I read an interesting note on MLBTradeRumors.com this morning. Apparently ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting that in the wake of the Rays trading Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs other clubs will now “warily approach” making trades with the Rays because they are a “savvy organization.” I guess the fact that Sam Fuld sat in their minor league system for so long only to earn a spot on the Rays and ignite their offense has them shaking their collective heads.
I’m not the only person who has said it, but I wanted this blog to be called “Rays Colored Glasses” because I believe the Rays are the savviest management team in the game right now. Every move, while not always successful, has been calculating. Their focus on player evaluation has consistently turned up diamonds in the rough, to the point where you’d think they (diamonds) were just laying around all over the bay area. Stu Sternberg’s executive team has been nothing short of brilliant.
It was obvious to few when he first took over the team, but Sternberg and team President Matthew Silverman had a plan. Many questioned the hiring of Andrew Friedman as Executive Director of Baseball Operations, but those in the know quickly changed their tune when Gerry Hunsicker was brought on board to help Friedman. Hunsicker, a career baseball executive, spearheaded the Rays efforts in building an international presence and is one of the major reasons they are so astute in player evaluations.
Baseball, as I have been told by many much smarter baseball minds than myself, is a marathon. Coming from a predominantly football background, not taking that line of thought has killed me in the past in fantasy baseball. I’ve slowly realized how important it is to look at the big picture and not make knee-jerk reactions to things, like the Rays 0-6 start as an example. Had that 0-6 happened in the middle of the season after a hot start, the Rays would have been “cooling down.” Instead everyone was saying “put a fork in them…” which as it looks now was a mistake. Prevailing “wisdom” throughout the hot stove league and into spring training was the Rays couldn’t survive in the uber-competitive AL East after losing Carl Crawford, Matt Garza and pretty much the entire bullpen, yet it is the Boston Red Sox sitting at the bottom of the dog pile right now and not the Rays. Boston was almost handed the AL crown by affirmation before the season started, and I’m pretty confident that they’ll not stay at the tail end of the AL East for long. However, when other teams start “warily approaching” the Rays in trade talks, it says a lot for how Stu and company have completely re-engineered Tampa.
A look at the recently announced MLB First Year Draft, to be held June 6th, is a great case in point. For many years the Rays locked down early draft positions by way of poor finishes. This year, even though their first pick isn’t until #24, they own 10 of the top 60 picks, including 24, 31, 32, 38, 41 and 42. There will certainly be plenty of talented players available for them to choose from and it provides a tremendous amount of leverage for trading up, down or out of picks for current prospects and players. With James Shields and B.J. Upton obvious trade targets around the All-Star break, the organization has an abundance of opportunities for reloading.
Many expect the Rays to be sellers this year. It could happen. A lot will depend on how the team is performing around the break. One thing is certain however. The Tampa Bay Rays are in incredibly capable hands, and those hands are massaging this team to be a perennial contender.