Rays’ Outfielder Carl Crawford Ready to Cash in at End of Season
Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Carl Crawford has seen the organization that drafted him in 1999 and brought him to the big leagues in 2002 undergo major changes, including changing its name (from Devil Rays), three different uniform styles, and evolving from the worst team in baseball to a regular contender, including a spot in the 2008 World Series.
The team is facing its biggest change at the end of this season when the best player in franchise history will become a free agent and be available to sell himself to the highest bidder. Crawford’s contract is up in November, and if he stays healthy he could sign a breathtaking contract.
According to baseball-reference.com, Carl Crawford has earned $31.3 million in his career through 2010, including $10 million this season. He has been an All Star four times, has led the American League in stolen bases four times and has been the league’s triples champion three times. He has also been durable, appearing in over 150 games five times.
After the 2009 season two All Star left fielders hit the open market. Jason Bay signed a four-year, $66 million dollar deal with the Mets, and Matt Holiday agreed to a seven-year, $120 million deal with St. Louis. Crawford is younger, faster and is a far better defender than either Holiday or Bay, and while the other two have more homerun power, Crawford has scored more runs.
Although it will be more than three months before the World Series is over, the Carl Crawford sweepstakes seems to be gaining momentum. According to the Los Angeles Times, Torii Hunter of the Angels used their shared status as All Stars to encourage Crawford to come to Anaheim after his contract is up. The Angels could use his bat, his speed and his defensive prowess in left field. “I’ve been playing eight years, so I know how nice it is here,” Crawford said of Angel Stadium and the Orange County area. “Torii just kind of reminds me sometimes.” The Angels staff placed Crawford’s locker next to Hunters in the American League All Star team’s clubhouse last week.
The Yankees are also said to be interested, a factor that often drives up the price of free agent talent. New York currently has Brett Gardner in left field and Nick Swisher in right field. Both are nice players, neither is as dynamic as Crawford. The next offseason could be one of significant change in the Bronx as the contracts of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are expiring in November. Crawford could help the Yankees extend their dynasty by several years.
Another rich franchise with a hole in its outfield figures to be the Los Angeles Dodgers. Manny Ramirez’s contract is up at the end of the season and Los Angeles is not expected to re-sign Manny to play left field as he approaches 40. Carl Crawford would be a nice fit in Dodger Stadium with an outfield that already features Matt Kemp in center and Andre Ethier in right. The Dodger front office situation should be settled by the time the Crawford bidding starts, as sources have indicated that the divorce of owner Frank McCourt and former team president Jamie McCourt figures to be resolved late this summer.
Finally, if the Yankees show interest in a player the Red Sox are usually not far behind as the Boston franchise struggles to keep up with what it calls the evil empire. Its left fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, has had injury problems this season along with a falling out with management over his care and rehab. Crawford figures to show more power in Fenway Park, and the Red Sox would love to have another weapon in their battles with the Bronx Bombers.
With the Angels, Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox as possible suitors, Carl Crawford figures to become a very rich young man before he turns 30. According to one scout who spoke with Baseball Prospectus, he has really turned it up a notch this season. “He has always been a good player,” said the scout who has to remain anonymous because club officials cannot comment on a player under contract to another team. “But I’ve never seen him as good as he’s been this season in all phases of the game. He is setting himself up to make some major money in free agency.”
And since major money and the Tampa Bay Rays usually do not go together (Tampa’s payroll is about one-third of the Yankees), it also means that Carl Crawford is likely to have a new address for the 2011 Major League Baseball season.
Hirsch is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.