Carl Crawford nearing a minor league rehab assignment

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Carl Crawford is finally beginning to make progress.

According to beat writer Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, the rehabbing outfielder felt no discomfort in his left elbow or wrist while playing long-toss from a distance of 110 feet on Saturday and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said he is “pretty close to playing in baseball games.”

Crawford will spend around a week getting action in simulated games before embarking on a minor league rehab assignment. If he’s able to avoid setbacks, he could return to the Red Sox around the All-Star break.

The 30-year-old has been sidelined all season. He signed a seven-year, $142 million free agent contract before the 2011 campaign and batted just .255 with a measly .694 OPS in his first go-around with Boston.

The Phillies plan to spend money and “maybe even be a little bit stupid about it”

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In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.

“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.

“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.

Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.

How novel.