The 2011 Rays And Carl Crawford

The Rays are willing to spend this season, but they're lowering payroll under $60MM for 2011. The upcoming payroll drop means next year's team will look much different than the one that's off to a 55-36 start this season. And as any Rays fan will tell you, prospective free agents Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano could all be playing elsewhere a year from now.

The Rays can buy out the options for Dan Wheeler and Willy Aybar after the season to create some flexibility for 2011. They can let Grant Balfour and Randy Choate walk as free agents. And they can also non-tender or trade Jason Bartlett (who could earn $5-6MM in his final arbitration season) and Dioner Navarro (who could earn $3MM or so through arbitration). Even if all six of those players are on different teams in 2011, the Rays won't have much wiggle room unless owner Stuart Sternberg decides to spend more.

Now that Pat Burrell's gone, the Rays aren't stuck with any bad contracts, but GM Andrew Friedman won't likely have much spending power this offseason. B.J. Upton, Matt Garza, J.P. Howell, Lance Cormier and Andy Sonnanstine will get raises through arbitration. When you combine their salaries and the aforementioned buyouts with guarantees to Ben Zobrist ($4.6MM), James Shields ($4.25MM), Kelly Shoppach ($3MM), David Price ($2.2MM) and Evan Longoria ($2MM), you reach $32MM or so in a hurry.

That leaves the Rays with about $25MM to fill out their bullpen, add a first baseman and a DH and complete their roster with cheap players already in the organization like Wade Davis and Sean Rodriguez. When you consider that the Crawford-Pena-Soriano trio makes $27.5MM this year, $25MM doesn't seem like so much money.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see Crawford demand $17MM per season on the open market, as Matt Holliday did last winter. The list of potential suitors for the Rays' left fielder is a long one and it includes big spenders like the Yankees and Angels. It would take a lot of maneuvering for the Rays to pay Crawford market value and keep their payroll below $60MM.

Admittedly, this analysis tells us something we already knew (keeping Crawford will be tricky) and reminds us that there are still many unknowns. Anything could happen, since the offseason is months away. Crawford could stop playing like an MVP candidate and the team could trade B.J. Upton or decide to raise payroll. As painful as it would be, the Rays could even trade Crawford. 

There are many variables, but we know this: as long as Crawford keeps playing excellent defense and hitting better than ever, his free agent value will be sky-high and it will be difficult for the Rays to keep their star left fielder in Tampa without leaving substantial holes on next year's team.


41 Responses to The 2011 Rays And Carl Crawford Leave a Reply

  1. People should stop expecting the Yankees to be in it for Carl Crawford. With the way Swisher and Gardner have performed this year, the Yankees have no immediate need in the OF and need to keep the DH open so Jeter, Rodriguez, and Posada can be rotated in there on a semi-regular basis.

    Plus, once you bring back Pettitte (most likely), Rivera, and Jeter and then factor in all contract escalators and arbitration raises, they’re not going to have room for much more than one big FA expenditure. If they tried to add $40 M in payroll, their payroll would explode past what they’ve even dealt with the last couple of years.

    They’ll target Cliff Lee undoubtedly. I suppose that, if Lee signs elsewhere, the Yankees retain Pettitte, pick up a fifth starter, and are able to find a trade option to their liking for Granderson, it’s possible they look at Crawford, but I wouldn’t anticipate them being in the hunt.

    It looks like the Angels all the way. Biggest need, best fit, and they have the payroll flexibility.

    • Yankee fan ideology: If the player is available (or even if he isn’t), the Yankees are going to get him.

    • Tim Valencia 5 years ago

      Biggest jump to conclusion ever. It mentions, the yankees slightly and somehow we went straight to what the yankees offseason looks like and how great they are in line for WS in 2011. Amazing

    • jwredsox 5 years ago

      Don’t be fooled by Swisher’s season he is helped by a BABIP way over his career norm and will come crashing back to earth at some point (if not next season)

      • Marcos 5 years ago

        While it’s true that Swish’s BABIP is due for some regression, his new swing and improved bat speed should help limit that regression. For what it’s worth, his current BABIP is .342, projections have him at .300-.310, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his new mechanics could boost that projection to .315-ish so his regression shouldn’t be a complete “crash”.

        • jwredsox 5 years ago

          I get what you’re saying but I think if the Yankees don’t go out and get Werth or Crawford because they are betting on Swisher hitting over .300 again they are making a mistake.

