Sunday, March 26, 2023

NOW The Rays Start Spending?


So, to bring you all up to speed, after letting David Price, Evan Longoria, Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Austin Meadows, Mike Brosseau, Ryan Yarbrough, Ji-Man Choi, Charlie Morton, Rich Hill, Diego Castillo, Nick Anderson, J.T. Chargois, Adam Kolarek, Sergio Romo, Willy Adames, Tommy Pham, Corey Dickerson and Kevin Kiermaier leave, the Tampa Bay Rays finally realized that it might help to sign some people to longer-term contracts.

I have constantly ragged on the Rays for being the cheapest sons of guns in the league, and for refusing to pay players what they're worth when given the opportunity. I know it's not really a big factor for them, as even if these big players have left via trades or free agency the team has remained a competitor, but it's the absolute reluctance to create a dynasty with actual players that bugs me. The Rays have a dynasty mentality, and a belief that they will compete with the same mindsets that have made them a good team since 2018, but they don't have a tradition of great players the fans can get a jersey of and wear to games for 10 years. 

Then again, bold of me to assume that Rays fans are actually going to games anyhow.

But the Rays, to their credit, have actually begun to listen to me and spent the offseason signing some of their great players to extensions. Yes, one of them is Jeffrey Springs, and the Rays seem to be going to the John Tortorella school of not demeaning a player for hating gay people because he's good at sports, but these other extended Rays are the moves I'd honestly make. Yandy Diaz has been one of the most consistent pieces of this team, he's here for another 3 or 4 years. Manuel Margot was a huge part of last year's Rays team, he's here for another 2 or 3 years. Tyler Glasnow's the backbone of the rotation hurt or healthy, he's locked up for a few more years. Pete Fairbanks has become one of the most reliable bullpen guys of this farm system, he's here for another few years.

And then, in addition to all of that and Springs [eesh], the Rays went out and did an actual decent free agent signing in Zach Eflin, a mid-rotation Phillies hero that was responsible for great stuff despite the last few seasons being injury-filled. Eflin was great in Philly and, a lot like Kyle Gibson, could definitely head up a rotation in some way without someone like Nola or Wheeler already in place. I think Eflin, if he continues decent health and picks up where he left off last year, could give the Rays a ton of innings and be a reliable rotation piece even if Glasnow, Chirinos and Baz continue to be unreliable. 

Now, here's the funny part. The Rays did all of this work to secure people, sign people, and offer contracts to people who deserve it for once. And right now they are looking to finish fourth in the AL East. 

Because, yes, keeping low-risk, useful guys is a good thing, but it's not the same as keeping around somebody like Meadows or Snell or Adames or Kiermaier, who are bigger players that can provide the x-factor over other teams. Kiermaier, this season, will be playing for the Blue Jays, who had enough money to net him and make sure he's still a lower-tier piece of a huge lineup. The Yankees, Jays and even the Orioles are looking more fully-formed than the Rays, and even the Red Sox might have bigger pieces than the Rays.

The Rays, meanwhile, will be using Christian Bethancourt, Taylor Walls, Isaac Paredes, Jose Siri and Harold Ramirez in major roles this year. Yes, it's cool when they're low-budget pieces that amount to good things, but sometimes small-ball is just small-ball, especially when the biggest pieces are guys like Brandon Lowe, who's struggled since his rookie year, and Wander Franco, who's yet to play a full season in the majors.

I could be wrong, and the Rays could just compete again just out of spite, useful as a lot of these moves were, it feels like too little too late for a team that was good at attracting talent but not great at prolonging it.

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