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What do contract extensions say about the Tampa Bay Rays?

After two contract extensions were given to core players, what have we learned about the Tampa Bay Rays?

MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Philadelphia Phillies Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Extension season is here, and Twitter has opinions, y’all. Opinions that will give you whiplash if you aren’t careful.

We went from “the Rays are cheap and are exploiting young talent” to “the Rays are only going to trade these guys anyway so enjoy them while you can” faster than you can say Wow those are some nimble goalposts.

But enough about the haters.

What we at DRB really want to know is: What do the extensions of Lowe and Snell say about the Rays going forward?

Does it mean that these guys will be Rays forever? Of course not. And if you’ve been a Rays fan longer than five minutes, you know it doesn’t even mean Snell will still be pitching in Columbia Blue on Sundays 2023.

Oh, but it also doesn’t mean he won’t still be here.

The Rays have traded players in the middle of an extension (Scott Kazmir, Chris Archer). They have let extensions run their course and seen players sign lucrative free agent deals elsewhere (Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton). They have hung on to players and dealt them as rentals (David Price, Ben Zobrist). They have even signed guys to longer extensions (Evan Longoria). They will make these moves regardless of what Twitter says, regardless of even what their own fans think. One thing you can take to the bank is that the Rays gonna Ray, and the RFO will do whatever they think is best, outside opinions be damned.

What is does mean is that instead of taking risks on a 38-year old DH, they think the money would be better spent on the in-house talent. It means they believe in their core. It means the window is opening, and 90 wins in 2018 was just a beginning. And maybe it means they believe that a team with a secure foundation is more inviting to those 39-year old DHs who could be the final puzzle piece as we head toward 2020.

So strap in. Anything can happen these next few years. But the one thing we know is that, whatever it is, IT’S HAPPENING.

All hype aside, though, these specific contract extensions in this moment are being signed because, on some level, these players want both financial security and to be members of the Tampa Bay Rays. Consider the words of Blake Snell himself:

“I’m happy. I’m happy to be here. I want to be here. I don’t want to go anywhere. I think with the deal I made with them, it’s going to keep me here longer than I would’ve been if I didn’t. And that makes me really happy. Because I’m comfortable here. I like the team we’re building. I want to be here. This is a great team.”

Ultimately these contracts reward the player for past performance, but they also shine a light on the great work of the staff and coaches who brought the organization to this moment.

That includes the amateur scouts who took a first round chance on a kid from Seattle. That includes the coaches who worked with Snell through his highs and lows between the minors and the majors and the minors and back to the majors again. That includes the staff who signed the player out of the draft and to this extension, which is the largest deal in major-league history for a pitcher not yet eligible for arbitration.

That is because the Rays are committed to their players, the future, and to competing.

In reflecting on the deal given to Snell, Rays GM Erik Neander said yesterday afternoon:

“Our goal is not to just be competing in 2019, it’s to be competitive over a longer period of time and to have sustained success.”

Contract extensions, and the commitment of guaranteed money, flies in the face of every narrative about this team (including ones forgotten from a week ago). The Rays will continue to operate on a budget, but these contract extensions show the team is not afraid to reward their players for hard work and dedication to the future.

Now bring on the next one.


Transcription of quotes via the Tampa Bay Times