One of the realities facing the Tampa Bay Rays are their payroll restrictions. As much as the Rays may want to hang on to their players, they simply are not able to do so due to their economic situation. And, as much as one may want to ignore it, that reality may be one of the key factor in the Rays decision to trade James Shields and Wade Davis.
Shields is slated to earn a total of $21Million over the next two years, a bargain for a pitcher of his caliber. Davis is due a total of $32.6Million over the next five seasons, if his three team options are picked up, and is also a reasonable sum for what the Rays anticipated him to become as a starter. Yet, given the soon to be rising salaries of players such as David Price and Jeremy Hellickson, the contracts to Shields and Davis may have hindered the Rays ability to keep both Price and Hellickson.
As it stands, the Rays have removed approximately $28Million from last year’s payroll. Even with the trade for Yunel Escobar, the resigning of Joel Peralta, and the signing of James Loney, the Rays are scheduled to spend roughly $18Million less than their obligations last year.
Naturally, some of that will be going to Price, as his salary is going to increase through this round of arbitration. However, this trade may provide more than just temporary salary relief. By moving Shields and Davis, the Rays may have enough room to look towards an extension with Price. Price has publicly stated his desire to remain in Tampa; however, he may not have been able to with his future salary demands. Now, there may be enough payroll flexibility to keep Price as a Ray beyond 2014.
The Rays also have bought more time with the players they have received. Davis and Shields had seven years of team control remaining, while they brought back 24 years of control with Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard. Perhaps just as important, they will be able to save over the next few years, as the Rays will have time before each player hits arbitration. Of course, there is also the possibility that the Rays look to sign one or more of these players to a long term deal before that time, much like they did with Evan Longoria and Matt Moore.
While trading James Shields and Wade Davis may have been mostly a baseball move, the financial aspect of the trade cannot be ignored. And should that lead to the Rays being able to retain key components of their success, then that is an added benefit.