competing against the Sox for the last eight seasons, the transition from Tampa to Boston is a sizeable one and Crawford may take some time making the adjustment.

"Yesterday,'' said Crawford, "walking into the clubhouse (for the first time), it was new for me. I thought I was ready for it but I still really wasn't. Today, I felt a little more comfortable and I figure as each day goes along, I'll feel comfortable.

"It's a new group of people. I've seen those guys playing on the other side a lot, but it's different when you're actually in the clubhouse with them...I got really comfortable (in Tampa). I knew everything - the little ins-and-outs. Now, I've got to figure everything out again.''

Reminded that his stolen base totals might decline precipitiously because he no longer will get the chance to run against the Red Sox, Crawford blushed some, laughed and said: "I don't think so. I try to get as many as I can every year. That's my goal -- to put pressure on the other team, steal as many bags and get into scoring position.''

He later added that when he saw Varitek recently in Boston, they hugged.

"I let him know, 'I'm on your side now, so you don't have to worry about that anymore,' '' Crawford said.

Later, Varitek told reporters that having Crawford as a teammate would, by definition, extend his career.

Though the Rays didn't have a winning season in their history until 2008, a rivalry between Tampa and Boston developed and grew in recent seasons. It wasn't nearly as intense as the long-standing Red Sox-Yankee rivalry, but it had its moments.

"Over time, we built up a little rivalry,'' said Crawford. "We wanted to beat the Red Sox really bad.''

Crawford's success rate on the bases against the Red Sox almost became a joke. First baseman Kevin Youkilis said earlier this week that Crawford at times told Youkilis when he was going to take off for second, comforted by the knowledge that not even advance warning could stop him from succeeding.

"I don't want to say I told him that,'' said a chuckling Crawford. "Maybe I would say some things to throw him off. It was just a little friendly banter. He knew what I was trying to do and I knew what he was trying to do.''

Now, Crawford will be Youkilis' teammate, trying to beat the Rays the way he once tried to beat the Red Sox. It won't take long for Crawford to meet up with his former team -- the Rays come to Boston in mid-April for the second home series of the season.

"It's going to be fun,'' he said. "It's going to be highly competitive because I know that they're going to try to beat us and we're going to do the same. It should (make for) some interesting games.''

Now, with one twist: Let the other team worry about Carl Crawford.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Need a reminder all prospects don’t hit? Happy anniversary, Andy Marte trade

Need a reminder all prospects don’t hit? Happy anniversary, Andy Marte trade

In a week that has seen the Red Sox trade arguably the best prospect in baseball, Thursday can serve as a reminder that not all prospects -- even the great ones -- end up hitting. 

Eleven years ago today, the Red Sox traded Edgar Renteria to the Braves, and in eating some of the veteran shortstop’s contract, got Atlanta to give them third baseman Andy Marte. 

Andy freaking Marte. Those stupid, stupid Braves.

If you were a baseball fan at the time, you were flummoxed at the notion that the Braves, who were a factory for developing good, young players, would trade the No. 9 prospect in all of baseball from 2005, according to Baseball America. At 22 years old, he was coming off seasons that saw him hit 23 homers in Double-A and 20 in Triple-A. 

“There’s nothing not to like about Andy Marte. He’s and outstanding defender with a chance to be an impact player offensively,” an opposing Double-A manager said of him, per Baseball America. 

Some of the other guys in the top 10 that year? Joe Mauer, Felix Hernandez and Scott Kazmir. Sitting one spot behind Marte on the list? Hanley Ramirez. 

And when the Red Sox got Marte, he immediately shot up to No. 1 on the Baseball America’s list of Boston’s prospects. Look at the rest of this list. Hell, there’s a combined 10 All-Star nods between Nos. 2 and 3 alone, and that’s not to mention the American League MVP sitting at No. 5. 

So what did Marte do for the Red Sox? Well, he got them Coco Crisp. After Theo Epstein returned from his hiatus, he shipped Marte, the recently acquired Guillermo Mota (dude got traded three times in six months), Kelly Shoppach, a player to be named later and cash for Crisp, Josh Bard and David Riske. 

Crisp didn’t exactly rip it up in Boston, but Epstein’s (and then-Braves general manager John Schuerholz’) foresight to trade Marte proved wise. Marte spent six seasons in Cleveland, seemingly given every chance to break out, but never played more than 81 games. He was designated for assignment in 2009 and cleared waivers, allowing him to stay with the organization as a Triple-A player. The next season was his final one in Cleveland, and he left a six-season stint in with the organization having averaged just 50 games, three homers and 16 RBI at the Major League level. 

Marte would bounce around a bit in the Pittsburgh and Angels organizations, but he didn’t make it back up to the bigs until 2014 on a July 31 callup with the Diamondbacks. He’s now playing in Korea. 

Great prospects often become great players, and the Red Sox’ roster is proof of that. Strikeout concerns aside, there’s not much to suggest Yoan Moncada won’t be an absolute stud. Fans looking for silver lining to losing a top-tier prospect (other than the fact that you could Chris Sale for the guy), can look back 11 years and hope for the best. A lot of people were wrong about Andy Marte.

Report: Chapman, Yanks reach agreement on five-year, $86 million deal

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Report: Chapman, Yanks reach agreement on five-year, $86 million deal

OXON HILL, Md. - Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen - a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever - that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.