Free Agency: Friend of many, for of the Tampa Bay Rays, a team who will be losing three of their biggest names this offseason.

Left fielder Carl Crawford, first baseman Carlos Pena, and closer Rafael Soriano are due to become free agents once the post season ends, and they probably won’t be coming back. The reason: Too expensive.

The Rays are a franchise that doesn’t have much money at all. They can’t afford to retain top talent. Instead, they have to rely of trading pieces to keep their farm system freshly stocked. The young guns fuel the Rays until they have made a name for themselves, then leave to find a bigger contract. The past three years, that’s been fine. They had picked in the top three in the draft for ten years, as well as getting other high picks, and that talent came together to help them make it to their first playoff and World Series appearance in 2008, a winning record in 2009, and their second playoff this past season. But I see them having trouble next year.

If they can’t afford to retain the face of their franchise, Crawford, then they can’t be expected to bid on or trade for players who require a large paycheck. They’re going to need more young players to step up and play to their potential to carry the load of the team. And they’re going to need their young rotation to take another step and be one of the best in baseball.

Someone from their strong bullpen is going to need to stand up and be the guy who can slam the door in the ninth. B.J. Upton needs to play to the potential he showed he had in 2007. Jason Bartlett is going to need to rebound, as do James Shields and Ben Zobrist. The only real threat they have in their lineup in terms of homers and RBI’s is Evan Longoria, and a championship team can’t have one guy carrying the middle of the order duties.

It’s an idea that doesn’t need much explaining, and an idea that Rays fans might not like, all 12,000 who go to their playoff-clinching games. A lot of things are going to have to go right for the Rays to be a contender next year. I honestly can’t make a prediction on how they’re going to be next year. Who know, maybe they’ll be better than they were this year.

One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be harder next year.

Read more MLB news on