Pitchers and catchers haven’t even reported for the 2010 season and the Rays are already on the offensive (or is it defensive) about Carl Crawford’s and Carlos Pena’s futures with the team as well as the 2011 payroll.

First it was Matt Silverman

We extended last year, we’re over-extended heading into this year…We’ll see the effect of this in the future.

Then it was Stuart Sternberg

We did out-spend ourselves last year (at $63-million) and completely have out-spent ourselves this year. And unfortunately we’re going to feel the effect of that the next couple years for certain. … There’s no $60-million payroll next year either, let alone a $70-million payroll.

Translation: Sorry guys, we know you love Pena and Crawford, but we can’t afford either of them, much less both. Does that make you sad? Tough shit. Get over it.

Let’s take a look at the Rays payroll commitments for the 2011 season…

Notes on the projected roster

  • Players in their first three seasons make close to the major league minimum which in 2011 will be $400K plus a 2-year cost-of-living adjustment. Players in their second and third seasons often receive a nominal raise based on performance.
  • Arbitration salaries are very rough estimates at this point.
  • In addition to the 25 players on the big league roster, the Rays will pay approximately $1.0 million to 15 minor leaguers on the 40-man roster.
  • We are assuming that the Rays will not re-sign any of their free agents. That means approximately $40.0 million in 2009 salaries will come off the books. Those players include Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Pat Burrell, Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour, Gabe Kapler and Randy Choate.
  • Based on those expiring contracts and some obvious replacements from the minor leagues (e.g., Desmond Jennings), the Rays will still have several positions to fill including 1B, DH and 2-3* relief pitchers.
  • In the best case scenario (payroll-wise), if those openings are filled by players that make near the league minimum, the opening day payroll projects to be an estimated $52.3 million.
  • The Rays could save approximately $5.0 million if they choose to buy out Dan Wheeler and Willy Aybar, but replacing those players would cost at least $1.0 million. That would leave the opening day payroll near $48.3 million.

So let’s say we take Sternberg at his word and the 2011 payroll will be under $60 million. And let’s assume they don’t re-sign any of their free agents and they buy out Wheeler and Aybar. And let’s say the Rays can fill the bench spot and the three bullpen spots with near-league minimum players (not impossible). That leaves approximately $10 million to fill 1B and DH.

Re-signing Crawford for less than $10 million will not happen. And of course, re-signing Crawford doesn’t fill 1B or DH. Pena seems more plausible, but still unlikely. Even if the Rays can re-sign Pena at a discount ($8-9m), there would be almost nothing left to fill the DH spot. Quite simply, Crawford and Pena do not fit into the 2011 payroll.

Let’s face it. This is the reality of rooting for the Rays. Unless we can get all of our great players to sign Longorian contracts, there is going to come a point in their primes when the Rays can no longer afford them.

Then again, Sternberg also said the 2010 Rays would not have a $7 million closer. Sometimes, plans change.

*It is possible that Jeremy Hellickson is in the 2011 rotation and Jeff Niemann is bumped to the bullpen. If so, the Rays would only have two RP spots to fill.



  1. Chris says:

    I've been thinking about CC leaving since the BBTN half hour over the weekend. Allowing/Fostering that much of an in depth piece on Carl is good business. Drive up the price. Forgive my ignorance of compensation picks, but what would the Rays get in return if he left as a free agent, instead of in a mid-season trade?

    In unrelated Rays goings on, I ran past Andrew Friedman on Bayshore on Sunday.

    • Jason says:

      Chris...I was trying to find a spot to post almost the same comment. I find it interesting ESPN does a thing on Crawford and all they talked about was how he was going to be a free agent when not showing the workout stuff. Almost as if they are trying to push the price up so only the Yankees or Red Sox can afford him. Good for Carl! I am ok with him leaving at this point because he has earned it and signed a contract when he didn't have to. Just pray it isn't to one of the two above!

  2. Jessica says:

    Imagine though for a moment, how depressing this news would be if the Rays didn't have a phenomenal farm system? I think it's pretty awesome that although we might lose two sentimental favorites, there's a good chance the guys that can fill their shoes are just waiting for their shot.

  3. ben says:

    I disagree on the farm system. It's not as good as people believe it is.

    Many of the players have not panned out that were supposed to in the last two seasons. It's disappointing.

