Is it Time to Break Up the Tampa Bay Rays?


Last Tuesday’s Tampa Bay Times featured a piece by sports columnist Gary Shelton entitled “Time to Post ‘for sale’ sign at the Trop.” He opines that this is a flawed offensive team that can’t hit for power, has little speed, and no clutch hitting. So, with that in mind anyone whose name is not Matt Moore, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Wil Myers, or Evan Longoria should go on the field with a “for sale” sign around their neck.

I’m not so sure I would go that far, but I get his point. This team is the worst team in baseball right now and while they have shown a little life in the last few games, they continue to leave a boatload of runs on base. In the first inning of the opener against the Astros, the Rays had runners on first and third, nobody out and the middle of the order up. The result was two strikeouts and a comebacker to the pitcher. They were one for ten with runners in scoring position for the game. That’s not going to get this team to .500 let alone the playoffs.

So, with all that said, why not take Mr. Shelton’s advice and ship out David Price and most of the starting lineup for a bunch of fresh young players and retool based around, even without Price, a young and very good starting pitching staff? First of all, I don’t believe the team is all that bad. Remember that Sports Illustrated picked the Tampa Bay Rays in December to be the best team in the AL. The starting pitching looked to be spectacular and the offense looked like there was a solid bat at each spot in order. James Loney, David DeJesus, Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar were veterans with 162 game batting averages over .260 and OPS’s of over .700. Combine that with middle of the order power from Longoria, Myers, and Joyce and it looked like there would be a lot of “boppin” at the Trop.

Sadly, that never happened. What took its place was a Bermuda Triangle of pitching injuries, sloppy defense at critical times, and absolutely lousy clutch hitting. Why the defense went from superb to sloppy, we’ll never know. The offense failed mainly because the middle of order power never materialized and the rest of the offense were not power RBI guys and couldn’t carry the team. The lack of speed and the failure to play small ball didn’t help.

So, where does this team go from here? You can forget about the playoffs this year but I think that with the correct strategy a few moves can right the ship for 2015. My moves would include:

  1. Trade David Price for solid middle of the order power hitter. Forget about trying for multiple prospects, go for that one solid hitter. Think Gregory Polanco!
  2. Trade Ben Zobrist for multiple prospects. I hate to see him go but he’s the only other player who will bring the team or three good young players.
  3. Trade Matt Joyce for a prospect. Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer need to play more.
  4. Give Desmond Jennings 30 days to pick up his game or he too goes for a prospect. The team waited forever for B. J. Upton to develop. It never happened and they got nothing for him but a draft pick.

Further, I think you keep David DeJesus, James Loney, Escobar, and Ryan Hanigan because you just can’t get more solid players for the price and if they are not asked to do too much, they will be fine. I could go on with a host of other changes on the bench and in the bullpen, but there is little to be gained from trying to trade a bunch of underperforming middle relievers and utility players.

In the end, I get Mr. Shelton’s point about cleaning house and it makes for a good column. However, I don’t think the Tampa Bay Rays are going to panic and I don’t think Andrew Friedman suddenly lost it. I think he just got caught in the perfect storm and we are going to have to ride it out for the rest of 2014 while preparing for 2015.