Let me preface this article by saying the Tampa Bay Times normally does a great job covering the Rays. Led by beat writer Marc Topkin, they provide insightful analysis and 24-hour coverage of the Rays. However, a recent article from the Tampa Bay Times by Gary Shelton was not up to their usual high quality. In this article Shelton said that the Rays should “Sell. Sell now. Sell pretty much everyone… Sell vigorously. Sell desperately. Sell furiously”. He would go on to suggest that “You trade David Price. You trade Matt Joyce. You trade Ben Zobrist… You trade Grant Balfour. You trade James Loney. You trade Yunel Escobar… So you trade DeJesus. You trade Juan Carlos Oviedo. Maybe you even trade Jennings.” I’m sorry Mr. Shelton, but the Rays are not having a fire sale.
The Tampa Bay Rays came into this season with expectations of making a World Series run. They have definitely disappointed, as their 30-46 record is worst in the big leagues, and they are pretty much out of contention even though we are still in mid-June. That being said, this team still has all the talent that made them AL East favorites heading into this year. Simply put- everything that could have gone wrong this year has gone wrong. Their veteran superstars are not playing like superstars, their young players are not living up to their potentials, the heralded offseason moves have for the most part underperformed, and to top it all of they have suffered costly injuries to the likes of Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Wil Myers, and David DeJesus over the course of the season. Here’s the thing- the Rays only have TWO players scheduled to be a free agent after this season in Oviedo and Erik Bedard. They can easily take the majority of this year’s team into next year and hope that players can bounce back and they can experience better luck. This group of players still has the potential to be a very good team- that is why the Rays are not going to have a fire sale.
The Rays are probably going to make a major trade or two- but it won’t be a fire sale. Zobrist is likely not going anywhere unless the Rays are blown out of the water by an offer, as there are few, if any, teams that value Zobrist more than the Rays do. The same goes for Loney- who the Rays just signed to a 3-year deal this past offseason. Balfour certainly isn’t going anywhere given his struggles, as the Rays never sell low on players. The Rays just extended Escobar, and with no apparent replacement at shortstop, he will not be traded. The Rays also not going to trade all three of Joyce, DeJesus, and Jennings, though trading one or two of them is a possibility. I’ll say it again- the Rays are not going to have a fire sale.
All of that being said, it is unrealistic to expect the Rays to go without making a trade or two at the trade deadline this year as well as during this upcoming offseason. Price seems the most likely given his rising salary and the likelihood that he would bring a big haul in return. However, this is the type of trade the Rays have made in the past- and they always end up winning them big. The Rays could also trade an outfielder or two like DeJesus, Joyce, and Jennings to open up playing time for younger guys such as Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Guyer, and Mikie Mahtook. But, that might make the team even better, as they could deal from an area of strength in the system and add to an area of weakness. Also Oviedo is a definite trade candidate in time working up to the trade deadline given his status as an impending free agent. The Rays are not going to “rebuild” like Shelton says they should, rather they are going to make smart trades that they would likely make even if they were winning games. The only difference is that they could occur prior to the trade deadline rather than waiting until this offseason to make them.
All-in-all, the Tampa Bay Rays are going to be smart and not completely tear apart the team. Yes trades are likely, and even a couple of major ones are probably going to occur. But, the Rays are not selling out on 2015 and going into rebuild move. As for the “fire sale” that Gary Shelton suggests- it isn’t going to happen. In the end, we all know that the Rays will make the right move by retaining the majority of their team and retooling for a big run in 2015.