    I do have faith in Perez still to be a good 3rd or 4th outfielder. And I do like Jennings. But beyond that, the farm system isn't very deep.

    • Yes and no. The system is still strong, BUT it is a big donut right now (nothing in the middle). There are a couple of great players at the top (Jennings, Hellickson) but nit much depth. And there are several players in single-A and short-season teams that have potential. But there is nothing great in between. Trades last year added a couple of prospects to the middle-system (Sweeney, Torres) but none of those seem like guarantees to me.

      • Brixology says:

        Don't you feel like we will end up with Zobrist playing 1B every day and plugging Sean Rodriguez and Joyce in at 2B and RF, respectively? That seems like the most obvious solution. Of course, that is without knowledge of potential trade packages for any number of the guys on the team right now. Oh, and start the countdown on Don noticing that you suggested the possibility of buying out Willy. 5...4...3...

  4. Chris says:

    Sorry to jump sports(and countries) on you for the following analogy, but I think we are in for a long period of team building in the fashion of Arsenal. A stats heavy front office that does good business (i.e. sells players prior to them beginning their decline, and does not overpay based on past performance). I'm fine with that. In fact, I prefer it to the Yanks/Red Sox model. It takes advantage of their (NY/Bos) ability to bid high.

  5. Joel says:

    The even harsher nature of being a Rays fan this season is that a bad season could be more advantageous to our long-term future. If the Rays tank, it would obviously be good baseball to find trades for Crawford and/or Peña; those trades would probably go a long way to filling that talent donut.

    The Rays have some marketing challenges ahead of them. Crawford and Peña are probably the most popular guys on the team not appearing on any video game covers. Obviously performance will go a long way, but it'll take more than that to create personalities with which the fans can fall in baseball love. Otherwise the only consistent faces of the franchise will be ownership, and they won't exactly be fan favorites no matter how wise their business decisions are.

  6. Tone says:

    I dislike the owners and how they handle their public relations. Liars and wall street hypocrites. I hate rich people and the culture that goes along with them, Wish we could spread their money around to people that need it.

    • Michael says:

      Yeah, I wish we had a group of broke people buy the team! Then we'd have it made!

      • Tone says:

        We have broke owners, at least that is the way they portray it all the time. Sick of them moaning about the budget, either spend or don't. They are the ones who picked up Burrell and wasted money. They have zero PR skills. Always whining and telling lies. Remember they were not going to get a 7 million dollar closer? I'd rather they just say nothing than lie through their teeth.

  7. Boxauthor says:

    There's a lot of talk about less spending on the payroll after this season, but don't forget what you wrote a few posts ago:

    "And the Rays receive even more exposure during discussions as one of the Yankees rivals. For a team trying to build a brand, that is exposure they cannot put a dollar value on."

    The Rays are only in the discussion as Yankee rivals if the team is competitive. No one gave them a second thought before '08. The owners have to weigh the value of being considered a rival. In fact, I know a lot of Yankee fans that are saying '08 was a fluke. We won't prove them wrong if we shed payroll and head back to the bottom of the standings.

    • I understand completely, but to play devil's advocate for a sec...

      The Rays willl still have all of their pitching and Jennings should give you at least 80% of CC right off the bat. The price on DHs have come way down thus year. And maybe Zobrist shifts to first base. You lose a bit of his defensive value, but he will still be cheaper than Pena and give you same/better offense.

      Ultimately the Rays lose two key players, but they should still be competitive.

      • Boxauthor says:

        I don't mind losing the two key players if the team stays competitive, and we don't lose our best players to teams within the division. It's bad enough to listen to Yankee fans tell us how perpetually good they are . . . it won't be any better hearing them talk about CC in New York. You know, though, a lot of people last year said that 2008 was a fluke year for the Rays . . . I think I agree there was a fluke, but it was 2009. This will be a good year.

  8. jim says:

    "the economics of what we are in Tampa Bay and in St. Petersburg"

    the "economics"? how do you expect higher attendance when you raised some of the season ticket packages as much as 35%? they're not concerned about putting fans in seats anymore. they're postioning themselves to leave the area.

    they didn't meet their own expectations after going to a world series, so now they're going to raise prices and cut out most of the free parking in order to draw more fans. that's the stupidest thing i've ever heard.

