Carl Crawford Says Leaving Rays Is ‘High Possibility’

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Carl Crawford is going to get big bucks this offseason — and it likely won’t come from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Crawford, who signed with the Rays in 1999 when he was just 17 years old, has played all nine of his big league seasons in Tampa Bay. The four-time All-Star has been the face of the franchise throughout most of his career, but it appears as if Crawford, who officially becomes a free agent next month, will sign a lucrative deal elsewhere.

The 29-year-old outfielder told tampabay.com there is a “high possibility” he won’t be back with the Rays next year.

“When it comes down to it, you just want to go somewhere where you’re comfortable,” Crawford said. “And obviously the financial part, you just want to be paid for what you do, I guess.”

Crawford, along with Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth and Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre, will undoubtedly be one of the most prized free agent position players this winter.

Nicknamed “The Perfect Storm,” Crawford is one of the most valuable players in the league. He’s hit leadoff for most of his career, and his 409 steals rank second among active players. But in 2010, Crawford hit third in the Rays’ order for most of the year and shined there too, hitting .307 with 19 homers, 13 triples, 110 runs and 90 RBIs.

While the Rays probably won’t be able to afford to re-sign their star player, the two other AL East contenders — the Red Sox and Yankees — will likely be in a bidding war for Crawford for several weeks.

Crawford would be a perfect fit in Boston, because he’d allow a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury to return to center field, his most natural defensive position. And with Crawford leading off and Ellsbury in the nine-hole, Boston would have a dynamic burst of speed at the turn of the lineup.

Then again, Crawford would find a niche anywhere. His offensive versatility and superb defensive prowess will earn him top dollar, and one team is going to end up paying through the roof for his services.

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