          • Sniderlover 5 years ago

            Yeah because their line-up will suck if Swisher starts batting like .275. Oh noes…

          • jwredsox 5 years ago

            His career BABIP is .283. He is currently sporting a .342 BABIP with a .300 average. Even if he has improved enough to bump his BABIP up to a normal .300 that is still a .42 point difference

          • jwsox 5 years ago

            lets not forget swisher is already under contract, same with granderson and gardner is as well and cheap there is no need for crawford with gardner playing like he is. and werth is older and will start slowing down sooner than later like he already is…

          • jwredsox 5 years ago

            I was more referring to Crawford than Werth. With Swisher having a DH role or partial backup

  2. Just_MLB 5 years ago

    what a joke…each MLB team makes AT LEAST 30 mil from the revenue generated by mlb advanced media…not to mention the profit sharing done from merchandising…so when a kid in japan buys a Yankee hat or jacket…the Yankees split the profit 30 ways…these owners should be forced to open up their books so the fans can see how they are being duped….

    • paorta2 5 years ago

      There must be a lot of NY-area writers willing to say whatever the Yankees tell them to say. The way you tell it, the Yankees are underwriting the entire league. No wonder Yankee fans treat every other team as their farm team…

      • Just_MLB 5 years ago

        i know it must hurt to know that the rays received about 60 mil ( 30 mil in mlb am sharing + 30 mil in rev sharing ) in 2006…those numbers have only increased…but of course they will cry poverty and say they cant sign Crawford…if u wanna put a salary cap…thats fine…lets also put a cap on ticket prices/concessions…these owners have been getting over like a fat rat…

        • paorta2 5 years ago

          I’m not a Rays fan. It’s just that whenever I hear about “revenue sharing” from a Yankee fan, the implication always is that a majority of the money going to these teams is money that otherwise would’ve went to the Yankees. Don’t you think having the Rays, as they are now, is good for the league? Don’t they make it more exciting? Couldn’t they be generating some “advanced media revenue”? (Of course, I admit that I don’t know how that works.)

          I also think that Yankee fans don’t realize that if every team signed players like the Yankees did, salaries would be orders of magnitude greater than they are now. That’s just a fact. So maybe revenue sharing is worth something to the Yankees, too.

          • Just_MLB 5 years ago

            who said i was a yankee fan ?

          • paorta2 5 years ago

            I didn’t, directly, though I did think you were one.

  3. jwredsox 5 years ago

    Hopefully the Red Sox sign him. Wanted him forever.

  4. coolstorybro222 5 years ago

    I would pay Crawford 15 and not budge from that. I would try and retain Pena, because if he gets into enemy hands, whoo.

  5. jwsox 5 years ago

    I would expect to see kenny williams push hard for him. He was all over chone but chone wanted too much money and for his age and current season not worth it. But i could easily see Kenny going hard after crawford in the area of 16+ a season, play pierre in left, crawford in center, and rios in right with carlos DH’ing…vicedio plays 1st, konerko walks or comes off the bench..or the resign konerko to play 1st and vicedio tries 3rd for a full season

    • Crawford wont play center. The Rays have wanted him to play center before, but he doesnt have any interest in playing center.

  6. Lloydxmas 5 years ago

    Im a Yankee fan and really hope they dont overpay for Crawford. I like the everyday play of Gardner and we are stuck with Granderson. Man is Granderson just not that good. He has some of the worst at bats of any player in that lineup and gets bad reads on balls. Swisher really looks like such a different player. So much better at the plate and in right field. Nobody has any idea what their offseason plans are yet. We still have a whole half of baseball and the playoffs are no lock, yet another title. Rays are very good. Red Sox have grit. They are like Freddy Kruegar, Jason Vorhees, or Michael Myers. They never seem to die no matter what happens. Texas in the West. So not all Yanks fans feel entitled to other teams players or think the World Series is theirs to lose!

  7. diehardmets 5 years ago

    Angels are going to sign Crawford. The Yanks will most likely get Lee if they’re going to make a big FA splash (which they always do).

    • actually, the Braves are going to go in HARD after Crawford and, with Chipper and Wagner coming off the books and Liberty increasing payroll next year (albeit only by 5-10 million a year), the Braves will look hard at Crawford.

      Angels might, but they have WAYYYYYY more needs in the rotation than the OF.

      • diehardmets 5 years ago

        He’s really not the kind of bat the Braves need. Sure, he’ll hit a fair amount of home runs but the braves would also need a big middle of the order bat. If they sign Crawford, I don’t think they’ll have room to add a real masher. I think Jason Werth is a much more likely target for the Braves.

  8. j6takish 5 years ago

    Not saying he won’t get it, but no way Pena deserves big money. People trash talk Adam Dunn for being a two outcome hitter (homer or strikeout) Pena is worse. Yeah he hits 35+ homers a year, but a 230 Average (maybe) dosen’t look good, advanced stats or not.

