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 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. "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.
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A four-time All-Star and a first-time Gold Glove winner this year, Crawford hit .307 this year for Tampa Bay and set career highs with 19 homers and 90 RBI. 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.
"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."
New York also had been speaking with Crawford. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said he never made an offer.
"It's a great player. A great move," Cashman said. "They've had two huge acquisitions. They're loading up like they always do, and this is even more significant than a typical Red Sox reload. So they've done a great job so far."
Yanks increase offer to Lee
Immediately after the Red Sox landed Crawford, the Yankees offered No. 1 free-agent target Cliff Lee a seven-year contract. That's up from their six-year proposal worth nearly $140 million.
A person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press about the increased offer to Lee, without disclosing the dollar amount. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are ongoing.
The Texas Rangers, eager to re-sign Lee, went to pay him a visit in Arkansas. Still no timetable when the prize pitcher might make a decision on where to play in 2011.
"He's a premier free agent," Cashman said. "He's worth waiting for."
Around the majors
Orioles-Twins trade: Trying to add more pop up the middle, Baltimore acquired former All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy from Minnesota on Thursday. The Orioles also got infielder Brendan Harris and $500,000 in the trade that sent minor-league right-handers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson to the AL Central champion Twins.
The 28-year-old Hardy hit .268 with six home runs and 38 RBI last season. He was an All-Star in 2007 with Milwaukee when he hit .277 with 26 homers and 80 RBI.
Royals: A person familiar with the negotiations told AP that outfielder Melky Cabrera had reached a preliminary agreement on a $1.25 million, one-year contract with Kansas City. The 26-year-old Cabrera hit .255 with four homers and 42 RBI with the Atlanta Braves this season.