I have recently read the opinion of some that the addition of the second wild card has in some way, and I'm paraphrasing here, diminished the value of winning the wild card. In my opinion, if this sentiment is being expressed in front offices around major league baseball it is being used as a NFL style pre-draft misinformation campaign designed to give the impression that their team isn't willing to give up a lot for marginal gain.
It would seem to me that the additional wild card would provide owners what teams generally all desire and that is greater revenue. There are several reasons that I believe that the additional wild card is a worthwhile target and why the Rays should concentrate more on adding on to their current roster and not dealing players to add prospects in the system or for financial relief to in theory have more flexibility to sign more players in the offseason.
1. Teams remaining competitive down the stretch will generate excitement which will result in additional ticket sales, concessions, parking, etc.
2. The winner of the 1st wild card spot (edited) gets to host at least one game while the winner of the play in game gets to host the first two games of the ALDS. There is a possibility of 3 additional games of revenue for the first wild card winner and at least 2 home games for at least 1 of the 2 wild card teams.
3. Players and managers want to be involved in playoff atmosphere. Looking back at the end of the 2011 season I have to imagine that those in the front office and clubhouses on the teams involved in game 162’s had a tremendous rush of energy leading up to and during each game.
4. Managers are ultimately judged on championships and playoff appearances so of course they want their teams playing competitive baseball as deep into the year as possible. The additional wild card will give managers cause to plead with the front office not to break up his roster rather go out and add a piece or two to the roster. This will hopefully lead to more competitive baseball down the stretch and more revenue as noted in #1.
5. Certainly players that are high profile free agents are going to be enticed by the maximum dollar contract but there is a second tier of free agents that are looking for a fair offer to land on a team with a chance at the post-season. Teams that are close to the wild card at the deadline and don't make a move or sell off pieces for possible future gain are not doing themselves any favors in trying to convince that second tier player to sign a contract in that city. The second wild card could serve a franchise with an opportunity to make a statement as to the importance that they put on winning and the price they are willing to pay to get to the playoffs.
6. Teams need to connect with their fan base. Some teams, like the Rays, are still in their infancy and winning over fans both young and old is best served by winning. The Rays don't need a PR hit of video of B.J. Upton or James Shields cleaning out their lockers because the Rays have a handful of prospects coming in to fill Durham's roster or assume a position in 2013. These moves can be made over the winter while the fans are celebrating a great Rays season or lamenting what could have been while being more occupied with college football or NFL football.
7. Make the playoffs in any way, shape, or form and anything can happen. The ultimate goal is to win a World Championship and making the playoffs is the first step, regardless of where the team is seeded.
I know there are several sides to this argument and others will have a different opinion. Some may believe that this version of the Rays is beyond repair and if the team can peddle guys like BJ Upton, Luke Scott, Carlos Pena, Kyle Farnsworth, and Joel Peralta they should certainly try to get something for them. Others may believe that any of aforementioned players and possibly a James Shields could be dealt now and pieces brought back that could improve the roster for a 2012 run along with providing a players that can help in 2013 and beyond. I find those trades few and far between.
As for me, I would like the Rays to add a bat to the lineup. It doesn't matter what position the player plays or what side of the plate he swings the bat from. With the struggles of Desmond Jennings, Carlos Pena, Luke Scott, and B.J. Upton over the last 2+ months Joe could easily find a spot for whatever bat is acquired. I still believe the Rays best baseball is in front of them and adding additional weapons will only make them more of a formidable opponent down the stretch.