Carl Crawford not close to returning to Red Sox; contract looks like a disaster

The problem with Carl Crawford's contract was supposed to be the last two years.

Not the first two.

The Tigers and other teams didn't pass on Crawford because he was going to get $20 million a year. They passed because he was going to get $20 million a year for seven years.

The Red Sox gave him $142 million for seven years, and now maybe going to be $142 million for five years -- and for the wrong five years.

Crawford was a disappointment for the Red Sox in 2011, his first year with them. He's been missing so far in 2012, and he's still not close to returning. Thursday the team announced he's been diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow after being examined by Dr. James Andrews.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported Thursday night that Crawford could miss another 3 months, although a source familiar with his situation said the team expects him to miss less time than that. For now, though, Crawford will be shut down as he undergoes what the team calls a conservative treatment, including a platelet rich plasma injection.

In any case, it will be a while, which is bad news for Crawford and for the Red Sox.

Crawford's current problem is a left elbow injury, but the problem going forward is that he's a player who has always relied on his legs to be effective. He's 30 years old already, turns 31 in August, and will be 36 by the time his contract runs out.

Would you give $21 million to a 36-year-old outfielder who makes his living with his legs?

Of course not, unless that's what it takes to get a dynamic player who is going to help you win big at 29, 30, 31 and 32.

Instead, the Red Sox got guy whose OPS fell from .810 (in his last six seasons with the Rays) to .694 (in his first year in Boston). They got a guy who stole only 18 bases, scored only 65 runs, and went from a Gold Glove to a barely-adequate defender in left field.

And that was the first year of the contract.

Now he's going to miss most of the second year. Crawford missed spring training while recovering from wrist surgery, then developed the elbow problem that has proven to be an even bigger problem.

Last week, Crawford was still playing in extended spring training games, as a designated hitter. As recently as last Saturday, manager Bobby Valentine was hoping that he'd soon be able to play the outfield, and that he was on his way back.

Now it appears he won't be back anytime soon, which means that the Red Sox will play for months without two-thirds of their starting outfield. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is out with a shoulder injury, with no timetable yet for his return.

Ellsbury was second in American League MVP balloting last year. Crawford was seventh in AL MVP voting the year before.

He was an impact player, a player who could tempt a team to hand out a seven-year contract, even if it seemed to be a year or two too much.

Crawford would give you so much on the front end of the deal that if his legs went by the end, it wouldn't be a disaster.

Instead, Crawford was bad in the first year. Now he'll miss most of the second year.

Maybe the contract won't prove to be a disaster.

Right now, it sure looks like it is.

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