I have rounded up a bit of potpourri of side details that I find interesting regarding yesterday's trade of Delmon Young to the Twins.
First off was a story written yesterday in the Tampa Tribune, where Marc Lancaster reported this quote from Rays VP Andrew Friedman concerning the plan for the new ballpark and how it impacts his front office:
So if you take that statement to be true, then the trade of Delmon Young for Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Eduardo Morlan is entirely unrelated to the team's desire to see their stadium plan approved by city voters next November. Do I take it to be true? I would expect that common sense dictated that the Rays needed to improve their ballclub at least somewhat significantly in anticipation of the vote next November, although I don't know whether this trade specifically resulted from that directive. I don't think the team will be going on any spending sprees, but the team will clearly be exceeding Rays owner Stu Sternberg's expectation of a 20% payroll increase that he made in late September if the Percival signing is consummated.
In my estimation, to garner more public support the Rays don't need to leap into contention next year, but they do need to show measurable improvement. The 70 win gold standard that has existed to this point is not good enough. Not when you are pushing for a new $450 million stadium on city land to replace an 17 year old, taxpayer-funded one on county land that is unusually young for the scrap heap. It isn't good enough when you are asking for proceeds from the sale and development of land you don't own to make up the bulk of your funding plan. It isn't good enough when you are requesting a $60 million sales tax rebate from the state of Florida for an unprecedented second time during a budget shortfall; a tax rebate that has not been granted to the Marlins despite several additional years of effort on their part. And it isn't good enough when you are asking the public to resume paying off the debts of your old stadium as usual long after that stadium's implosion. Make no mistake, for this deal to garner support, the team will need to address those matters, but part of doing that is demonstrating that they can succeed at what they do and that they deserve to be subsidized. The Rays aren't Amtrak, they can't expect to fail continually and have the government foot the bill for their expenditures.
It isn't impossible to lose and get a stadium approved for you, just look at the Bucs for an example of that. But improvement does need to be shown for those that feel winning percentages are just as important as funding percentages. I don't doubt that Friedman's front office is insulated from public opinion and the business side of things; just look at the team's moves with relation to Jim Hickey, Elijah Dukes, Aubrey Huff, Julio Lugo, Joe Maddon, and Danys Baez, among others, if you don't believe that. But I have to believe that the Rays might be accelerating things just a little to get on the good side of city voters next season, not that that's a bad idea. Respectability on the field could go a long way at the voting booth.
---More tidbits after the jump---
Meanwhile, Eduardo Encina of the St. Petersburg Times has a few interesting tidbits concerning the Delmon Young deal. Among them:
- The Rays were apparently not expecting this deal to come down the pipe so quickly, as the team was left competing with its own stadium plan and the Republican Presidential Debate for local attention yesterday as a result of the trade. Andrew Friedman was on his phone at least a couple times during the festivities before leaving altogether to finish off the deal. One source indicates that the deal was really close to being done on Tuesday, but apparently the Rays had not intended on things being wrapped up the following day.
- As for the players themselves involved in the trade? Delmon Young was apparently ignorant of the whole thing (among other things) until at least late afternoon, while Brendan Harris had gotten wind of a possible trade due to rumor-mongering. While no comment has been heard from Young concerning the deal, Harris expressed genuine disappointment at not staying with the team he felt he was "carving his niche with".
- By now, everyone knows that Juan Rincon was originally the relief pitcher that the Rays were slated to get in addition to Garza and Bartlett. Ostensibly, concerns over Rincon's elbow put his inclusion on ice, but the Twins moved quickly to replace him and get the deal done without him nonetheless. They gave in to the Rays' request for Eduardo Morlan to finish off the deal. Morlan is clearly a better trade acquisition than Rincon would have been, so you've got to wonder if Friedman was just looking for a backdoor way in which he could pursue the Twins' top relief prospect. Either way, the Rays came out winners in this situation.
- The priorities in the trade were no surprise. Obviously Garza and Young being included were of paramount importance for the Rays and Twins, respectively. The Twins, having selected Jason Pridie in the Rule 5 draft during the 2005-06 off-season, had a secondary interest in him, while the Rays had a similar infatuation with Bartlett.