Is Carl Crawford’s time in Tampa close to being over? Ben Shpigel reports in the Times:
…With every game this month and next, the clock also ticks louder toward Crawford’s free agency — and his likely departure from the only organization he has ever known. It is the perpetual challenge for small-market teams like the Rays: how to prevent a homegrown star from bolting for a big payday.
The Rays’ payroll has steadily increased over the last four years, to roughly $71 million from about $24 million in 2007, but their principal owner, Stuart Sternberg, said in spring training that it would plunge below $60 million for 2011. Even with the money they receive in revenue sharing, team revenue has not increased in lock step with the Rays’ success. Devoting what could be a quarter of their budget to one player would run counter to their operating philosophy.
“We could sign just about any player in baseball,” said Andrew Friedman, the Rays’ general manager. “The issue is whether we could field a competitive team around that player. Our job is to balance that. We certainly can’t win a bidding contest for any top player. It’s kind of Math 101 when you look at our resources relative to most every team in the game.”