Editor’s Note: Tommy Rancel recently evaluated the six arbitration eligible players on the Rays roster for The Athletic. What follows is a slack chat from JT and Darby reacting to that article. Enjoy!
JT Morgan: Rancel is typically spot on, but I think he’s very wrong on Roe.
You aren’t doing better for $1.4 mil in salary unless you find a veteran on a MiLB deal that works. It seems to say the Rays just cannot afford to pay $1.4 mil for what he’ll provide under any circumstance, but that just isn’t true.
Darby Robinson: Yeah, I get his point about his price as compared to what we could get from Ian Gibaut, but that’s not close to a sure bet.
JT Morgan: The Rays paid more for Tommy Hunter. Hunter worked out, but the Roe decision should also factor in that they don’t owe almost anything next season.
You need like 10-12 relievers to make it through a season, and the payroll is barely over $30 million in 2019.
Darby Robinson: Right now the Rays can easily afford that salary for Roe.
JT Morgan: It’s a fair price in most cases. Most years you’re going to go out and look for a MiLB deal vet. Most are going to get about that.
Roe would be a great guy to give that deal to, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be through arbitration.
Darby Robinson: Can you get a better righty specialist for like $1 mil? I’m not sure you can.
JT Morgan: Exactly.
Darby Robinson: I can’t imagine the Rays would engage in that kind of penny pinching
JT Morgan: You’re talking about something around $850k more than bare minimum.
It’s a rounding error even with the Rays payroll.
Darby Robinson: Not wanting to pay Alex Colome $7 mil this year? Makes sense. Not wanting Roe for $1.4 because he’s too good?
JT Morgan: Right.
The only reason they should get rid of Roe is if he isn’t one of the best 7 relief options on opening day with some depth in AAA (like Poche and Gibaut). “Because he makes $1.4MM” isn’t a good reason.
Darby Robinson: Nuno not being tendered isn’t about saving $400k but more about not being better than just a low leverage dude or a LOOGY.
JT Morgan: Right, and Nuno has the problem of no options so he has to be on the opening day roster. So you would have to think he’d be a good option to last the year.
Darby Robinson: Yeah, we can try to make an argument that you like 7 pitchers more than Roe, but you can easily make one for Nuno.
JT Morgan: Agreed, It’s not about the $900k, it’s about the roster spot. The same could be said for back up catcher Jesus Sucre (projected to $1.2 mil).
This is one thing where I think I’m approaching the roster different than most. There isn’t a set amount the Rays can afford for a specific spot on the roster. This is true of every team if you simplify most decisions, but the budget is a function of your controlled roster, not the other way around.
I do worry about multi year deals, because having dead money hurts more for the Rays than with most teams. This is also the thing I don’t get with C.J. Cron. Most pundits will say the Rays can’t afford to pay a DH that much. Yet they paid more for Burrell and even Luke Scott.
Sure they got rid of players like Corey Dickerson because he was expensive, and he was getting a million more in salary than Cron, but at the end of the day the Rays paid $3.5 mil for Dickerson to not play for the team when they traded him to the Pirates.
Darby Robinson: Yeah, I think the fans and folks who claim the Rays can’t or won’t pay that much for Cron ($5.0 mil+) are not really thinking about things through the lens of the Rays historical payroll.
JT Morgan: It’s also why there will probably be instant disregard of guys like Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos as options the Rays could pursue when they have money to spend and an opportunity at catcher.
Hell the Rays gave Ramos $12 mil plus a few incentives this year. I get being worried about future years and I think that’s ultimately what gets them out of the Grandal market.
Darby Robinson: I think it’s less about how much Dickerson was paid, and more about what they could get for that roster spot and for that money.
Cron’s arbitration is not about how much he’s paid but whether you can get a better player than Cron with limited resources.
JT Morgan: Yep. If you get a better player fine. I’m all for getting better players!
Darby Robinson: I could see replacing Cron with Steve Pearce, since Pearce gives you more positional flexibility with a similarly good right handed bat. Nelson Cruz is a big upgrade too for just DH. But neither of them are cheaper players
JT Morgan: I think Cron is the better player, but Pearce does have advantages in that he fits well as a lefty masher. To be honest, I forgot Pearce was available next season.
Darby Robinson: I am just a big Pearce fan so I’m always down for him coming back.
