With the winter meetings all finished up, the Rays stand in a rather different place now than they did five days ago. Looking back at all the action and moves, what have we learned about the Rays' front-office during this past week? And judging from their actions this week, what can we expect in the future? Here's the long and the short of it:
2010 or Bust - With contracts for Crawford, Pena, and Burrell expiring after the 2010 season (and Balfour hitting free-agency), the Rays stand to lose a significant portion of their "core" of players after this season. So although I initially pegged the Rays as not having much salary room this off-season, the $7M signing of Soriano appears to be saying that the front-office has decided to go all-in this year (for discussion on the rationale behind the trade, see here and here). Since adding an additional win or two would significantly help the Rays' playoff odds, and there stands to be a big personnel change in 2011, they seem to be taking the calculated risk of spending a bit more money now and making a run at the playoffs. If the Rays are out of the race in July, they can always trade CC or Pena then and the only thing they'll have lost in $7M for one year of Soriano. Not a bad strategy, and not one that sacrifices the future beyond 2010 either.
Rays' FO = Quiet and Sneaky - "There will be no $7M closer showing up," Andrew Friedman, December 4th. While the Rays' front office has always been very good at suppressing rumors and preventing leaks, the Soriano trade was quite the shocker considering how recently Friedman had stated this. Was it a negotiating tactic? Did their plans change that quickly? Or does Friedman simply have a weird sense of humor, and he loves seeing us agonize over trying to deduce his strategy? My guess is a little bit of all three.
Bradley? - Those Cubs don't know who they're dealing with. They're trying every trick in the book to get the Rays to concede some ground, but it's not happening. Simply put, they have no leverage; they're most likely going to have to suck it up and keep Bradley, trade him to a less-astute GM, or trade him to the Rays for pennies on the dollar. It reminds me of a classic back-and-forth from the movie "Stardust":
"Captain Shakespeare: 200.
F: That's not negotiation! I'm changing my number! 185.
CS: Did I hear 200?
F: From you, you did. Yeah.
CS: You said 200?
F: If I did, you're a ventriloquist. Okay, 195. Final offer.
CS: 195 it is.
[they shake hands to seal the deal]
CS: So, with sales tax, that's... let's see... 200.
F: [resignedly] Brilliant. Put it in the back." (IMDB.com)
Yankees = Tough, Red Sox = TBD - The Yankees kept improving an already stacked team, adding Curtis Granderson while having to give up little of value (to them at least) in return. This trade has already been analyzed ad nauseam by every major sports news outlet, so there's no need to get into it more, but the fact of the matter is that the Yankees are looking poised to enter 2010 with a team just as good, if not better, than their team last year. The Red Sox are another matter, though; they've still got a good amount of holes to fill this off-season and although I don't like the idea of Beltre and/or Holliday signing with them, at this point the Sox look to be potentially vulnerable come 2010. It's a long off-season, though, so we'll see what shakes up.
Aki Trade String - This is too much fun. I present to you our franchise's most recent trade string, the Aki String:
Is that a thing of beauty or what? Now let's see if Friedman can trade Gross for Soria and then Soria for Pujols, and we'll call it an off-season.
If anyone else has any thoughts on where the Rays stand currently, feel free to voice them in the comments. This is simply my way of thinking through the current direction of the franchise in the aftermath of the Soriano deal and the winter meetings.