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Devil Rays lock up Crawford

Posted: Friday April 1, 2005 4:37PM; Updated: Friday April 1, 2005 4:42PM
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Tampa Bay All-Star outfielder Carl Crawford agreed Friday to a $15.25 million, four-year contract that could be worth up to $32.5 million over six seasons.

The two-rime AL stolen base champion, who is 23, gets a $500,000 signing bonus, $500,000 this year in 2005, $2.5 million in 2006, $4 million in 2007 and $5.25 million in 2008.

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Tampa Bay has an $8.25 million option for 2009 with a $2.5 million buyout. If the Devil Rays exercise that option, the team gets a $10 million option for 2010 with a $1.25 million buyout.

In addition, the contract includes escalators that could boost Crawford's salary to $11.5 million in the final year.

General manager Chuck LaMar said the agreement "reinforces our goal to sign, develop and retain our most talented, young players," adding that he expects Crawford to be a "cornerstone of our future successes."

Crawford, who the league with 19 triples and 59 steals last season, called Friday one of the happiest days of his life.

"The future of this organization is exciting, and it is great knowing that I am going to be a part of it," he said. "I am grateful the Devil Rays have the confidence in me to make such a long-term commitment."

Crawford batted .296 and scored 104 runs in 2004, becoming just the seventh player in major league history to have at least 175 hits and 50 steals in their first two full seasons. The others are Eddie Collins, Willie Wilson, Tim Raines, Mookie Wilson, Juan Samuel and Tony Womack.

He's fourth-youngest to capture consecutive stolen base titles behind Raines, Rickey Henderson and Ben Chapman.

For the Devil Rays, the signing represents another step forward after winning a franchise-best 70 games last season.

"It demonstrates commitment from ownership and 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," manager Lou Piniella said. "It gives Carl security, and at the same time it gives the organization another key young player to build with."

He initially agreed to a $370,000 contract for this season that would have allowed him to earn $20,000 more in bonuses for reaching 500 plate appearances.

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