5. Carl Crawford, LF, Rays - The feeling is that if the Rays’ financial picture gets any gloomier, Crawford will be trade bait by the trading deadline or even earlier. In fact, both he and Carlos Pena could have new addresses at some point in the season.Both Crawford and Pena will be free agents at the end of the season and there is little chance that the Rays will be able to keep one of them, let alone both. Pena and Crawford combined will earn just over $20 million this season, which will be about 30% of the Rays payroll. For a small market team like the Rays, it's tough to justify committing such a high percentage of your resources to just two players, even if both players are peak performers.
The reality for the Rays is that if Crawford and Pena produce this season, then each of them should be in line for a nice raise next season. Even though the Rays have plenty of money coming off the books after 2010 ($36 million from Pena, Crawford, Soriano, and Burrell), there is very little chance that they will be able to compete on the open market with the big market clubs for either player.
Even though Pena and Crawford are near locks to leave after the season, I still think the Rays are in a good position right now. If the team competes in 2010, then the Rays can hold Pena and Crawford , play the season out, hope for the best, collect draft picks when they leave, and then re-distribute their resources. If the team struggles, then Crawford and Pena become prime trade bait if the return for either player is high enough.