Home > Rays Talk > No Crawford? No Pena? No problem.

No Crawford? No Pena? No problem.

Photo from Sports Illustrated

Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena are two of the most recognizable faces on the Tampa Bay Rays Roster.

Crawford, known for his blazing speed, may be the best player to ever put on a Rays uniform in the team’s short history. Pena, on the other hand, has been one of the American League’s most feared hitter for the last three years.

With both players expected to enter free agency after the 2010 season, many speculate that the Rays won’t fork up the money to keep them.

And everyone knows it.

But before fans and analysts see 2010 as the last chance for the Rays to win, I will make the claim that the best is yet to come.

For every player the Rays lose, there is someone there to fill the void.

Let’s go back to last year. First, after the uproar following the Kazmir trade, Wade Davis stepped in and pitched twice as well (His 3.72 ERA was nearly half of Kazmir’s ERA of 5.92 with the Rays in 2009) for 1/20 the price.

Second, the Rays traded Akinori Iwamura in the offseason, and again, there was uproar. But Sean Rodriguez, one of the players acquired in the Kazmir deal, is leading the team this spring in batting average and home runs and is ready to make an impact this year. Not to mention Reid Brignac waiting in the wings

But Kazmir and Iwamura are not Crawford and Pena.

The question is: How will the Rays be able to replace players that make such an impact? And the answer is: Very easily.

Though the Rays are set to pay Crawford $10 million this year, the organization is in no position to outbid the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs or Dodgers for their superstar once he hits the market. He is expected to sign for upward of $15 million per year.

But the Rays have options. Crawford’s numbers are great, and there is no denying his positive impact on the team, but his average numbers (13 HR, 75 RBI, .295 BA, 54 SB) are replaceable, and his career on-base percentage (.335) is below average for someone of his status.

B.J. Upton is having the best spring of his career, and if that is any indication, he will return to his 2007 form when he hit 24 home runs and batted .300. Matt Joyce will get his chance to shine this year, and Desmond Jennings, arguably the Rays’ best prospect, has been called the team’s best athlete by the legendary Peter Gammons.

Carlos Pena may be the best power hitter in the organization’s young history. but his batting average is on a three-year decline, and his strikeouts (163 in 2009) are toxic for a lineup trying to win games. He will be 32 at the end of the 2010 season, meaning his time as an elite run producer may be coming to an end.

From a money standpoint, the Rays will have close to $30 million free with the losses of Crawford, Pena and Pat Burrell. Even if they decide to cut payroll and only use half of that money, they can still make a huge impact on the free agent front.

From a draft standpoint, The Rays would gain two more first round draft picks if Crawford and Pena become Type-A Free Agents. The could get an extra second round pick as well if Burrell gets the Type-B tag.

Any way you want to look at it, the Rays will compete for years to come. They are past the point of potential and now have a team full of players ready to win now.

And everyone knows it.

Categories: Rays Talk
  1. 1.C1N7R0N
    April 1, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    … and probably no Burrell, Soriano, Balfour, Kapler, and Choate either. I think the team will not resign any free agents as they are looking for ways to decrease their future payrolls. BTW this will in fact leave the team with around $40Million free .

  2. AMJR
    April 3, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Excellent points. Only comment I’d like to make is that they can also receive top talent for Pena and Crawford should they decide to trade them instead of receiving draft compensation. An already very talented team can be even better with the acquisition of major-league ready top prospects from other teams. Obviously, that should only be an option if the Rays are out of contention come the trading deadline.

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