Time Is Now for Carl Crawford, Rays With Offseason Uncertainty Looming

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Time Is Now for Carl Crawford, Rays With Offseason Uncertainty Looming The Tampa Bay Rays solidified their postseason chances this weekend by taking two of three from the Red Sox down in St. Petersburg.

Tampa has the weapons to make another deep postseason run, a la 2008, but after this season is over, there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty.

The Rays remain a small-market team, which is bad news for the upcoming offseason, when three of their most important players are set to hit the market.

Outfielder Carl Crawford has been the face of the franchise, but he will surely be one of the most sought-after free agents this offseason. There is already speculation about teams like the Red Sox and Yankees opening up their checkbooks for the outfielder's services.

He has established himself as one of the game's best outfielders and there will certainly be a lot of money to be made for Crawford.

Closer Rafael Soriano has solidified the back end of the Tampa bullpen this season. He, like Crawford, will also be a free agent after this season. In his first season with the Rays, he's led the league in saves.

First baseman Carlos Pena will also be a free agent. And while his average is down, his power numbers are still pretty good and most importantly, he's left-handed — something that general managers everywhere covet. He'll certainly get his fair share of offers on the open market.

There's a good chance that the Rays will lose all three to free agency. They'll do their best to re-sign who they can — with Crawford likely their No. 1 target — but there are certainly no guarantees.

Even Crawford, while not tipping his hand too much, hinted that the writing might be on the wall.

"Well we don't know, so we're playing it as if it is," Crawford told ESPN's Joe Morgan before Sunday night's game adding that if it is the last year together for this core group that they'd like to make a "lasting memory."

You can bet that Crawford isn't the only one acknowledging that fact, which may make the Rays even more dangerous. They can hear the clock ticking, which may make them desperate this season. A young team like Tampa playing with desperation is the type of team that could make a run in October, if they peak at the right time.

The Rays had a chance in 2008, but couldn't quite make it happen. They'll likely get another chance this season, and if they can't take advantage of it in 2010, it may be a long time before they get another chance and it certainly won't be with the group they have right now.

Getting so close in 2008 was bad enough for the Rays. If they get that close again this year and don't capitalize, it won't be long before they start looking elsewhere to create a lasting memory.

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