Lets face it. The Tampa Bay Rays have had an incredible run at it. The Florida squad trails only the Yankees for wins since the start of the 2008 season in baseball.
The club has made it to the postseason 4 out of the last 6 years, and possess 5 out of 6 years with 90+ Wins.
All of this with a shoestring budget, and incredible use of stretching dollars on player talent.
Every year, Andrew Freidman finds a bargain Free Agent that becomes an ALL – Star once he dawns the blue and purple.
When James Loney signed his 3 YRs/$21 MIL – it represented the most cash the current team management has handed someone who came from another organization.
The brass pulled extensions at exactly the right times for Evan Longoria, James Shields, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson – and have known to walkaway with guys like B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, Scott Kazmir and Carl Crawford.
Those last guys have never seen as good of days since leaving the franchise.
It has been a brilliant ride, and the latest player to be up for Free Agency is David Price after the 2015 season.
The 2012 Cy Young Winner will earn $14 MIL this year, and has one more campaign remaining in 2015, before hitting Free Agency in 2016.
It is likely the franchise will have to dole out in excess of about $20 MIL for the 2015 year if they were to keep Price.
Price is not the only guy to have one season left under Team Control next season.
Ben Zobrist, has a Team Option for $7.5 MIL on the books. This guy is the perfect Utility defender for the Joe Maddon club.
With the news coming down the pike that Matt Moore has to undergo Tommy John Surgery in this week, it hurts the chances of the team to trade either asset if they wish to compete in the next 2 years.
It is extremely hard to have a team have a lengthy stay of competitiveness when you are reflecting a payroll in the bottom 5 teams in the league year after year.
Here is my plea to the Rays.
Yes it fully sucks that Moore is out for the better part of 2014 and 2015, when you wanted to trade Price, and keep the assets coming back in return.
With all of the uncertainty of the Pitching Staff, you might as well carry through this year and next with your #1 ace Left Hander.
Consider it a 2 YRs/$34 MIL deal if you project the 28 Year Old Price will earn close to $20 MIL next campaign.
If you had the ability to make that kind of Free Agent signing for the talent given back, any team would gladly take their chances.
While Moore is gone for the 2014 year – and part of 2015, Cobb and Hellickson are slated to throw some pitches later in the year.
While the squad may not be the best staff of five comprised of the 5 players all being healthy in: Price, Cobb, Archer, Hellickson and Odorizzi, they give the team a chance to win every night.
The club just inked Archer to a 6 YR deal to provide some security long time for the rotation.
Alex Cobb is under Team Control until 2018.
Jeremy Hellickson has 2 more years of Arbitration before he hits Free Agency.
Grant Balfour signed a 2 YR deal for $12 MIL prior to this year.
The pitching should be able to keep the team afloat, but without the dominant Price, the club will just be average at best without Moors
The offense is also a lot better on paper – than it has been in several years. As with every maturing team, the costs will increase as the players hit Arbitration and extensions.
Evan Longoria is there forever, however he is just heading into his prime years. Wil Myers should shake his sophomore slump shortly and break out.
Desmond Jennings is still salary team friendly (along with Myers), and you have Loney and Zobrist not banking the bank either.
You have David DeJesus for a decent price in the next 3 year at about $5 MIL per annum.
There is even Matt Joyce on the teams books until he hits Free Agency in 2016.
Yunel Escobar also provides great defense and a decent bat for the price you are paying him too.
Ryan Hanigan has a decent bat, and makes right around $4 MIL a year.
The reason why I basically named all of the position players and Pitchers – is that they are all cost effective right now, and the team can afford them.
But now you must make some decisions.
You also just lost Alex Cobb to a pulled oblique for 4 – 6 weeks. This couldn’t come at worse time for the club.
The team is also without Jeremy Hellickson till the second half of the year.
For their part, the organization have definitely sidelined trade chatter for Price at least for the year.
I think they should go one step further – extending the thought process for one more year.
The Rays will have a chance to be among the better clubs with a full healthy roster (even minus Moore) for the next 2 years if they retain Price’s services.
Hopefully, they can cash in on of this opportunity.
The time will come at Tropicana Field, where the team will not field a winning team again. It will be a shame when the attendance dwindles down from even the futile rate they are showing up at the yard right now.
Maybe another World Series run (or win for that matter) will fuel talks for a new ballpark to be built afterwards.
This team simply can’t continue to beat the house odds like they have for the last few years.
It took 9 years of horrible records, drafting – and last place finishes, to accrue enough assets to kickstart their ascent in the standings for the last 6 years.
You would have to think this club will be able to put forth winning years in both of 2014 and 2015 as well.
That would mean 8 straight winning years, and many of them being near the top of the AL East – where the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have dwarfed their payroll and stocked ALL – Star lineups.
To have nearly a decade like that would be similar to what the Oakland A’s (2000 – Present) and the Minnesota Twins (2001 – 2010) have done.
The A’s did have a cold spell from 2007 – 2011, although they never lost more than 88 games in one given year.
Look at what the Twins have been going through since their core team all aged – outpricing themselves from the Twin Cities.
Only having the new stadium Target Field has helped offset 3 90+ loss campaigns.
Can you imagine the turnstiles if the Rays were to revert back to their 1998 – 2007 team status as a speedbag?
After the 2015 campaign, the team may lose Price, Zobrist, Joyce and Balfour, and this time, they may not be able to supplant their losses sufficient enough beyond that.
I doubt the team would be horrid. Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb. Matt Moore, Escobar, Hanigan, Hellickson, Odorizzi will still be mainstays ont he club going forward.
Perhaps the management will continue to roll up aces on some more value buys at the Free Agency table.
I would have to think the Rays fanbase would look fondly towards the club if they kept Price and Zobrist.
Price has been playing in the uniform since 2008 – and Zobrist would have played for a decade by then (2006 – 2015).
Both players would have a chance to have their numbers retired by the franchise after their playing days are over.