Ask Gary: Are Rays wise to buy injured players?

by Gary Shelton on April 22, 2017 · 1 comment

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Rays, University of Florida

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

The Rays are paying close to $10 million to Colby Rasmus and Wilson Ramos. Who knows when either one will be able to play this year or how effective they will be when they do. That money could have been used to pay the salaries of either Matt Moore or Logan Forsythe. Either one would be much more productive than what they have now. Matt Duffy was on the DL when the Rays traded for him last year and has spent about as much time on the DL as on the field since joining the team. For a franchise that counts every penny of payroll when deciding what free agents they can sign and who they can keep, does it make any sense for them to continue invest in players coming off injuries and surgeries? Will the Rays ever learn that the way to build a successful team is to draft and develop their own talent and not by taking a flyer on damaged goods they can get at a discount?

Larry Beller

I certainly agree that the cleanest, cheapest way to build a team is through a solid farm system. That's indisputable.

I think the Rays expected Rasmus to be in the lineup by now, and they certainly expected Matt Duffy. A heel isn't supposed to take that long. But with Ramos, the Rays tried to take advantage

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of a price break where they could get year and a half of a good hitter cheap. I don't think the strategy would be bad; the player, however, isn't working.

Most teams budget out their roster with a plan for each position. I think they saw a chance to bring in some young players and shed the salaries of Moore and Forsythe.

Now, I liked Forsythe, too, but let's be honest. He wasn't Ryne Sandburg or Joe Morgan. Moore was still rebuilding his arm from Tommy John. I don't think either really had a shot of sticking around.

Look, it isn't easy to juggle small contracts and compete in baseball. The other major sports have a fairly even salary cap. To repeat your point, the easiest way for the Rays to remain important is have a stuffed farm system. There should be a newbie every year to compete for playing time.

Does it make sense for the Rays to continue to invest in players who are hurt and will only join them in progress? It depends on the player. If the Rays can find a bargain with a great bat, swell. But let's don't overdue it to the point there are several players missing from your lineup. Right?

The Bucs have not always had a GM per se, and in our history there's been only five I can think of since John McKay and Ray Perkins were head coaches and head of player personnel.  Rich McKay held that vital role for the longest but who was the best overall in your opinion (or rank 1-5) based on free agency, draft, trades, and other executive decisions made by them? Also factoring what they had to work with in regard to ownership at that time, salary cap, etc.  Phil Krueger was the first GM hired I think, then Richie McKay, Bruce Allen, Mark Dominik, and of course Jason Licht.  It's tough if not impossible to judge Licht since he can still improve or, well, the other, especially since his start was horrible.

Ok, thats enough for you to gnaw on, Lol.

Bruce Brownlee

Bruce, it isn't a very tough choice. Rich McKay wasn't perfect, but he helped a team win a Super Bowl and build a stadium. He drafted Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, both Hall of Famers. he signed Brad Johnson, Simeon Rice and Joe Jurevicius. I can still hear him, sitting behind me in Philadelphia for the NFC title game, yelling "run, Ronde, run. Don't ever stop running."

Now, I'll say this. Rich had the best front office the Bucs ever had while he was here. Jerry Angelo (who works here), Tim Ruskell and John Idzik were all general managers elsewhere.

Yes, he had his misses in the draft. Reidel Anthony? Kenyatta Walker? Jacquez Green? Regan Upshaw? There was a disconnect between the coaching staff and front office as to what kind of player required. But if you're going to give Jon Gruden credit for winning a Super Bowl, you have to do it with McKay, too.

Krueger was a clown. There is a story they used to tell in the Bucs' offices about Krueger approaching a coach to question a receipt ... while the team was on the clock.

Bruce Allen was a trainwreck. He was Gruden's guy, but he entered lying and took pride in his ability to do so. I'm shocked he's still in the league. Allen was here when the great Bucs started to show age, and he had to try to replace a lot of them. But he was lousy at it, and the Bucs started to slide.

Mark Dominik was a good guy, but he struggled in the draft. Mark Barron? Josh Freeman? Brian Price?

I try not to hold Licht's first year against him, because Lovie Smith had control of the 53 (man roster). I think Licht has taken the blame for Anthony Collins, but Josh McKown was all Lovie. Licht has done fairly well in the draft, but only okay in free agency. I think Dirk Koetter has been good for Licht, however. Koetter has a better plan of how to use to players they sign.

This will be a critical year for Licht. If he hit home runs with DeSean jackson and Chris Baker, the team should be better. If it can slip into the playoffs, Licht will be around for a while. We'll see.

Much praise has been heaped on Dan Rooney, with his passing. How could such a great man allow for Mike Webster to wind up living out of his car in Pittsburgh?

Scott Myers

I'm not sure. It certainly doesn't sound like Rooney, who had a hand in the drafting of Webster.

I did read an article Friday that said that several Steelers reached out to help Webster, but Webster declined. I don't know if that happened with Rooney or not, but it makes sense. If a guy is refusing help, he'd refuse the big boss, too. One doctor estimated that Webster's brain injuries were akin to being in 25,000 auto accidents.

