Carl Crawford signing with Boston throws just about everything off balance in the AL. Really, it's all Ted Lerner's fault.
It was a perfect setup - four major free agent targets: Crawford, Jayson Werth, Cliff Lee and Adrian Beltre. Four big-market teams with money to spend: Boston, New York, Texas and (Los Angeles of) Anaheim. Everybody gets a player! Everybody is happy! Except the other ten teams, who are forced to use stupid things like farm systems to compete.
And then the Nationals went and signed Werth. It was...unexpected. Seven years, $126 million is a shit-ton of money for anyone to give out, let alone the perennial cabooses of the NL East. But all the elements were there. A team showing they're trying to compete after losing Adam Dunn. The richest owner in all of baseball. And a very thin free-agent market with just four prizes, so they were going to be overpaid.
That left three players for the four AL powers, a situation we thought was rectified when the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez. But then Crawford signed, becoming the highest-paid outfielder ever, not counting Manny Ramirez's two-year deal. He's the Sox's first $20 million a year player, and his is the first seven-year deal handed out by John Henry.
The Yankees might as well hand Cliff Lee a blank check right now. Forget needing another lefty to handle that lefty-heavy Boston lineup: they can't emerge from an offseason where their rivals land Gonzalez and Crawford with only Daniel Turpen. Seven years? Why not eight or nine or a partial stake in the team?
So unless Dallas and Los Angeles are small-market enough for Zack Greinke to waive his no-trade clause, the Rangers and Angels will be battling it out for Adrian Beltre. A fine player by all means, but one coming off an aberration of a season. By being the last of the big four free agents to sign, he'll probably be the most overpaid of all.
So Boston perhaps becomes the favorites in the division, if not all of baseball (though Crawford's SB numbers might go down without his being able to run on Sox catchers anymore). Cliff Lee probably gets Sabathia money, probably from Sabathia's team. And the rest of the GMs get to fight it out over the Yankees' and Red Sox's scraps. Same as it ever was.