Rays fans face a historical season this year. This will inevitably be the last season that Carl Crawford will grace us with his presence in left field. The player is a free agent at the end of this season and his price tag will more than likely be too high for the Rays salary.
This is no new story for the Rays, we bring in players young, build them up and lose them when their talent exceeds the team's budget. At the end of the season, the decision to give up Crawford will be made easier due to the projected decrease of the annual salary budget. For the 2010 season, the Rays will be spending 70 million, that is set to drop below 60 million for the 2011 season.
You may remember back in 2002, Carl Crawford made his major league debut with the Rays, and he has been with us ever since. He went from a salary of 200,000 in 2002 to a little over eight million last year. With that kind of salary, teams like Boston and the Yankees will have the upper hand in attracting him to their program.
Teams lose players all the time, but this will be a major loss for the Rays. While with the Rays, Crawford was named the all time leader in at-bats, plate appearances, RBI's, runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, stolen bases, and singles. He has been an American League All Star three times in 2004, 2006, and 2009. He is so much ingrained in the history of the Rays, that he was named the Rays' "Face of the Franchise" by ESPN.
So what do we do after Crawford is gone? Meet Desmond Jennings. The 23 year old left fielder is fresh out the minors and ready to make his mark in the big leagues. Last year, Jennings batted a .318 with Durham Bulls and was named among the top 20 prospects in baseball according to Baseball America.
The Rays are already preparing Jennings to be the replacement for Crawford. In an interview with ESPN, Crawford said "They want him to learn to do things the right way. It wont be that long 'til he'll be here, so we just want to get him ready."
So enjoy the potentially last year with Carl Crawford in left field. He will be missed, but we need to have our eyes on the next new prospect, Desmond Jennings.