I'm not saying this happened with Rooney, but a lot of owners simply didn't acknowledge what part of a former player's health problems are because of playing the game. Those owners shrug off the injuries that players have had, suggesting that the players were well-compensated while they played.

I know this: It's a shame. Webster was one of the iconic Steelers along with Joe Greene, Franco Harris and Jack Lambert. A player of that magnitude certainly deserves some help later in his life.

After reading several articles about Aaron Hernandez, I am very surprised that the Patriots gave him that big of a contract. There were warning signs for years. Do you think that Urban Meyer and the Gators did right by Hernandez as far as the way he was handled?

Jim Willson

We can always see clearest when we're looking back. In hindsight, of course the Gators should have been tougher on Hernandez. He beat up a restaurant worker, and he's suspected of shooting into a crowd. But Urban Meyer could win more games with him than without him. That was clear.

Those were tough years for Floria with the Chris Rainey incident and others. Yes, I would suggest that Meyer needed to worry less about the scoreboard and more about making sure his kids were good kids.

With hindsight, you can certainly wonder about the Patriots giving Hernandez such a big contract. His play was very good, but he didn't unsmoke pot because of it. He was still the same borderline thug who was going to ruin lives. Give Bill Belichick credit for this, however. As soon as Hernandez got in deep, Belichick cut him and pulled the contract. Of course, that suggests that Pats were keeping tabs on Hernandez, and you an question the size of the contract in the first place. Remember, teams don't pay players to reward them; they pay so the player won't eventually take his talents elsewhere.

A lot of organizations like to treat their players like men. With some players, that's a mistake. Players have been coddled and protected their entire lives. There is an old line by ex-Celtic Bill Russell: "I only went as far as the seventh grade; after that, I was on scholarship."

In both the college and the pros, the system failed Hernandez. I know that Meyer has suggested that players have to be responsible for themselves, and that's largely true. But with as much help, and as much supervision, that players get, yeah, someone should have taken the ball away from him at some point.

Maybe a few more people would be alive today.

Maybe this has been hashed over more than necessary, but here it is. Given the political climate that is running against funding stadiums, the fact that the Rays would be worth more to a new owner (IMHO) with an option to relocate than it would be worth if in a long-term contract for a stadium that isn’t ideal (they have been through that.) and ownerships’ admittance that all of the “prime” locations are unavailable, if you had to bet your life today, will the Rays be in Tampa Bay in 6 years? And why of course.

Cecil DeBald

Cecil, I've always felt that the odds were against the Rays staying in Tampa Bay. I'm sure some of Stu Sternberg's partners have questioned the intelligence of trying so hard to stay in a market that, frankly, isn't very good (for whatever reasons you might offer).

Stu told me on Opening Day that staying here was "always" going to be his focus. He's suggested in the past that if there is zero possibility of getting a stadium here, he might consider selling the team.

I don't like teams moving. I didn't like the Rams leaving St. Louis or the Chargers leaving San Diego or the Raiders leaving Oakland. I'd love for the team to figure out a way to fill their seats to at least halfway up the standings.

But let me ask you, Cecil. If you and I owned the team, would you continue to keep the team here with all the empty seats, or would you vote to move it?

It's a sobering thought, isn't it?

As always, I enjoyed your conversation with Jerry Angelo. Who came up with the Trade Value Chart and how long has it been around?

Jim Willson

Every now and then, someone thinks they're smart enough to try to tweak the Trade Value Chart, but it's been virtually the same since (according to legend) Jimmy Johnson of the Cowboys came up with it in the early 90s. (Supporters say that's another reason to think he should be in the Hall of Fame).

The real story is that a minority owner of the Cowboys, Mike McCoy (not the ex-coach) was a former engineer who was trying to chart a pattern of draft-day trades that Johnson and Jerry Jones could use as a guide. Orginally, the Cowboys kept the chart as a secret, but word got out and the chart became public.

The Trade Value chart tries to place a value on each pick, with the no. 1 pick valued at 3,000 points. The No. 10 pick is 1,300, and the No. 100 pick is worth 100 points. If you want to trade from No. 10 to No. 8, you'd owe your pick plus 100 points (roughly a fourth-round pick.) Teams vary when the trade sometimes, but pretty much, the chart gets you closse.

Jerry's great. We've known each other forever, and we watched each other's kids grow up. He's good people.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Larry Beller April 23, 2017 at 7:11 pm

I do agree each case should be judged on it’s own merits. However, from what I’ve observed from following the Rays over so many years is that when a player hits the DL he’s often there much longer than anticipated and usually doesn’t return game ready, This is especially true when the player is coming off a significant injury that requires surgery. Usually the higher salaried guys stay on the DL the longest. Baseball players in general are the most pampered, fragile athletes on the planet. So for the Rays to invest their precious payroll dollars on players with injury issues like they have is not giving them an adequate return on their money because those players can’t be counted on to return to form in a reasonable period of time if at all. The irony of the situation is the Rays most often get less bang for their buck than if they had kept some of their affordable higher salaried guys who were at least proven, able bodied players. The Rays farm system is starting to show some signs of life which is long overdue but it is still not producing what they need.

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