So far, the 2014 offseason has seen Andrew Friedman and the Tampa Bay Rays be more aggressive than they ever have in the past. In acquiring Ryan Hanigan and Heath Bell and re-signing David DeJesus, Jose Molina, and James Loney to multi-year deals, the Rays have shown that they want to upgrade even further over a team that won 92 games in 2013. Not only this, but the Rays are still being mentioned in rumors about other free agents that remain on the market. Another big story is that David Price has not yet been traded. In fact, Price has not even received a ton of interest, at least publicly. Put all of this together, and maybe the Rays are going “all-in” in 2014.
Everyone knows the Rays always have, and will have for at least the foreseeable future, issues drawing fans to the ballpark. Because of this, their payroll consistently ranks towards the bottom of the league. As they stand right now, the Tampa Bay Rays will break their payroll record set in 2010 of $72 million next year. Their payroll projection for 2014 is currently at around $75-78 million, and could increase further if they sign another player or two off of the free agent market. This number does not even count the $4 million that Price is currently owed in deferred money from 2013. Of course, this could all change if Price and his projected $13-14 million dollar salary are sent elsewhere. This number also could be inflated from their annual norm of around $60 million dollars because of a new TV deal that nets each team an extra $25 million dollars a year beginning in 2014. That being said, the Rays were not expected to raise payroll significantly after owner Stuart Sternberg made some negative comments in September on the Rays’ attendance woes. But maybe he has changed his mind, and the Rays are going to make a significant run at the World Series in 2014.
Don’t get me wrong, the Rays are not going to try to win next year and simply sell out after that. In fact, the Rays currently have every starting pitcher and starting position player currently locked up for at least two more years, an incredible feat. But, a huge indicator that the Rays are trying to win is the fact that David Price and his rising salary have not been traded yet. It seems as if the Rays are content with keeping him for 2014, and only will trade him if they are absolutely blown out of the water by a trade offer. Of course, anything could be going on that is not known to the public, but so far we have only heard any significant rumors about Price going to the Seattle Mariners, and even then it seems like the Mariners want to talk more about prospects they won’t give up for him. Normally when an ace pitcher is available on the market, rumors are flying all over the place. But so far this offseason, we only saw a few rumors about Price during the winter meetings, and that was mainly about teams that were simply kicking the tires on him. While we started the offseason thinking he would surely get traded, it now looks iffy that Price will be moved, which means that maybe the Rays are going to keep him for a legitimate World Series run.
Another indicator that the Rays are trying to win now is the fact that even after making some hugely significant moves this offseason, it doesn’t seem that the Rays are done yet. They are still being rumored along with the likes of Grant Balfour, Mark Reynolds, and others. Of course, rumors are just rumors, but it is still surprising to see the Rays are even considering adding even more to their record breaking payroll. The Rays could make zero more signings the rest of this offseason and still have a 90+ win club in 2014. A player like Brandon Gomes is already a fairly capable major league arm, but obviously having an established 9th inning man in Balfour would be an obvious upgrade. Friedman is looking to improve the club even more, which shows they are wanting to make a run at the World Series next year. Maybe the Rays don’t end up making any more signings, but it is certainly a possibility as the offseason continues on.
All-in-all, don’t be surprised if the Rays make a huge run in 2014. Andrew Friedman is never going to do anything to significantly jeopardize the Rays future, but indications look like he may give up a little bit in the future to win big next year. This could all change if David Price is traded, but so far this offseason it continues to look more and more likely he will be back with the Rays in 2014. Add in the fact that the Rays are still looking to sign significant free agents, and it looks as if 2014 might be quite an exciting year to be a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays.