The question going around during the GM meetings is “should the Tampa Bay Rays sell off their veteran assets?”
Yesterday, in a piece for The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Rays should rebuild.
If the Rays deconstruct—and frankly, such a retreat is overdue—they could shake up the industry by entertaining offers for right-hander Chris Archer, closer Alex Colome and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, as well as three players who are under club control for two more seasons: outfielder Corey Dickerson, right-hander Jake Odorizzi and infielder Brad Miller. If club officials take the teardown far enough, they would be almost obligated to listen to proposals for third baseman Evan Longoria, too.
Topkin also asked the question, “Should the Rays consider tanking?”
But here’s a question, based on the teams that celebrated the past two World Series championships, worth pondering:
Would they be better off trying to lose 100 games?
Just for a few years, anyway.
Stripping down their big-league roster and payroll, in trading their big-name players such as Evan Longoria, Chris Archer and Kevin Kiermaier, to where they don’t have any real chance of competing.
Benefitting from the ensuing high draft picks and financial flexibility.
The Rays have some very good assets that would be sure to shake up the offseason. If the Rays made Chris Archer, Kevin Kiermaier, and Alex Colome among others available for the best offer there would be many interested parties.
The reason it’s even being suggested is because the Rays have valuable assets other teams would covet. If the Rays didn’t have these assets nobody would care.
If the Rays did trade their most valuable pieces they would strengthen a farm that is already easily a top 10 (and arguably top 5) farm system with a lot of pieces that are major league ready and will make a positive impact in 2018.
Topkin suggest the Rays try to lose 100 games for a couple years to get the highly valuable picks at the very top of the draft on top of the returns for your MLB assets.
Going through a prolonged stretch of expecting to lose 90+ games a year for multiple seasons would waste the value of their already existing farm where the most valuable years are during their league minimum years.
Why would a cash strapped team waste the league minimum years of guys like Willy Adames, Brent Honeywell, and Jake Bauers, not to mention all the other top tier arms piling up in Durham?
Rosenthal ends his piece saying,
For the Rays, the decision to finally deconstruct appears simple. They've fought the good fight long enough. They need to trade Archer, Colome and Kiermaier, and then, if possible, Longoria. They are not going to compete with the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees anytime soon.
It’s true the Red Sox and Yankees are currently very good clubs, but the Rays can’t really focus on trying to line things up with a future when the Yankees or Red Sox may be bad. More often than not whatever window the Rays focus at least one if not both are going to have a good team.
The Rays GM Erik Neander is quoted by Topkin, saying:
"While at the major-league level things have kind of been stuck somewhat in the middle and we recognize the perception of that, we’ve gone into the years having a chance, and all the while our minor-league system has gotten considerably stronger and put us in a position where some of the rewards of really taking a huge step back and rebuilding in full, we’re about to see some of the rewards of the farm system becoming stronger, better drafting, better signing internationally, trades, etc."
The Rays don’t have any negative money on the books, or a lot of money committed in guaranteed deals, and the money they do have committed is spent well.
This is why many teams are interested in the assets the Rays have. They are exactly the types of players that teams with small and large budgets alike need.
The farm is in great shape to be able to provide help in the very short term. If the Rays had either bad money or a terrible farm system they probably would be forced to completely wipe the slate and start anew.
Some players will be traded off the major league roster this winter. It’s just the nature of working with one of the lowest payrolls in the majors.
The Rays can’t be inflexible to the point of refusing to deal any player if the correct offer comes along. If a team gives you the Herschel Walker deal for Chris Archer then he’ll be in another uniform. But the Rays aren’t in a situation they need to take it, and until they are, they should put a team on the field that is trying to win.
Things haven’t gone how the front office has envisioned over the last couple of seasons. They still won 80 games twice. It is very rare that a team skips the step from being bad to being great. Advancement takes time.
There are usually some steps in between despite what the Rays were able to accomplish in 2008. Usually when the big step is made it’s because of prospects pushing them over the top. Willy Adames, Brent Honeywell, and Jake Bauers among many others could be those guys.
Now is not the time to tank.