JT Morgan: But we had Pearce for a 1/$4.75 mil deal and a bit of incentives, and that’s basically the same Cron gets. Perhaps he costs a bit more after helping the Red Sox to the ALCS or better, but it’s not about if the Rays can afford him. They can. It’s if there is a better option.
There might be a roster configuration where you need to save that money and can use that money better elsewhere.
Darby Robinson: Right, totally. Pearce or Cruz would be as much or more (or in Cruz case much more) than Cron. It wouldn’t be saving money unless they straight up cut Cron and utilized Nate Lowe or Brandon Lowe instead.
JT Morgan: But when we’re sitting at roughly $32 mil for payroll, that isn’t the argument right now. The Rays have to be thinking about upgrades, especially at catcher. I think we agree with Tommy that non-tendering Jesus Sucre is an easy decision, given the team’s depth but also opportunity.
Also, I’d like Cruz. His age scares me, but that means he’d likely be limited to 2 years max which helps. But he’d probably get something in the 2/$30-35 mil range. Moving Cron then offsets some of that additional cost.
Though I think Cron’s ability to play 1B if Jake Bauers struggles out of the gate is not an insignificant factor when building this roster where Cruz doesn’t help.
Darby Robinson: I think you’re right about multi-year deals. The big difference between Pearce, Cruz and Cron is we only have to agree to a 1-year deal with Cron.
If the Rays aren’t interested in locking guys in long term at that DH spot, keeping Cron one year makes sense because that leaves that spot open in 2020 for Nate Lowe, or some other FA, or the McKay experiment, or whoever.
JT Morgan: Right.
I’d definitely pursue Cruz, but I think there’s a reasonable chance he goes to Houston. The teams that you could see going after him are probably the Astros, Mariners, and Rays. That’s a pretty limited market.
For money efficiency I would just keep Cron year to year, but the Rays have money and they should spend it on a couple upgrades.
There are different routes they could get there, but he’s one of the few (outside of the catcher market) that the Rays could get with just the money. I would be looking under every rock to see if a trade is a way to spend that money on upgrades too.
Darby Robinson: Carlos Santana is a guy that I’ve always been after for awhile. We’ve talked about him, but if he’s the odd man out this offseason he’d be interesting
JT Morgan: I don’t think Santana is better than Cron, but I think he could fit the team well. His OBP skills are great and would fit nicely. Mostly I think we’d be trading some power and BA for OBP skills. He’d be more expensive, but I’d definitely consider it.
Right neither is overpriced. It’s possible you can trade either though. Neither would bring back a ton, but would get something.
And again they should only be moved if you are making the team better.
Passing on Cron is a mistake without a better option already secured. Ji-Man Choi is the real question mark with his potential pending military service, but even then you can make it work. Having a RH threat is a good thing in a team that is going to be almost all LH.
This is also a point where I think efficiency gets really overrated when fans talk about it. Being efficient with the bulk of your roster (all teams need to do this because no team can afford a good team at FA prices) gives you the flexibility to fill your holes that you don’t have internally.
Also, there’s still the matter of Matt Duffy. If you think you can’t spend $1.4 mil on Roe I think you would make the same argument for Duffy at $2.6 mil, which is not what Tommy says in his article.
The Rays could plausibly get equal production out of league minimum guys, and I think this argument would be more valid applied to Duffy than about Roe. Guys like DRob, Wendle, BLowe, and Christian Arroyo could split 2B/3B, you could make the argument. It’s not necessarily the route I would go, but I can see a path to get there using the same logic.
Darby Robinson: Yeah, that is odd. If Roe can be replaced by Gibaut, than Duffy can much more easily be replaced. I don’t think either is overpriced though.
The Rays tendered Dickerson an offer before the DFA, right?
JT Morgan: Yeah they had tendered him. You have to make that call before the winter meetings, even though the arbitration hearing isn’t until spring training.
Arbitration pay isn’t fully guaranteed until opening day, though. You can waive them before opening day and only be on the hook for 30%.
Darby Robinson: Ah gotcha. So the Rays definitely aren’t dropping Cron until they actually have a better option then.
JT Morgan: Right. At worst It’s a ~$1.5MM insurance policy, and if anything that’s certainly something the Rays have shown a willingness to afford.