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Crawford's Future as a Ray

As people in the Tampa Bay area begin to warm up from the extensive cold spell, a hint of spring is in the air. Warmer days, crisp evenings, and birds fluttering around can only mean one thing, “Mandatory Spring Training reporting date.” To a fan, these words ensure a new season is on its way- bringing with it all the record breakers, walk offs, home runs, and devastating losses that a baseball fan endures for 162 games a season. The Tampa Bay Rays are ready to take the field at Charlotte County Sports Park as Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, and J.P. Howell have made their deals with the organization; newcomers Rafael Soriano and Kelly Shoppach are ready to debut as Rays, and minus a few loose ends (notably B.J Upton), the 2010 Rays eagerly await Opening Day. While excited about what the 2010 season will bring the Rays, one murky situation is floating in the back of my mind, tugging at my optimism for the season. His name is Carl Crawford. At the end of the 2010 season, C.C. will become a free agent. The question is can the Rays afford to keep him on the payroll? Crawford has spent his entire career as the Rays left fielder. He has endured heart-breaking 100 plus loss seasons, and one turning point season in his career when the Rays made their 2008 World Series appearance. While Crawford is arguably the face of the franchise, other factors are now in place that could affect our beloved C.C.
First baseman Carlos Pena’s contract is due at the end of the 2010 along with Crawford’s. With the Rays having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, it will be almost impossible for them to make deals with both Crawford and Pena. Crawford’s excellence over the years will net him a large contract with numerous years attached. Can the Rays offer him the 10-15 million a year over 3 plus years Crawford will seek? Unless a deal is made soon it appears that C.C.’s future will most likely rely on the Rays position in the 2010 season prior to trade deadline. I hate to say it, but if the Rays struggle the first half, Crawford slips further from their grips and a trade appears inevitable. While I do not necessarily agree with this, unfortunately there is a business side to baseball that can be down right dirty. I have never been to a game where #13 did not roam left field, steal a base, or by putting the ball into play get down the first base line so quickly he turned a sure out into an infield hit. Nor will I ever forget his grand slam against the Cubs in interleague 2008 to put the Rays back in the lead. Crawford has consistently been relied upon to steal a base, make an amazing diving catch, or put the ball into play at the plate, which he has remarkably achieved year after year I assure you other teams have not forgotten these moments too. Big market teams will loiter and swim around like piranhas waiting for the Rays to make a move. If the deal is not done quickly, I fear Tampa Bay will lose the one player that has consistently brought fans to the Trop for the past six years, whose name is known by fans and non-fans alike, the player that is the “Original Tampa Bay Ray.” Not only does the organization need C.C., baseball in Tampa Bay needs him as well.
--Sarah Bales