Ask Gary: Who should the Rays keep, trade?

by Gary Shelton on July 7, 2018 · 6 comments

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After the Rays impressive recent homestand, your favorite writer at the Times speculated that the Rays could potentially climb into the playoff picture. He apparently is oblivious to the fact that July is the month of the trade deadline and the Rays management is plotting to blow up this team. Eovaldi, Ramos, Archer, Hechavarria, Chaz Roe and Sergio Romo are on the short list of players to be traded. Carlos Gomez could be DFA’d just to get him off the team. Even Matt Duffy and C. J. Cron appear expendable for the right price which I think is incredibly stupid. Kevin Kiermaier will eventually go too (more likely next year) because after all, no Ray can make $8Mil+ and stay on this team for long.  If all those guys are traded the Rays would essentially become a Triple A team. What is your prediction for how many and which players get moved before the deadline at the end of the month?

Larry Beller

Larry, a small market team that is mostly out of contention isn't going to keep its players, especially those who aren't long-term answers. The Rays are on the cusp of contending for the second wild card, largely because there are so many bad teams, so I'm sure there will be movement.

Frankly, it's the way the Rays do business. How else are they going to get better? You pay a guy big money only if he's worth it, if he's a cornerstone performer. For instance, the team paid Evan Longoria more than $10,000,000 per season from 2015-2017. Such contracts are rare, but they exist.

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Personally, I think Wilson Ramos is gone. Yes, he's having an all-star year. But he came for a reduced contract, and he's free to walk for no compensation after the season. It makes no sense to keep him. I think Adeiny Hechavarria has to go; he's in the way of Willy Adames' playing time. The natural growth of a team makes both players. expendable.

The team will eventually trade Chris Archer. I like Archer, personally, but he's 13 games under .500 for his career with a 3.67 ERA. He isn't Sandy Koufax. If the team can get the right mix of prospects, it might be time.

I'd hate for Matt Duffy to go. He's a gamer, and he's the guy you want to see at the plate with the winning run on second. Has Christian Arroyo shown enough to inherit third base?

This may surprise you. I really like Roe despite him giving up a grand slam Friday night. I'm not sure he'll draw big interest -- or a big return -- so he might be safe.

Likewise, you'd have to sweep me off my feet to get Nathan Eovaldi. Heck, don't the Rays want any starting pitchers? I even see that there is speculation the Rays might move Blake Snell, but I think that's the arrogance of the teams with money. I don't think he goes this year.

Gomez is what Bill Parcells used to call "just another guy." C.J. Cron is better, but he could be moved for the right return.

This is standard, Larry. You know that. For once, though, I don't think it's as much about money (it's always about money a little bit) as it is clearing up playing time for younger players and gathering prospects.

If the Rays are going to get good, or closer to good, they're going to have to pull this off properly. They're going to have to move some pieces so they can promote some pieces.

Heck, it wasn't too long ago I was predicting doom and gloom for this Rays' team. I don't think they're got players who have become untouchable overnight  I'd move some players, too, especially Ramos and Hechavarria. Maybe Sergio Romo.

Kiermaier is the guy who might have to go, eventually, because of his contract. But who wants a guy hitting .147 (after Friday) who keeps getting hurt? How much return is there?

The bottom line is this: Like it or not, roster movement is always going to be a big deal for this team. When a player's contract gets too big, the Rays are going to move him unless he's a superstar. It's just part of the game for a team as cash-poor as this one.

Let me ask you a serious question, Larry. Honestly, how many players on your list are $8 million a year guys?

MLB reduced minimum Disabled List (DL) time from 15 days to 10 days starting with the 2017 season.  Here is a summary of total days spent on the DL and total payroll cost for the 2015, 2016, 2017 seasons, and the 2018 season to date. 

year min dl days days to date extrapolation factor full season # of days payroll cost to date extrapolation factor full season payroll cost
2018 10 17,240 1.88372093 32,475 $382,577,629 1.88372093 $720,669,487
2017 10     31,344     $614,100,275
2016 15     31,088     $559,785,957
2015 15     28,111     $565,731,501

Notice that DL payroll cost for 2017 increased about $54 million (about 10%) over the 2015/2016 seasons.  For 2018, the full season cost extrapolates to $720 million, which is a $106 million jump from 2017, and a 29% jump from 2016.  Is this huge increase because players are becoming more fragile, teams are more cautious, and/or players are gaming the system?  Do you think the owners have any idea how much this change for the DL minimum days is costing them?

