If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you know that the model for this site is to tell you what the Rays have done, what they are doing and try to project what they will do based on what we have learned. Unlike most team blogs, we do not very often tell you what the Tampa Bay Rays should do. We prefer to live under the premise that the people that run the Rays are smarter than we are, and know many, many more things that even the most learned fan will never know.
However, for the next 12 days we will step away from the standard, and we present to you 12 “presents” the Tampa Bay Rays should give to their fans. Looking back at last year’s 12 Days of Raysmas, we see that the Rays didn’t come through on very many of our wishes, and the result was a somewhat disappointing season. Let’s hope that changes in 2010.
On the third day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, THREE-year contract extension for Carlos Pena…
In 2010, the Rays will have approximately 40% of their payroll committed to three players (Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Pat Burrell). All three of those contracts expire after the season.
Let’s assume for the moment that with $30 million coming off the books for just those three players, the Rays can afford to give an extension to one of those three. Not even Omar Minaya would give Burrell an extension, so under this scenario, the Rays would have to choose between Crawford and Pena.
Crawford will be 28 next season and is arguably coming off the best season of his career (5.5 wins). Pena will be 32 and is coming off two consecutive seasons in which his value declined (3.7 wins in ’08, 2.6 in ’09) from his great 2007 season (6.1 wins).
Crawford is younger and more valuable, but there are several reasons why re-signing Pena makes more sense.
- Pena will be cheaper: If Crawford heads to free agency next season, he will likely command a 5-6 year deal worth $15-17 million per season. This is especially true if teams like the Yankees and Mets already have their eyes on Crawford as many have speculated. Meanwhile, Pena is more likely to give the Rays a thanks-for-saving-my-career-discount. Re-signing Crawford, even with a hometown discount, would still require a $65-75 million commitment. Pena might only cost the Rays $25-30 million. That leaves a lot of money that can be used in other areas, like long-term deals for David Price, Matt Garza and BJ Upton.
- The Rays need Pena’s bat: Crawford is a great offensive force, worth 22.1 runs above a replacement in 2009. But in Pena’s worst showing with the Rays (2009) he was still worth 22.4 runs at the plate. In 2007 he was worth 52.0 runs. Pena is the one batter in the lineup that has the ability to strike fear in opposing pitchers. Take Pena out of the lineup and you take out the Rays one true power threat and the Rays lose one dimension of their all-around offensive abilities.
- Crawford is more easily replaced: We don’t mean to imply that anybody can replace CC’s all-around production, but the Rays do have other outfield options ready to step in and take Crawford’s spot. Using some combination of BJ Upton, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist would give the Rays an excellent outfield lineup in 2011. Take out Pena and the Rays would have to turn to Willy Aybar, Ben Zobrist or Sean Rodriguez to play first base. Zobrist would come the closest to replacing Pena’s production, but the cost would be losing his defensive production at a more premium position.
In an ideal world the Rays would re-sign both Pena and Crawford. And if the Rays can only keep one, and all other factors were equal, we would prefer the Rays kept Crawford over Pena. But weighing the cost and the rest of the roster, re-signing Pena may be the more logical move for the Rays. And at age 32, a three-year extension seems to make the most sense.