LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Theo Epstein played it coy. He wouldn't discuss Carl Crawford by name and yet he still made it clear that the Boston Red Sox had accomplished their goal of a major retooling by adding a second impact bat to join newly acquired Adrian Gonzalez.
"We did this objectively over months and months and months," the Red Sox general manager said Thursday before leaving the winter meetings. "We realized there was a shot if things came together the right way, we could be pretty aggressive on a couple players we really liked."
Crawford reached a preliminary agreement with the Red Sox on a $142 million, seven-year contract on Wednesday night. The deal, subject to Crawford passing a physical, should be finalized within a few days.
"If things come together the way we hope and expect, we'll be really satisfied," Epstein said. "You go into every winter with a Plan A, and sometimes it's hard to pull that off and you move on to Plan B and C. I think adding an impact player was very important for where we were in the short-, medium- and long-term and adding two, as long as they were the right players in the right spots in the right situations, would be even better."
A four-time All-Star and a first-time Gold Glove winner this year, Crawford hit .307 for Tampa Bay and set career highs with 19 homers and 90 RBIs. A four-time stolen base champion, he also swiped 47 bases and led the AL with 13 triples.
Boston has replaced the offense lost by the departures of Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre with the bats of the 29-year-old Crawford and the 28-year-old Gonzalez, who is thought to have agreed to a long-term contract that won't be finalized until after opening day, a move that lowers Boston's 2011 payroll for luxury tax purposes.
"Getting players in their primes or in the early parts of their primes I think is very important," Epstein said. "If you're going to sign a long-term contract, you want to make sure it starts at the right age and hopefully ends still at a reasonable age. Most elite position players sign through age 36. So if you can get a player signed just through 35, I know it sounds silly, but that might be a small victory in and of itself, capturing more of a player's prime years."