In the past few years, we have gotten used to Andrew Friedman and the Tampa Bay Rays trading their star players in exchange for young, controllable talent. Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and James Shields have all been key players that have been traded by the Rays, with each move helping them remain competitive as a small-market team. But don’t forget, the Rays also have a precedent of holding onto their stars.
The most notable player that the Rays held onto until free agency was Carl Crawford. There were multiple points in Crawford’s Rays tenure in which his value was high and the Rays could have elected to trade him. After the 2007 season, when he had three years left of team control, Crawford’s trade value was huge. In the previous four seasons, he had stolen more than 50 bases three times to go along with an .808 OPS and great defense. However, the Rays held onto him nonetheless. Crawford’s 2008 wasn’t awe inspiring, but that was partly due to injuries and the Rays could have elected to trade him in the offseason. Again they held him, and they subsequently kept him around at the 2009 trade deadline, in the 2009-2010 offseason, and at the 2010 deadline. Instead, they simply let Crawford leave as a free agent with only draft pick compensation in return, a far cry from the prospects that they could have received for him.
There were multiple reasons that Crawford was never traded. He was an outstanding all-around outfielder who provided a top of the order bat. Not only that, Crawford was the face of the franchise through good times and through bad. Simply put, Crawford was the type of player that you wanted on your team if you were going to make a playoff push, and the Rays held onto him because of it.
The Rays have been in a similar position with Price and Ben Zobrist last offseason and now at the trade deadline. Both could bring back a good haul of prospects, and the Rays would probably be a better team in the future because of it. However, they are both key to the success of the Rays right now and they have shown a history of keeping such players.
In the end, don’t be all that surprised if the Tampa Bay Rays hold onto Price and Zobrist at the deadline today, and don’t be shocked if they keep them until they become free agents. These guys make the Rays a better team now, just like Crawford did in the past. Yes, the Rays are a team that always plans for the future, but don’t forget that they aren’t afraid to live in the moment as well.