When the Yankees wined and dined Carl Crawford during last December's winter meetings, most assumed he was their backup plan to Cliff Lee. Crawford agreed to a deal with the Red Sox before the end of the meetings and Lee eventually went back to the Phillies, but GM Brian Cashman told ESPN New York he was never really interested in signing the outfielder in the first place...
"I actually had dinner with the agent to pretend that we were actually involved and drive the price up," said Cashman. "The outfield wasn't an area of need, but everybody kept writing Crawford, Crawford, Crawford, Crawford. And I was like, 'I feel like we've got Carl Crawford in Brett Gardner, except he costs more than $100 million less, with less experience.'"
Interestingly enough, Crawford said he didn't believe the Yankees were serious about signing him back in March. "If the Yankees want somebody they go out and get them, don't they?," he asked, and aside from Lee, he's generally correct. Crawford is hitting .259/.295/.410 with only 18 steals in the first year of his seven-year, $142MM contract. Gardner, on the other hand, is hitting .261/.347/.374 with an AL leading 46 stolen bases. He also leads all players in UZR (regardless of position) for the second straight year, and will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter.
Within the same ESPN NY piece, Cashman acknowledged that his offseason moves turned out better than expected. "What I said was accurate: The Red Sox had a great winter, and I had a bad winter," he said. "But as it turned out, I had a better winter than anybody would've expected, including myself." Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have combined for a 3.90 ERA in one out shy of 300 innings, the main reasons Cashman's offseason was surprisingly successful.