|Crawfordâ€™s Future Uncertain||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on May 13, 2010
Sometime in the next 75 or so days, Tampa Bay Rays Executive VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman is going to have to make some big decisions.Â Two of the team's marquee players, Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford, are going to be free agents at the end of the year, and the Rays don't have money to keep both.Â In fact they might not have the money available to keep either.
So what is a GM (or in this case an Executive VP of Baseball Operations) to do?Â If he sits tight he might well be getting a World Series ring next spring, but the Rays would lose out big time on the value of the players when they walk away without any compensation save for a couple of draft picks.Â If he trades Carlos Pena he's unlikely to be able to replace that kind of a big bat at a lower cost (although maybe he could convince the Astros to eat a big part of Lance Berkman's contract) and might well unravel the center of the lineup by taking away its biggest power bat.
While if he trades away Carl Crawford, he's trading away the man who's been the face of the franchise for the past decade as well as arguably the team's best player and entrusting his role to a rookie, Desmond Jennings -- by many accounts a young Carl Crawford clone, at least production/potential-wise).
Or he could try to come up with the money to keep at least one of them.Â Certainly they won't be renewing Pat Burrell's contract at the end of the season, but that alone won't help them reduce payroll enough to meet ownership requirements and retain both players.
Realistically as much as they'd like to keep both players it makes little sense financially to the organization.Â Even with a hometown discount, Crawford won't likely take less than $15 million a year, and Pena will command somewhere around $8-$10 million.
At the same time, it's the price you're going to have to pay for players of this quality in today's sporting market. Even though the figures, to us at least, seem like something out of a high-stakesÂ texas holdem tournament, it's going to have to be the price they'll fork out for the pair. Over-extended they may be, but by missing out on better players, they risk dropping down the tables, which won't do them any favours, fiscally speaking, at least.
That means that the most likely option, thanks to Desmond Jennings (the above mentioned Carl Crawford clone) lurking in the minors, is that Crawford will be dealt by the trading deadline no matter where the Rays are in the standings when a deal is struck.
What complicates the deal is just how few suitors may be out there due to the state of the economy at this time -- especially since the Rays would expect a fair bit in return for him talent-wise, and any team making the trade would want to immediately sign him to a long-term extension.
Few if any of the big-spending franchises would likely be in on it.Â The Yankees and Phillies don't need him, the Mets, Angels and Rangers likely can't afford him as their owners are reportedly strapped, the Dodgers are in a state of lockdown while the McCourt divorce drama plays out.Â That would make the most likely team to make a run at Crawford the Boston Red Sox, who almost might be forced to do so unless the team recovers from its recent malaise and begins to play solid baseball again.
There will be plenty of dark horse suitors, possibly including the Orioles, Nationals, Giants, Astros, Tigers, Braves and White Sox, as well as the three teams who reportedly are rather strapped financially, but just who'll pay enough to satisfy Friedman and the Rays ownership is very much up in the air.
It might very well turn out that no one is willing to pay the cost and that the Rays will have to take less or even settle for draft picks.
In any case, watching the Rays over the next couple of months and guessing what is going to happen should be very interesting.