  9. Mike says:

    If you replace Bartlett with Brignac and Garza/Shields with Hellboy, you have $10 mil for CC. If we can get some good prospects for those guys, especially Bartlett, I hope we move them in hopes of resigning CC.

    • Problem with that is I don't think $10m is going to be enough for Crawford even at a hometeam discount. I think he is getting $15-16m per season in free agency. Maybe Rays can get him at $13-14, and that is a big maybe.

      • Mike says:

        So they give him stock (or membership interests) instead of cash. These guys know finance. If they want to make it happen, they can. If CC would agree to 5 or 6 years at 10-12 mil/year, and the D-Rays dont get it done I will be very disappointed.
        That said, if the Mets give him $100 million I couldnt fault him for leaving. I cant even think about him in a Red Sox or Yankee uni though.

  10. pcbredemeier says:

    I think it makes sense to trim down the payroll and let go of some of these guys. I hate to see CC go, but like others have said, I'm happy for him. I like the looks of lots of new guys coming up and they'll be the future stars we love.

    I've seen it mentioned elsewhere that Stu has poor timing to say that the payroll will go down. However if anyone heard the actual interview, the context was that they are making a big push right now because they are so dedicated to winning. A push that is not sustainable due to the team not making tons of money. Things will go back to normal in the future. I'm sure Stu doesn't like it any more than we do, but he's obviously a brilliant guy and they are running this team better, I think, than anyone else in baseball.

    When I read the angry comments and the politicized BS from people like Tone and Jim above, it makes me sick. This is a good team, with great ownership, and I think they'll be fun to watch for years to come.

  11. The big question going into the season for me is how "in it" the Rays have to be before they start looking for CC & Pena suiters. Last year's Kaz trade set that bar pretty high. The team was 4 games out of the WC when the Kaz move was made. No matter how you slice it, the team really went into the tank after that trade. My fear is that the Rays, worried about getting nothing for CC, put the trigger too quick.

    • Joel says:

      The key is Jennings. I seriously doubt that the FO didn't consider what message the Kaz trade would send to fans and players; but beyond the obviously salary concerns, the key factor in that trade was Wade Davis. The Rays obviously felt Davis was ready; they were clearly right at least for 6 starts (minus the one fiasco against Boston). After taking a very quick glance at Davis and Kazmir's game logs, they really pitched pretty comparatively for that last month and change.

      Assuming 2010 CC is anything like 2009 CC, Jennings will have to be a bit of a miracle worker to be comparable to CC. And CC is a lot more popular than Kaz (I'm pretty sure I've never heard the Trop boo CC, something I can't say for Kaz). And CC plays every day. All those things considered, I think the Rays will be a lot more sensitive to a playoff race deal with CC.

  12. Joel says:

    We should learn to embrace people like Tone and jim - I'll bet (Devil) Rays forums and boards saw less than half the off-the-handle opinions we see now that the Rays are successful. Embrace the trolls - it means we matter.

  13. Johnny says:

    The Rays have a solid enough farm system that they don't have to go out buying players like the Yankees, but it would be a really shame if they aren't willing to spend money to keep the good players they already have.

  14. jim says:

    yeah embrace a 35% increase in my ticket prices, in the worst economy in our lifetime. embrace a ticket increase and parking increase when they should be doing whatever they can to get people in the stands.

    stu is crapping his pants because the season ticket renewals are shockingly low. because he listened to some marketing guru, and agreed to hike up prices and the fans aren't responding.

    embrace them getting more value out of a walkup ticket than me and my family showing up for almost every friday, saturday, and sunday game. the rays didn't "embrace" me this year, they bent me over.

  15. Chris says:

    How can Stu not afford a $60+ mil payroll? When you compare teams with similar attendance there payrolls are all $80 mil plus. The Rays started and ended slow last year and those are the two time frames that sell tickets and push up attendance numbers. If they are in it wire to wire this year I don't think a 15-20% jump over last year's attendance would be that high, putting attendance around the 15-16th highest in league, whereas a sub $60mil payroll would put the Rays at 28th. Doesn't add up. Two other things, why aren't they grooming a live arm like Hellickson to close i.e. papelbon or daniel bard so that they don't have to waste money annually on ageing closers. In doing so you let the above list of players go throw on BJ, resign CC for 15 mil and you still keep the payroll at $60 mil.


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