  9. crashcameron 5 years ago

    did one person in these comments even mention the plans of the Tampa Rays?
    you know – the team the original post was all about

    • losingfaithinmightymelvin 5 years ago

      I was thinking the same thing. The only reason I read all the comments was because I figured at least one person would have something to say about their hometown team (rays). I’m a Brewers fan and I feel their pain about probably losing Crawford, we are 95% sure we are losing Fielder next year if not in the next two weeks and I would love to know what Rays fans are thinking about losing their top guy too. I think it would be awesome for the sport of baseball if Crawford would give the Rays a hometown discount and sign for a reasonable contract. More people would be turned on to baseball if players would stick with their team once free agency finally comes around. Too often fans get their hearts ripped out when their favorite players leave town for a bigger contract because it’s all about the money. I mean seriously what’s the difference between a 6yr/120 mil contract and a 6yr/100 mil contract? What can’t you buy with 100 mil that you could buy with 120?

      • Yankees420 5 years ago

        To sarcastically answer your question: you can’t buy a house that costs 101 million dollars. =P

        But, seriously, I’m a Yankee fan and I would like it if the Rays found a way to keep Crawford, I just think he would look weird in another uniform. But, even if Crawford isn’t going after top dollar, I don’t think the Rays can retain him, they certainly aren’t dealing out a 6/100MM contract, and I doubt that Crawford will accept something like 5/70. (that’s just a guess on how much I think the Rays could top out at)

  10. $3081341 5 years ago

    It’d be worth it, just to keep those 3. Quite being pansys & start competing with the BIG BOYS. Although there is the dilemma of what to do with Jennings. If Crawford somehow stays, do they trade Jennings for pitching. At some point, there gonna have to raise payroll.

    • HerbertAnchovy 5 years ago

      I don’t think things are a simple as that. There would be no need for GM’s and front office people if it were that easy.

    • Why would they trade Jennings for pitching? They have one of the deepest farm systems in the league when it comes to pitching, yet they are seriously lacking in offensive prospects.

  11. rishathra 5 years ago

    I thought the Rays were set to replace Crawford with Desmond Jennings, and to add Jeremy Hellickson to the rotation. Or is it their plan to hold those two back to avoid their becoming Super-Twos? (Penny wise and pound foolish.) I know Jennings’ average (.285) and power (1 HR) this year are below expectations, but his OBP (.361) is fine, and he’s stolen 23 of 25 bases. If he replaces Crawford in the outfield, they’ll be lacking power, but he should step right in as a top-notch leadoff man. (Okay, his splits vs. lefties are bad. They can cope with that.)

    Behind Hellickson, they have another three or six top pitching prospects (Jake McGee, coming off TJ surgery, is looking good again, for example) whom I wouldn’t be surprised to see them deal for lineup help.

    I would be surprised to see their quality drop greatly, even if they have to let Crawford go. (Power-hitting 1B are also not in short supply.)

    • jwredsox 5 years ago

      Except what if Jennings can’t fill in for Crawford immediately which would be a possibility. What if he comes in and hits say .250 his first year? And what if Hellickson has a Wade Davis type first year? I think some fans think that this rebuilding time is going to be more seamless than it may end up being.

      • rishathra 5 years ago

        That’s possible; no prospect is 100% guaranteed this side of Stephen Strasburg. They still have plenty of talent in their minors to get someone to fill in as a bridge, if they need to. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see both of their top guys up on August 1, especially if they’ve traded Davis (there’d be plenty of takers) and/or Upton (fewer, but still out there — and if they do, then that’s money they can put on the Crawford pile).

  12. invader3k 5 years ago

    The big problem for the Rays is that they have poor attendance (for their record), and still have that terrible stadium, with no new stadium deal in sight. Hard to justify paying one player a huge, potentially crippling, contract; when the team’s future seems murky at best.

  13. I wonder if ESPN will bring back Jim Gray for another one-hour special on Crawford’s decision in the offseason. Somehow I don’t see him bringing his talkents to South Beach though! :)

  14. RaysofHope 5 years ago

    Attendance thing is overplayed. It is about one thing and one thing only….Corporate sponsorships. The Rays have done a poor job selling seats to corporations hence small crowds for during the week games. All the other stadiums in America fill those with company tix that people never have to pay for. Guess it would not help ownerships bid for a new stadium if the team was selling out every game..so I can see it makes business sense to not put the full court press on corporate sponsorship. Where is the rage for Cincinatti’s attendance? They are about the same as us and they had a dynasty in the past, have been around forever, have a new stadium and are also in first place??

    They can keep Crawford and in my opinion should offer him 4/$60M now. See if he goes for it. After all you have to pay someone eventually. I hope they never let Longo go to another team I will tell you what. The owner will take a public beating over that. Better to keep a core of 5/6 and pay market value and fill in with these up and comers when needed. A good way to balance the ship long term to me.

  15. I bet the away jersey has the name on the back, you know, so that all the uneducated masses who happen to claim NY fandom can tell who it is. Screw authenticity.

  16. coolstorybro222 5 years ago

    Well the mets blew their wad too early on Bay. I would’ve waited and gotten crawford for five years.

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