From the Nationals perspective, the Red Sox signing of Carl Crawford for 7 years $142 million was an utter disaster. After the Nationals signed Jayson Werth, it looked as though Crawford might be out of the picture for the Red Sox, since they were already spending big money on Adrian Gonzalez. That meant that the Red Sox were likely suitors for the Nationals’ Josh Willingham in the trade market. Also with the Red Sox making another big move, it just about forces the Yankees to increase their offer to Cliff Lee.
Despite needing a RH bat, the Sox likely won’t have any remaining interest in Josh Willingham, and if they did it would be more of a role player than a starter. Despite trading away a couple of good prospects for Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox farm system had a lot of players that could interest the Nationals. It also hurts because it takes away a likely suitor, meaning that offers from other teams might not be as strong. While normally you’d say that the other teams who lost out on Crawford would be in on Willingham, but the Angels and Yankees haven’t been linked too much to the Nationals outfielder. The Tigers were another Crawford suitor and they could get into the Willingham market, but considering they were a bit of a long shot for Crawford, they were already going to be a suitor.
Crawford’s signing has a huge impact on the Cliff Lee negotiations, because it puts the Yankees into a deep corner. Had the Yankees missed out on Lee, their fall back plan was to sign Crawford and trade for a pitcher. Now with Crawford off the board, signing Lee is basically a must. The Yankees seemed to want to hold firm at a 6-year deal under the $150 million (i.e. $25 million a year) threshold, but with Boston making two huge moves how can they? If the Yankees held firm to 6 years under that $150 million mark, the Nats could have had a chance if they offered a 7th year or even just an option for a 7th year (and the $5-10 million buyout that would come with it). Now the Yankees are offering a 7th year and will likely increase their per year offer. While the Nationals could match that deal, it is unlikely they could really exceed it. At this point it is hard to believe the Yankees will miss out on Lee after the Red Sox have made additions like Crawford and Gonazlez.
I wouldn’t say the Nationals are completely out on Cliff Lee, but things got harder with the Crawford signing. Losing the Sox as a suitor for Josh Willingham hurts as well, though I still think he will be traded in the coming weeks. The Winter Meetings obviously started out with a bang for the Nationals as they landed Jayson Werth, but the Crawford deal at the close definitely hurt the Nationals offseason plan.