The Rays have never been a team to tank, despite being in the hyper competitive American League East division.
After a lost season, where the Rays went “all in” at the trade deadline but missed the playoffs, Tampa Bay Times beat writer Marc Topkin asked the team’s lead owner if next year would be the season they finally bite the bullet and rebuild:
[MT] Could this be the year you cut it way back and retrench, as you've hinted previously could be coming?
[SS] The team is good enough clearly, and we have confidence in the guys, but we'll see how the offseason goes. Who's available to us? What's available in trade for us? We try to react to what the market is going to bear.
If you’re interested in watching a good baseball team next season, that’s not an encouraging response. Few teams have been able to “cut it way back” and succeed, particluarly when the Rays have, as Sternberg said in this interview:
we still have one of the lowest, if not the lowest, payrolls in baseball, and we're going to be there consistently
Earlier today, our own Jim Turvey wondered if this season’s aggressive approach at the trade deadline would impact the team in 2018 — which you can read here — and the answer appears to already be a resounding yes.
How do those moves impact 2018?
Not positively. We spent resources, players and money, so it clearly isn't a positive, in that respect. There's no free lunch.
Does that mean you will reduce the payroll, which is about $80 million now, for next season?
The Rays already had one of the smallest payrolls in baseball, so would an even smaller payroll mean the team will rotate rookies in where veterans, like Brad Miller and Logan Morrison, have played this season?
Maybe not immediately.
Tampa Bay refused to promote its nationally recognized prospects like SP Brent Honeywell, SS Willy Adames, or 1B Jake Bauers this season, leaving them in the minors even when rosters expanded in September. The prospects presumably gathered valuable experiences winning the Triple-A Championship, but leaving the “next wave” of Rays talent on the outside looking in in September likely means the team will do the same in April.
What would a smaller payroll without the best talent from the minors look like in 2018?
Probably a lot like Cesar Puello batting fifth.