Carl Crawford (2002-2010)
Unfortunately, Carl Crawford is remembered as one of the biggest free agent busts in recent history. However, prior to that, he was one of the most dynamic players in baseball.
Possessing a skillset that was a perfect fit for the Tampa Bay Rays, Crawford quickly ran his way into being a fan favorite. He had a bit of power and an excellent glove, but it was his speed that truly set him apart. As the Rays leadoff hitter, Crawford quickly became the team’s catalyst, and a thorn in the side of the Red Sox.
During his eight seasons in Tampa Bay, he was a four time All Star, and won the 2010 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. He stole 40 or more bases seven times, leading the league four times. Overall, Crawford produced a .296/.337/.444 batting line, hitting 104 homers, 105 triples, and stealing 409 bases.
However, Crawford is remembered more for his struggles as soon as he left Tampa Bay. He signed with the Red Sox, who hoped he could be that same leadoff hitter he was in Tampa Bay, but he struggled under that pressure. He was eventually traded to the Dodgers, putting together a couple of solid years before injuries derailed him once again. After a horrendous start to the 2016 season, Crawford was released, and has not generated any interest since.
Even though his playing career seems to have ended with a whimper, Carl Crawford was the dynamic player who became the model for what the Rays sought in the outfield. He was, during that time, one of the best players in the game, and a threat few teams could account for.