Crawford inks six-year deal with Rays
Left fielder's pact is longest in Tampa Bay history
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Devil Rays sent a strong message to their fans Friday by signing All-Star left fielder Carl Crawford to a six-year contract.The Devil Rays held a press conference Friday afternoon to announce that the agreement -- which has a potential value of more than $31 million -- includes two one-year club options covering the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Crawford's first two years of potential free agency. Chuck LaMar, the Devil Rays' general manager, said the announcement personified the club's goal of signing, developing and retaining their most talented young players. "We are very pleased that Carl recognizes the promise of our organization and has chosen to remain a Devil Ray for many years to come," LaMar said. "We expect that he will be a cornerstone of our future successes." Crawford, who is one of the American League's brightest young stars, batted .296 with 104 runs, 185 hits, 11 home runs and an American League-leading 19 triples and 59 stolen bases during the 2004 season. In the process, he set club records for runs, steals and triples. He has bought into the Devil Rays' future. "This is one of the happiest days of my life," said Crawford. "The future of this organization is exciting, and it is great knowing that I am going to be a part of it. I am grateful the Devil Rays have the confidence in me to make such a long-term commitment. ... That's not just chump change they're throwing around there." Crawford said having the money will not change him. "I've got too many people around me who won't let me change," Crawford said. "My mother, my friends." Crawford will donate up to $400,000 of his new deal to the Rays of Hope Foundation. "I am fortunate to be able to give back to the Tampa Bay community, and excited to develop charitable programs with the Rays of Hope Foundation," added Crawford. The contract is the longest ever awarded by the Rays, and Crawford's charitable donation is the largest by a player in club history. Crawford said it was going to be fun being a part of the growth of the organization. "Because we're going to win," he said. "And it is great knowing that I am going to be a part of it. We have a great nucleus of young players on the Major League roster and players like B.J. Upton and Delmon Young in the system. ... I'm all about trying to win." Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said the deal demonstrates the organization's commitment. "It should send a clear message to our young players that if you go out and play hard and do the job, you will be rewarded," Piniella said. "It gives Carl security, and at the same time, it gives the organization another key young player to build with." Piniella didn't hide the fact he liked the kind of player Crawford has become. "He works hard and he's committed," Piniella said. "He wants to succeed. He has that drive and the talent." Crawford last season became the fourth-youngest player ever to win back-to-back league stolen base titles, joining Tim Raines (1981-82 Expos), Rickey Henderson (1980-81 A's) and Ben Chapman (1931-32 Yankees). The Houston native was voted by his fellow Major League players to his first All-Star Game, played at Houston's Minute Maid Park. Crawford has reached 175 hits and 50 steals in each of his first two seasons. Only six others in Major League history have reached those figures in their first two full seasons: Eddie Collins (1909-10), Willie Wilson (1979-80), Raines (1982-83), Mookie Wilson (1982-83), Juan Samuel (1984-85) and Tony Womack (1997-98). Only two players since 1900 reached Crawford's totals for steals (59) and triples (19) in the same season: Ty Cobb (1911-12) and Juan Samuel (1984). Crawford also became only the seventh active player to get 50 steals in each of his first two full seasons in the Majors, joining Tom Goodwin (1995-96), Roger Cedeno (1999, 01), Luis Castillo (1999-00), Kenny Lofton (1992-93), Marquis Grissom (1991-92) and Womack (1997-98). Crawford was also the toughest to double up in the Majors, grounding into only two double plays in 626 at-bats. Since World War II, only three players have had as many at-bats and grounded into two or fewer DPs: Rafael Furcal with Atlanta in 2003 (664-1), Lou Brock with St. Louis in 1969 (665-2) and 1965 (631-2) and Milwaukee's Bill Bruton in 1955 (636-2).
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.