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Tampa Bay Rays pick up option for LF Carl Crawford; decline Shouse and Zaun's options

9

November

Update 5:41 p.m. Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said after deciding to pick up Carl Crawford's $10 million option for 2010 that the All-Star leftfielder "is a big part of what we've accomplished and what we will accomplish in the future."

Friedman knows the big question is "What does future mean?" and while he said "I don't think anyone can answer that," he pointed out that both Crawford and the Rays are "very interested" in discussing a long-term deal that would "keep Carl in a Rays uniform as long as possible." Crawford will be a free agent after the 2010 season if they don't come up with an extension (barring a trade, of course).

"Both sides are very interested which is a great starting point," Friedman said. "It's safe to say at some point we will have conversations of possibly extending the contract even further. But for right now, obviously this ensures he’s with us in 2010, whether it is this offseason, or the end of next season, we'll certainly do what we can.

Crawford, who was unavailable for comment, has said he'd be open to a long-term deal, but would like to get it done before Opening Day, acknowledging pending free agency could impact his play. Friedman said while they don't like to put hard and fast rules on anything, "our preference is to never negotiate a contract during the season."

"You never say never," Friedman. "And it's one of those things that's going to take some creativity and really going through things, and the important part is both sides are approaching it in an earnest manner."

**Although the Rays declined the $2 million option for C Gregg Zaun's, Friedman said that is "by no means indicative of our future plans, we're just not ready in the beginning of November to commit to what we're gonig to do," meaning it appears both sides are likely to keep talking as the winter goes on.

The Rays also announced Monday that C Dioner Navarro underwent surgery in late October to stabilize an ulnar nerve in his left elbow, but he is expected to be back for spring training.

*Friedman also said they also wouldn't rule out keeping communication open with LHP Brian Shouse despite declining his $2 million option, but added that there are other options, including in-house like LHP Randy Choate, who are available.

*On RHP Ramon Ramirez, whom the Rays claimed off waivers from the Reds Monday, Friedman said he has "an above average fastball, a pretty good slider and an above average changeup that we like against both right and left-handers," and that while most of Ramirez's experience is as a starter, they "envision him as a future bullpen arm." 

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As expected, the Tampa Bay Rays picked up the $10 million option for All-Star leftfielder Carl Crawford for the 2010 season.

The Rays, however, did not pick up the options for LHP reliever Brian Shouse ($2 million) and backup C Gregg Zaun ($2 milion).  On Monday, Tampa Bay also claimed RHP reliever Ramon Ramirez, 27, off waivers from the Reds, where he went 0-0 with a 3.65 ERA in 11 appearances last season.

The big move was exercising Crawford's option, and an even bigger question will be if he and the Rays will agree to an extension before next season (which Crawford has said he's open to discussing). Crawford would become a free agent after the 2010 season unless the Rays sign him to a long-term deal, or trade him.

Crawford, 28, is coming off arguably the best all-around season of his career, hitting .305 with 15 homers and 65 RBI while stealing a career-high 60 bases and playing Gold-Glove caliber leftfield. Crawford is the longest-tenured Ray in history and the club’s all-time leader in hits, at-bats, runs, stolen bases, triples, games played and RBI. The three-time All-Star was named MVP of the 2009 All-Star Game after robbing Colorado’s Brad Hawpe of a goahead home run in the seventh inning.

Crawford, an eight-year veteran, ranks fourth among active players with 362 career stolen bases and ranks
third with 92 triples. Through his first 1,000 games he totaled 341 stolen bases and 87 triples – numbers
matched only by Hall of Famer Ty Cobb through 1,000 games.

Shouse, a 41-year-old sidearmer, was signed last offseason to be the Rays primary left-handed specialist. But Shouse missed several months with an elbow strain – appearing in 45 games (lowest since 2002), and racking up a 4.50 ERA in 28 innings. In Shouse’s absence, left-hander Randy Choate emerged with a solid season (holding lefties to a .141 average), and could provide a better, and less expensive option.

Zaun, 38, was acquired in August from the Orioles and performed well, batting .287 with four homers and 14 RBI in 34 games with the Rays, including hitting .302 (26-for-86) against right-handed pitching. Zaun, a 15-year veteran and Palm Harbor resident, has said he’d love to return to the Rays, and would be open to discussing other ways he could come back, even if his option wasn’t exercised.

More details to come...

JOE SMITH

joesmith@sptimes.com

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:52am]

    

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