Tampa Bay Rays: Archer Asks Sternberg to Increase Budget

Apr 6, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg prior to the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg prior to the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer expressed some frustration in terms of his team spending money on the on-field product.

Chris Archer is quickly becoming the voice of the Tampa Bay Rays. He usually talks about the game of baseball but last week stepped out of that role to talk the Rays player salary budget.

The Tampa Bay Rays are scheduled to go into next season with one of the lowest salary budgets in major league baseball and Archer says that won’t cut it. He makes the case that more money means better players and a more competitive team.

However, that plea is probably going to fall on deaf ears as the man who signs off on the budget, Stu Sternberg has made it clear that no budget increase will happen until attendance increases and/or the Rays get a new stadium.

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Also, there’s no solid proof that spending money on players guarantees success. Last season, the New York Yankees spent over $200 million on players and didn’t make the playoffs. The Cleveland Indians spent less than half that much money and went to the World Series.

For their part, the Rays spent $64 million and finished dead last in the AL East. Cot’s Baseball Contracts clearly shows that the Rays have never been big spenders with payrolls ranging from $25 to $75 million over the past ten years.

However, as proof that money isn’t everything in baseball, the Rays went to the World Series in 2008 with a team payroll of $43 million.

What would the Rays do if Stu Sternberg suddenly got generous and increased the player payroll budget to $100 million? They probably wouldn’t do too much of significance because money doesn’t go very far in today’s major league baseball.

Only recently the Atlanta Braves spent $20 million on pitchers R. A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon. They had a combined record of 25-23 last year and are both over 40 years of age. That’s not exactly building for the future.

Plus, as shown above, salaries in major league baseball have skyrocketed. For 2017, the qualifying offer to free agents is set at $17.2 million for a one-year contract. That means the player is offered $17.2 million and and he can accept the offer or turn it down become a free agent.

Most of the players offered that option turn it down because they expect to be offered a multi year contract of $20 million a year or more. That includes players like Jose Bautista who is on the wrong side of 35, and is a liability as a position player plus, he is coming off a mediocre year at the plate.

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Finally, you don’t always get what you expect when you pay big bucks. Jason Heyward signed an eight-year,  $184 million contract last year with the Chicago Cubs. He had less than a stellar season and sat out much of the playoffs and World Series. You could look through baseball and find numerous similar performances.

All of this leads many teams such as the Rays to surf the scrape heap of major league players looking for a modest player who may have a breakout season.

The Rays have been leaders in baseball in this category and, to their credit, they have found a few gems such as Carlos Pena and Fernando Rodney. However, most have turned out to be busts such as Luke Walker. A player’s resume usually does not lie.

So, if the Rays had more salary money, how should they use it?

First of all, they should hang on to quality players through at least five of their controllable years. Right now a player like Jake Odorizzi is seen to be making too much money after his first year of arbitration and is placed on the trading block. That’s a shame and the team should hold on to him through most of his controllable years.

Secondly, the team should have the flexibility to offer contract extensions to talented young players such as Odorizzi and Kevin Kiermaier. Hanging on to core players as for as long as you can is a better answer to winning than making a splash with high risk/high reward free agent.

If you hang onto your core players and make intelligent trades and draft choices, you can produce a winner with a salary budget that ranges between $75 million and $100 million.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Will Fill Team Needs via Trades

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Budget $60 million or less and you will have to get lucky to win. If Stu Sternberg wants to produce a winner, he will go with the first plan. If he is only concerned with his balance sheet, he will go with the second.