At the beginning of last week, Jake examined the different ways the Rays could rebuild for the future: a complete tear down like the Cubs and Astros performed, a quick rebuild like the Athletics pulled off in 2012, or just maintaining the status quo.
In the poll attached to the piece, going for a quick rebuild and mimicking the Athletics approach won with more than half of the votes. Let's see if we can do something similar.
1. Sign 1B Eric Thames out of the KBO
12/1/11: A's signed Brandon Moss.
In the same way the Athletics signed the unheralded Brandon Moss, the Rays should be aggressive to sign 30-year old 1B Eric Thames out of Korea. The former MLB player has put up 37 home runs in 2014, 47 in 2015, and is on pace for more than 50 in 2016.
Moss at the time was 29 when he signed with the Athletics and likewise had videogame numbers in the weaker environment of Triple-A but finally put it together in 2012.
2-3. Trade two of Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, and/or Matt Moore
12/9/11: A's trade Trevor Cahill (23 years old and coming off a mediocre season) and Craig Breslow (Coming off a solid, but not great relief season) for Jarrod Parker (22 year old AA pitcher), Collin Cowgill (25 year old in AAA) , and Ryan Cook (24 year old AA reliever)
12/23/11: A's trade Gio Gonzalez (25 years old) for A.J. Cole (19 year old prospect), Tommy Milone (24 year old, "fringe" pitching prospect in AAA), Derek Norris (22 year old AA cather), and Brad Peacock (23 years old in AA).
These trades I cannot control, but both set the table for the team to be competitive in the near future, with only Milone being a true replacement. He held a 3.22 ERA and 2.28 FIP over 24 starts in Triple-A the previous season, and was able to servicable replace Gonzalez in the rotation with a sub-4.00 performance in each stat.
If the Rays can pull off something similar while re-stocking the system, it'd be a boon for the rebuilding franchise while allowing the Rays to go for gold in 2017.
Derek Norris also proved to be helpful, rocketing up to the majors. Given the Rays depth at that position, they should try to do the same here. Picking up Austin Barnes from the Dodgers may do the trick.
4. Complete the SS Javier Baez trade for SP Alex Cobb
12/28/11: A's trade Andrew Bailey (27 year old all star closer) for Josh Reddick (24 year old in AAA), etc.
Similar to when the A's were able to give something injured but great (Andrew Bailey) for a respectable player with great numbers in limited time younger than 25-years old (Josh Reddick), the Rays can do the same here by landing last off-season's white whale in Javier Baez once Alex Cobb demonstrates good health.
5. Sign RP Daniel Hudson and a veteran catcher
1/24-26/12: A's sign Johnny Gomes and Bartolo Colon.
These are the potentially rather useful place holders that Jonny Gomes and Bartolo Colon were for the A's. I doubt the Rays can make the same level of signing at catcher as the A's did at pitcher, but if say Wilson Ramos were cheap enough, he could fit.
The point here is to take a couple gambles that could pay off, and Hudson's inexplicably poor numbers this year look like a mirage to me. Pick him up, dust him off, and add some value to the bullpen.
6. Sign UTIL Ian Desmond to four year, $50MM deal
2/13/12: Yoenis Cespedes signs with the A's.
Beane went out and signed Yoenis Cespedes to a 4 year, 36 Million deal when the A's were thought to be rebuilding. Desmond is older than Cespedes was, but offers more defensive versatility and veteran leadership, both aspects the Rays would admire.
There was a public courtship between the Rays and Desmond last off-season, but with an unprotected first round draft choice, Tampa Bay allowed him to go to the Rangers. This time around, their pick will surely be protected, giving the team breathing room to go after Desmond once his one year deal is up.
7. Sign Aubrey Huff
2/20/12: The A's sign Manny Ramirez.
The talisman signing that was Manny Ramirez, an inspiration for Spring Training. The feel good story in the off-season to get the clubhouse rolling with a legend in tow.
Trade Deadline Considerations
What does this mean for the Rays at the trade deadline? Now is as good of a time as any to deal their current starting pitcher core, as outlined in steps 2-3. These deals were linchpins in the Athletics successful rebuild, and though these larger deals may have waited until the off-season, it's possible the Rays could pull one off today.
Tampa Bay may not have liked what was available in a Rangers deal last week, but if they can find what they want in a larger deal with the Dodgers, or another contending team like the Astros, it can be the beginning of a wild rebuild that sets the table for contention in 2017-2019.