Did bad trades hasten the slide by the Rays?

by Gary Shelton on July 12, 2016 · 10 comments

in general

Tuesday, 6 a.m.

Once, they were a very good team.

Once, they had young talent and fresh energy. They had arms and gloves, and while they didn't hit nearly enough to keep their fans sane, they kept hanging up banners in the outfield. They were smarter than most teams, and better defensively than most, and it seemed as if it was going to last forever.

So what happened to the Tampa Bay Rays?

And did bad trades hasten their fall?

Oh, the empty seats will remind you that, yes, eventually, they would have to trade too much of their talent away. A team can't survive sticking that many

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players in the out bin, so yeah, that was part of it. The Rays dealt James Shields and David Price and Ben Zobrist and the like, and they're still waiting on their return. Shields was the heart of this team, and Price was the soul, and Zobrist, well, he was the conscience. Yeah, the Rays still miss them (it can see Price and Zobrist in tonight's all-star game if it wants).

But that's the conundrum with the Rays. They're forced to trade players away even if the trades aren't good ones. They just can't afford to hang onto their players at their prices.

So they enter the trading deadline, and it usually is a challenge to keep things afloat. Even this year, Rays' fans don't expect great players to come aboard, and if they do, they won't be ready until the year 2023 or so.

But how about their recent trades?

For instance, what about trading Wil Myers away?

The Rays didn't like Myers, to remind you. He didn't listen to coaches, and he didn't work hard enough. The Rays thought there was something lacking in Myers. But tonight, Myers will participate in the All-Star game. He's hitting .286 with 19 homers and 60 RBI. In other words, it's been a great deal for the Padres.

The Rays had given up a lot to get Myers, moving Shields and Wade Davis in their deal with Kansas City. But when Tampa Bay traded him away, they got the rights to Steven Souza, to Rene Rivera, to minor league relief pitcher Burch Smith and minor leagues Travis Ott and Jake Bauers.

For the Rays, it hasn't exactly been like trading away Delmon Young for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett. Rivera was released. Smith had Tommy John surgery. Souza is eighth in the AL in strikeouts. Bauers is hitting .288 in the minors.

Then there was the trade of David Price. Considering that Price makes $31 million a year, you might think more teams valued him higher. But the Rays were able only to get Drew Smyly (2-10), Nick Franklin (having a decent season after a lost year a year ago) and minor league Willie Adames, who is hitting .288 in the minors.

Also, the Rays are waiting for their complete return in the trade of Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the A's for John Jason (who left), minor leaguers Boog Powell and Daniel Robertson, hitting .254 in the minors.

It is the acquisitions of Adames and Robertson that will eventually tell us whether the Rays got enough (along with saved salaries) for Zobrist and Escobar. It's foolish to decide now.

So far, however, the Rays look like a team that was trying to replace the holes in its farm system. Maybe that will work out. For 2016, however, the major league team isn't celebrating.

Then the Rays traded away pitcher Nathan Karns, reliever C.J. Riefenhauser and minor-leaguer Powell for Logan Morrison, Brad Miller and reliever Danny Farquhar. You can split hairs on that trade. Karns is 6-2, and the Rays could use him in the rotation. But he also has a 4.57 ERA. Meanwhile, Morrison is hitting .236 and Miller .241.

Oh, there were a slight win. You have to like the thought of trading Jake McGee for Corey Dickerson, don't you? McGee is 0-3 and has a 6.12 era. He's given up 32 hits in 25 innings. Dickerson isn't hitting for near enough average (.230), but the Rays did okay.

The point, it seems, is that a team isn't well off when it starts to trade to try to fill holes from its minor leagues. It isn't strong when it has to trade away its stars. It isn't smart when it trades away its run prevention for a few extra home runs.

In all, it has traded away the playoffs for the cellar.

