To say Carl Crawford will be missed next season is a severe understatement. Nevertheless, the Tampa Bay Rays will try to replace his on-field production as best they can with Desmond Jennings and others; however, in terms of what “CC” meant to the franchise, the fan base, and the area, he will never be replaced.
After all, you only get one first love and Crawford was ours.
Crawford, himself, is no doubt dealing with some mixed emotions of his own. Tampa Bay is the only professional organization he has ever known. Since the age of 20, he has called the Bay Area his home. From his perch in left field, he has watched the team transform from a laughing stock into one of the best organizations in the league. At the same time, Crawford, 29, is on the cusp of making a salary with eight or nine digits attached to it.
It should be noted that Crawford has already made a nice chunk of change with the Rays. He received a $1.2 million signing bonus out of high school in exchange for giving up his scholarship to play football at the University of Nebraska. In 2005, he signed an extension that has netted him over $30 million to date. That said, the not yet 30-year-old is the most attractive free agent on the market and will probably receive the most lucrative contract on the position player side.
The question is how much is the Rays’ all-time leader in hits, runs, games played, steals, RBI, and so on worth on the open market? Keep in mind; what a player is worth and what he actually signs for are two separate things. For example, Evan Longoria’s production is worth a lot more than he’ll ever make with the Rays.
On the other hand, Crawford might come close to receiving his worth.
The estimates on Crawford’s next deal vary depending on who you talk to. Some have him signing for five years at an annual salary of $14 or $15 million. Others have him breaking the bank with a seven-year deal worth upwards of $120 million – similar to the seven year, $126 million deal that Matt Holliday signed last season.
Based on his actual production for the past few seasons, Crawford is worth around $16-17 million annually on the open market. Depending on the length of his contract, his production value falls in between $85-$120 million
If we assume that Crawford skill set – speed, defense, contact hitting – allows him to age more gracefully than a slugging power hitter, and remain optimistic about his health, his projected production over the length of a six or seven year deal might actually be worth more than the high-end of that price range which is $110-120 million. This means anything lower than the projected $16-17 million might actually be considered a bargain
With big pocketed suitors like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and the Los Angeles Angels – the team who people feel will go hardest for him – Crawford will almost certainly get what he’s worth on the open market. If things go as they did in Tampa Bay, he will likely be worth every penny and then some to his next hometown.