Scott Myers

Oh, they know. A nickel doesn't hit the parking lot without a professional owner hearing it. They're the most miserly bunch of rich cats you've ever encountered.

It doesn't surprise me that teams are spending more money than ever for injured players. For one thing, players make more money than they ever have. Ten guys spending 10 days on the DL, I'm sure, costs a team a lot more than it did in the past.

Then there is this: Players are such investments anymore that they go on the DL for a hangnail. There is no more "playing through it." I think if he came along now, Cal Ripkin might have been allowed to play 10, 12 games in a row, but no more.

I would love to see you expand this list to type of injury and average stay on the DL. Tommy John surgery, in particular, seems to have soared.

Frankly, I do think that players are more fragile than they've ever been, and I blame the team somewhat for that. Players are conditioned now to think of six innings as a quality start instead of think of going eight or nine.

I've used this stat before. In 1971, four Baltimore Orioles starters won more than 20 games or more each. Dave McNally, Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Pat Dobson totaled 81 wins. More impressively, they combined for 70 complete games. Cy Young had nine seasons in which he completed 40  or more complete-games.

It seems like Steve Yzerman has put no-trade clauses into several contracts.    Do you think that this might blow up in our faces down the road ... or is it a good idea?

Jim Willson

Jim, there's no doubt. Any time a team ties its hands with a contract, there is the potential to be restricted. That's just common sense.

But if you look around the league, a no-trade (or a limited no-trade) is standard with a big contract. No one wants to wake up and find out they've been traded to Phoenix.

That said, teams work around no-trades all the time. A player merely has the right to say where they're going. Because the better teams (where most players want to play) are generally the ones making the trade to put them over the hump, it really hasn't gotten the way.

Could it? Sure. Say the Bolts wanted to move Braydon Coburn, but he decides he likes it here, and he likes the schools his kids attend. He could block what Yzerman might consider a winning trade.

I will say this, though. I trust Yzerman. I trust him to evaluate what players deserve a no-trade, and I trust him to make the deals he needs to make.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller July 7, 2018 at 12:20 pm

I’m sure the Rays will make multiple trades and we can argue about how good they are as they happen. My hope is the trades will not be mostly motivated by saving payroll but history suggests otherwise. We’ll see.

Trading off so many players would be easier to take if the team was terrible but they have been much better than that. The positive momentum that has been built this year will be gone as will the interest in watching the remaining games this season.

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Gary Shelton July 8, 2018 at 8:42 am

I can’t argue that. As I said, it’s hard to be a Rays’ fan. You fall in love with Logan Forsythe, and he’s gone. You kind of like Corey Dickerson, and he’s gone. You like the way Alex Cobb attacks, and he’s gone. It’s a constant turnstile for the players you want to build a bond with, and that’s tough. We don’t watch baseball to hear about a team’s financial problems all of the time; we have our own.

I just think the Rays are trying to build toward a run before their kids get too expensive, and I’m all for seeing that. You’re right. I have a different view (whether it’s wrong or not.) I see a Cron or a Gomez as merely keeping the seat warm.

The thing is, baseball fans are conditioned to brace for a trade or two, maybe even one they don’t agree with. The Rays have worn out their good graces with the constant moves, however. When young, cheap players (Duffy, Eovaldi) are at risk of being moved, you have to wonder where the line is. Certainly, it’s beyond where most of us would put it.

They may trade starting pitching? Heck, they don’t have enough, do they?

