Today is a day of mixed emotions for Rays fans that range from sadness to outrage that Carl Crawford will be wearing a Red Sox uniform for the next seven seasons. Rays fans wonder that with monies from Dan Wheeler, Pat Burrell, and Rafael Soriano coming off the payroll, why could the Rays not bring back Crawford at the same amount of money he just signed for?
You will recall the Rays team payroll was $73m in 2010 and that included the sunken costs of Pat Burrell’s contract. Let’s pretend last night was like the episode of Dallas where nobody really shot J.R. Ewing and it was all just a dream and Crawford in fact signed a 7 year deal for $20.3m annually with the Rays. If that were the case, Crawford would account for 27% of the entire team’s payroll which would tie for the highest single percentage of a single player’s deal on a team payroll.
In 2002, Jeff Bagwell’s contract was $17m a season on a team that was paid $63.4m as a team. That Astros team also had Craig Bigio, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, and Wade Miller performing at solid levels with Billy Wagner closing. The Astros, like the Rays, had won their division the previous season and were hoping to defend their title in 2002 but went just 84-78 for a.519 winning percentage. Seven different times in recent years, a free agent’s new contract has made up at least 20% of that team’s payroll; those teams combined for a .506 winning percentage.
There is a risk when you pour that much money into a single resource on your team, especially when your budget is tight. The Rangers were able to pull it off this year when Michael Young’s contract accounted for a third of the Rangers payroll but they also received incredible production from Josh Hamilton to off-set that risk. As good as Evan Longoria is or as good as B.J. Upton could be, neither of them are Josh Hamilton right now. The table below shows the mega deals in recent years and the percentages of the team payroll they have accounted for as well as the performance of the team that season.
|Player||Year||AAV||Team Payroll||AAV/TP||Team Winning %||Team|
Look at the bottom of that table – the Yankees signed seven mega deals in recent seasons and none of them took up more than 14% of their payroll. Meanwhile the Blue Jays, who compare favorably to the Rays’ economic situation, gave Wells a massive deal, and have never made the playoffs and have tried to move that contract each season unsuccessfully. If you sum up the average winning percentage of all of those teams, you get .542 and that winning percentage would not have gotten any baseball team into the post-season in 2010.
If a team is going to dedicate so many financial resources to one asset on the team, it has to be absolutely certain that resource can stay healthy and perform at an optimal level all season. Crawford’s deal is a good deal for a team that can afford him, and that’s not the Rays. Crawford’s deal would have been 27% of the Rays 2010 payroll but it would only have been 12% of the Red Sox payroll. The advantages of a consistently sold out stadium, a proprietary television network, and a world-renowned brand provides certain franchises in this sport luxuries other teams cannot do. That is the reality of this sport and the fact the Rays could not afford to retain Carl Crawford have nothing to do with any perceived disinterest the ownership has in the team. Our United States Congress is coming to grips with the problems that come with spending money well outside of a budget and it is time fans do the same with the Rays.
This is an organization that can proudly fly two of the last three American League East banners from its rafters and yet today, apathetic is the kindest term anyone is using to describe the actions this off-season. Have you not been entertained these past three years? They shocked everyone, even the brightest analysts, in 2008 when everyone said they were at least a year away. This 25 man roster is far from being set and yet everyone is back to the mid-2000’s days of the season ending shortly after the first pitch. The process is there, the results are proven, but the faith from the fanbase remains in doubt. People think players can repeat extreme success after viewing them through small sample sizes yet they have been quick to turn on a team that has been one of the best in baseball over the last three years in a 24-hour span when the process remains incomplete. I find your lack of faith disturbing.