That isn't a good deal, either.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller July 13, 2016 at 10:08 pm

Is there another team in baseball that consistently trades away good players because they can’t afford them? The larger question is can this area support an MLB team? The longer I see empty seats game after game at the Trop I think not. We had a great run for 6 years but the rest of the league has caught up to the Rays innovative ways & our lack of fan support is going to doom this franchise. Building a new stadium is only a temporary fix. We have no chance in a sport without a salary cap.

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Gary Shelton July 14, 2016 at 1:41 pm

There are others who are watch a strict budget. The A’s. The Twins. Both the Astros and Marlins have lower payrolls. I just don’t think a team has been as blatant about trading away salary lately as the Rays. Part of that is their success. But part of it is the market. By the way, there were empty seats during that six year run, too. Winning hasn’t had played a major role in fans not coming.

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Larry Beller July 14, 2016 at 4:20 pm

I know the attendance has not been great even in the good years but it’s really been awful since the economy tanked & the Rays stopped being as competitive. This is a great area to live but it’s not much of a market for MLB. Everyone is talking about a new stadium like that will be the solution but I wonder if during the Rays research for possible stadium sites they are finding the potential for increased attendance is limited. Miami totally botched their stadium relocation. I was at a game there. Beautiful stadium in a lousy area that very few people care to drive to. I wish there was a crystal ball to tell us how this will turn out but my radar tells me there is a real possibility that the Rays could be sold & move in the next few years. Any thoughts on that?

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Gary Shelton July 14, 2016 at 5:39 pm

Larry, in 2008, the Rays drew 1.78 million. This year, they’re drawing 1.66. So there really hasn’t been that much difference between losing and winning. No, it isn’t a great market for MLB. I’ve always been of the opinion that a new stadium will help some, but no, it won’t cure all You can’t convince me there are thousands upon thousands of fans just waiting on the other side of the bridge, but they’re all too shy to drive to St. Pete. It doesn’t make sense. I think anything new gets a bit of a boost, and the population circle is bigger. But, no every night won’t be a sellout. As far selling and moving? Of course that’s a possibility. That’s why the newspaper carries attendance figures when it ticks fans off to read it. No one should wake up and say “Gee, you didn’t tell us it might move.” Hell, everyone’s telling fans that.

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Larry Beller July 15, 2016 at 5:27 pm

Ok, I promise this is the last comment. Rob Manfred said at the All-Star game that baseball expansion should be pushed back until the situations with teams working on new stadiums is resolved. He commented further on Oakland working on a new stadium to stay in Oakland but to my knowledge said nothing about the Rays new stadium site search that would keep them in this area. Could this be code for the decision has been made that Rays new stadium is not going to be in this area? I mean why would expansion have any impact if not for the fact that MLB thinks the Rays will be relocating soon?

Howard Powders July 12, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Of course! You can’t trade away your best players, year after year, and expect anything more than a cellar dweller as the inevitable result. How could they trade away Ben Zobrist? The guy was pure gold-for the team-and the Tampa Bay community at large.

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Gary Shelton July 12, 2016 at 7:44 pm

They traded him because his price grew too high.

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Gary Shelton July 15, 2016 at 6:33 pm

I don’t blame you for being suspicious. It’s easy to be careful in this discussion. I was at Manfred’s press conference earlier this year, however, and not much has changed since then. I still think the steps are that the Rays 1) Look in Tampa; 2) Meet with politicians from outside the area, 3) sell the team, 4) move. That’s possible, and it’s the reason you don’t expand until you know for sure. This was never going to be a quick process, Larry.

Here’s the bottom line. Most of us would have considered moving this team a long time ago. We’re waiting for the Rays’ owners to reach a similar conclusion..

And you never have to make a last comment here, Larry.

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Larry Beller July 16, 2016 at 8:35 am

Thank you. I’ve been waiting a long time for someone in the local media to acknowledge what seems painfully obvious about this franchise. It will be a sad day when the moving vans do come. Maybe after a few more bad seasons like this one it will be a relief on some level.

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Gary Shelton July 16, 2016 at 8:43 am

I disagree. Bad baseball is better than no baseball. Those Julys will get empty pretty quickly with no game.

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