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Larry Beller July 8, 2018 at 9:54 am

You just articulated how I feel and said it much better than I could have. I don’t know what it would cost to sign Eovaldi in free agency but it would sure make sense to try. To be completely honest I’d rather see Eovaldi get the big money rather than KK. Sorry to say that but KK just isn’t worth that much on a team that pinches pennies like the Rays. Especially if he is going to hit .150. We don’t need a face of the franchise that badly. Just get more good players.

The Rays have to keep Duffy. Do they have so much offense that an affordable .300 hitter is expendable? NO!! Robertson and Wendle can both play the outfield so no reason to clear out Duffy.

You could be right on Cron but I’d like to see how he finishes up the year. Gomez as I said before was a mistake to sign in the first place and should be gone.

And could you get a message to your friend Marc Topkin that we are tired of reading about how this player or that player could be traded if the Rays are blown away with a crazy offer? That so rarely (if ever) happens. It’s not worth mentioning (over and over again).

Thanks Gary. I appreciate you.

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Gary Shelton July 8, 2018 at 10:55 pm

Sadly, you can’t decide to pay another player instead of Kiermaier. The contract is already done.

I totally agree with you (and wrote that) on Eovaldi. This team doesn’t have enough starting pitchers.I’d keep him and build with him.

Duffy needs to stay, too. I don’t think Arroyo has played well enough to run off Duffy.

To me, Cron can go. Gomez should go.

Look, I accept the blueprint. This team will gather young players and make room for them by moving some players. But there is a line. Cheap guys who can help you when the winning time comes (if it does), you keep.

I’ll tell Marc you said hi.

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Larry Beller July 7, 2018 at 5:19 am

Let me respond this way. If you were just a fan and not a writer who is paid to watch this team, would you want see the team trading their top stars like the Rays do every year? Would that make you want to attend one of their games or even watch them on TV on a regular basis? I can tell you the answer in my case is no.

The Rays take this small market excuse for dumping payroll to the extreme. They will NEVER become a top team again if they don’t keep some of their veteran players long term who are making a difference. Why wouldn’t you keep guys like Eovaldi, C, J. Cron, and Duffy and pay them market value? They are better than anything you have in the minors or will get in a trade. Signing a free agent like Calos Gomez as they did last year and paying him $4 Million is a waste of money. Use that money on your own top players.

Now I do agree with you that Ramos and Hechavarria have to go. Partly for the reasons you mentioned but also because of what Scott wrote in his question. Those 2 are very good players who will command a lot of money in free agency next year but will also spend a lot of time on the DL once they get it.

If Calos Gomez is moved that’s addition by subtraction. Eovaldi and Archer are effective starting pitchers on a team that has precious few of them so I keep both of them and try to re-sign Eovaldi next year. Same with Chaz Roe and Sergio Romo. The Rays rely on their bullpen so much they can’t afford to dump effective relievers. And I don’t trade Duffy either. He’s a young guy playing at a high level who is making and affordable salary. You can’t tell me the Rays can’t afford to keep a guy like that around.

There are 2 factors working against the Rays being able to pull off a lot of trades. They consistently over value their own players and the trend in recent years is for teams in contention not to give up top prospects for rentals as they may have in the past. That makes the return on trading these kinds of players is less dramatic. But the Rays keep doing it because they always fall in love with the potential of a low level minor league guy who will take years to develop if at all.

The Rays will be paying KK $8 Mil next year and they won’t be doing it for long. Once his trade value goes back up he will be gone too. It’s the Rays way.

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Gary Shelton July 7, 2018 at 9:50 am

Small market teams move big priced players. It’s just the way it is. I’m not in love w Cron or even Archer.

I’ve never bought into the team overvaluing it’s players. That’s rhetoric from teams that want them for free. The Rays have made hundreds of trades. See those guys overvalued? Was Price?

Still, I know it takes a lot to pull for this team. You can’t afford to love a player or he’s gone. I don’t dismiss that. Bit the Rays live on the edge. It’s a risky way to live.

Maybe the problem is me. I’ve accepted this as the Rays’ battle plan. I’ve been convinced there is no other way to survive that to obtain and develop (which the Rays haven’t done great at in recent years.)

Gary

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