The Rays are undergoing major roster changes due to payroll cuts (thanks to Freidman and Sternberg), but there is one player that the Rays will miss the most, Carl Crawford. Crawford has been the face of the franchise for many years now, becoming the Rays all time leader in nearly every statistical category and leading the team from the dark days of the Devil Rays to the new era and playoff success. Crawford has been everything to the Rays and watching him possibly play for another team next season will be hard to watch.
Crawford has been the most reliable hitter, base runner, outfielder, etc. for the Rays over the years. Crawford has always played incredible defense, patrolling left field and robbing hitters on a nightly basis. His bat has always been consistent, a career .296 hitter, Crawford has had success in the leadoff spot, the number two spot, and even at three or four as the power hitter in the lineup, he has always produced. He has always been a dangerous base stealer as well, totaling over 40 steals a season and causing opposing pitchers to have nightmares at night.
Now at age 29, the veteran outfielder will most likely be leaving the Rays. The team simply does not the salary to resign him and there are too many attractive offers out there for him to take a pay cut (Red Sox, Yankees, and Angels are already lining up to sign him). Crawford has stated he would like to stay with the team, but this is most likely not going to happen. The fans understood this when they began cheering and gave him a standing ovation in his final at-bat against Texas in the ALDS. It is likely that was the last time Crawford will ever wear a Rays jersey.
So where do the Rays turn after one of its best players leaves? Many believe Desmond Jennings is the answer. Jennings was a late call up for the Rays in the season and showed flashes of speed. He is a decent glove, but struggled to hit in his limited at bats. Perhaps with a full spring season under his belt, he will be able to progress, but he has big shoes to fill. Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist could fill in or even Sean Rodriguez could get a few starts in left. But no matter what the Rays do, no one can replace Carl Crawford. We should say thank you to CC, thank you for everything you have done for the team and good luck where ever you end up playing next season (just please don’t play for the Yankees or Red Sox). For the Rays, it is going to be a very strange year to not see CC standing in left field. Whoever they decide to fill his shoes, has to be ready to live under the spotlight, a place where CC shined for so many years.