Last week, my esteemed GMail Chat compatriot and future FackYouk contributor, Cliff and I were debating whether the Rays would pick up Carl Crawford's $10M option for the 2010 season.
Today, Tim Dierkes at MLBTR put together a list of players with Club Options for 2010 and listed Carl Crawford under "Likely To Be Exercised", which is what Cliff had been saying last week.
Looking Cot's MLB Contracts, my argument is that there are several other players with escalating salaries that the Rays can not get out of paying, via an option. Carlos Pena is making $10.125M in 2010, Scott Kazmir is owed $8M, Dan Wheeler $3.5, and being that they are a young team, they are going to be facing some arbitration-forced raises. The Rays had a payroll of a little under $44M this year and if they include Crawford along with the guys above, they will be paying $31.625M for four players.
There are other factors at play here. The Rays have back loaded most of their long term contracts, all of which were signed before the breadth of the current economic downturn was apparent. Much hinges on the Rays ability as an organization to leverage their postseason success last year into a larger and more profitable fan base. Also, Florida has been hit specifically hard by the sub-prime crisis, and it would not surprise me to see the familiar site of an empty Tropicana Dome this year partially as a result of that. If the Rays can pull themselves up from the one of the very lowest grossing teams in the MLB to something closer to a mid-market team, they will be able to retain some of their relatively expensive players.