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Tampa Bay Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg On Payroll: "I don't see it going up next year"

"I don't see it going up next year," Sternberg said. "If anything, this year we borrowed from the next couple years, it's money saved from previous years, and money that was earned last year.

St. Petersburg Times

It'll be interesting to see how this changes if attendance raises this season by more than expected and the Rays go deep in the post-season again. Otherwise it's a situation of good news, bad news. The good news is that the team is deep at every position, meaning holes can be filled through trades or simply standing pat. The bad news is that there might be some cutting to do.

The Rays can conceivably fill at least 22 roster spots next year for 60.2 million, but that's without accounting for raises given to players like B.J. Upton, Jason Bartlett, Dioner Navarro, Grant Balfour, and J.P. Howell through the arbitration process. Salaries like Dan Wheeler (3.5), Bartlett (1.98 with arbitration eligibility likely to raise over 2 mil), and Akinori Iwamura (4.25) combined with the players under control for less make them most likely to be moved. Reid Brignac will make 400k and could play either shortstop or second base. Willy Aybar might be able to take over at second. Middle relievers should be paid like highly fungible assets -- meaning, just like they should be. 

The big salaries are Carlos Pena (10.125 mil), Carl Crawford (10 mil), Pat Burrell (9 mil), and Scott Kazmir (8 mil) while everyone else is below 5 million. Pena, Burrell, and Crawford will all be in the final years of their contracts, meaning the Rays will have to make a decision on each. Honestly, there's a real possibility none of them play with the team beyond 2010. Pena and Burrell are likely nearing the decline in their offensive production, but Crawford is the difficult one. Will Desmond Jennings continue to progress -- and equally as important, stay healthy - - enough to be ready? Can Fernando Perez take over in left?

Crawford's WARs since 2003; 2, 4.7, 4.9, 4.5, 3.3, 2.7. Is there something more than poor luck over the last two years or has Carl already peaked at a young age? Even if you assume Crawford is a 10 < x < 15 run defender, he's a few years over the time when you would start to expect a decline - about a run annually post age-25. There's a million different questions about Crawford and 2009 is going to be absolutely monumental. More on him Monday though.

I understand financial restrictions and low placement on the revenue curve, however I'm not so sure the definitiveness needs to be there. I'm willing to accept that not every player is going to be here beyond his initial few seasons, and I'm fine with that - until it actually happens to someone worthwhile - but this makes you appreciate the Longoria and Shields extensions even more.

Welcome to reality I suppose. We're still going to be competitive, and if there's a front office I would entrust to squeeze the most out of a payroll, it's the one lead by Andrew Friedman.