Besides Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford is possibly the most talented free agent on the market. He is near the top in stolen bases every year, he can hit above .300, and he is young. No team doubts the difference that Crawford can make.

Thus far, Crawford has seen some interest thrown his way. The Angels seem to be the leading contender in the contest, with the Red Sox also in the mix. However, while these teams have talked about hauling in the left-handed outfielder, the future doesn’t look to bright for these negotiations. That’s not good for Crawford, or for these teams. has released estimated payrolls for the 2011 season. It accounts for currently signed players, estimated arbitration deals, and other in-club obligations. These numbers will allow us to see how much money each team has available, and we can gauge how that team will act in the free agent market.

Let’s begin with the leading contender, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. They have long been a team that runs, and runs, and runs. They love speed and athleticism, and Crawford fits that mold more than anyone in baseball.

According to the estimations, the Angels will have a payroll of $125 million in 2011. Over the past three years, they have averaged a salary of $110 million. As it stands, the Angels will be increasing their salary to an all-time franchise high, and it is unlikely that they will be able to add to that total with the $20-$25 million that Crawford is expected to make.

Next is the Boston Red Sox. They, too, would love to bring in Crawford. The Boston outfield has been has been extremely uncertain for the past few years, and Crawford would provide a spark in Fenway Park for years to come. 

But, like the Angels, the Red Sox have a problem. They have an estimated payroll of $137 million in 2011, just $6 million below their three-year average. In Boston’s case, they would need to come up with around $20 million to pay for Crawford, and that is not taking into account other free agents the Red Sox have targeted, such as Jayson Werth.

There are two possible situations that can arise from this situation: (a) Crawford takes a pay-cut from either the Red Sox or Angels who will be able to find some extra cash, or (b) Crawford takes an even bigger pay-cut from a team like the Yankees, who will wait until Crawford sees no other bidders.

The second scenario is the most likely one. As it is, no team besides the Angels, Red Sox, or Yankees even pretends they can afford to bid on Crawford. Even if the Angels or Red Sox can find some extra cash, they will still be competing with the Yankees, who have an estimated 2011 payroll that is $48 million less than their three-year average.

The Yankees are likely going to give Lee around $30 million, and they will still have around $18 million left. That is less than Crawford expects to make, but it looks to be the most money available. It will be an interesting ride, but either way, it appears that Crawford can expect a little less than he would have hoped for.

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