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Despite their recent success, the Tampa Bay Rays remain as one of baseball's thriftiest teams (not saying that's a bad thing; rather, it's a good thing), and that preference is not likely to change anytime soon in an economic recession.
There was a blurb in Sports Illustrated citing a Boston Globe report that the Rays will likely offload stars Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena before the trade deadline in 2010.
A deal does seem very likely given their payroll will be somewhere around the 2009 figure of $44 million; Crawford and Pena will likely command around $10 million apiece on the open market at least.
Crawford brings all the intangibles Seattle General Manager Jack Zduriencik loves in players he picks for his ball club—great defense, speed, high on-base percentage, and small ball.
Zduriencik has done a good job of reshaping this team; I honestly can't say a single Mariners fan can be opposed to the overall turnaround he has conducted so far.
He would do well, though, to swing another trade to bring the dynamic Crawford to the Pacific Northwest.
Seattle has valuable trade prospects that would be appealing to Tampa Bay—young, talented, cheap pitching, and good defensive players, something the Rays emphasize with their style of play as well.
The cost for Crawford will be significant, seeing as Zduriencik worked out a trade for one of baseball's best pitchers for three prospects of no consequence to the major league squad. Still, I am optimistic any deal he swings will be a good one.
Guys like Sean White, Shawn Kelley, Garrett Olson, Jason Vargas, Luke French, Carlos Triunfel, Mike Carp, Michael Saunders, and Matt Tuiasosopo are all expendable names, with appealing trade value.
A realistic package could consist of Saunders, Triunfel, Kelley, and maybe an additional prospect based on the potential bidding war that would ensue over Crawford at the trade deadline.
A deal along those lines gives both teams and Crawford what they want.
Seattle gets Crawford and arguably forms the best defensive outfield in the history of baseball.
Tampa Bay gets a future starting infielder in Triunfel, a new left field prospect to replace Crawford in Saunders, a good developing setup man for the long haul in Kelley, and maybe an additional throw in. All represent low-cost options with high potential for the future that they can control for the foreseeable future.
Crawford gets the benefit of going to another contender and getting paid what his market value deems—around $10-12 million annually.
Even going after Pena makes complete sense for the Mariners in the same regard; if either of these guys gets put on the trading block, Zduriencik is going to be tickled inside.
The Mariners still have some moves to make this offseason and could be players at the trade deadline if they are in position to make a playoff push. Adding another starter like Ben Sheets and acquiring Crawford would make them the general favorite to win the AL West, bottom line.
Hopefully if a potential for a deal comes along, he pulls the trigger. In Jack We Trust.