Despite entering the 2020 season with only five players on guaranteed contracts, the Tampa Bay Rays’ still have the best pipeline in the league.
In order to maintain any hope of being competitive, the Rays choose to utilize players under club control, develop talent, and trade them away for more talent. After being named MLB’s top farm system, look for them to continue forth in their ways.
They have shown time and time again they can cultivate talent and send them packing before it’s time to hand over the big bucks, taking full advantage of MLB’s delayed salary structure.
It’s incredible that most of the current roster makes around league minimum salary and still they are ranked the top minor league system in the Major Leagues. Their frugal ways can be frustrating to fans, but they appear to know what they are doing.
Chris Archer was on a very team-friendly contract (and still is) when the Rays sent him to Pittsburgh for three prospects. Two of those prospects, Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow became stars on a 96-win team last season. Regardless of whether or not Archer has pitched well, this was still a great trade.
By the way, how did they end up with Chris Archer? This is fun. Well, it starts with Delmon Young – yes, a player the Rays actually drafted. Let’s track the growth of the Delmon Young tree, starting with the seed of Delmon Young… as in a tree…it’s a metaphor for the… Never mind.
The (trade) Seed of Delmon Young
- Delmon Young drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2003.
- November 28th, 2007, the Rays traded Delmon Young following his rookie season, for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett. Garza and Bartlett were key pieces in the franchise’s turnaround and eventual World Series appearance in 2008.
- Prior to the 2011 season, Garza and Bartlett were about to get paid adult money, by Major League Standards (long wait isn’t it?) so the Rays decided to trade them for lower-priced youngsters.
- The Rays traded Bartlett for Cole Figueroa, Brandon Gomes, Cesar Ramos, and Adam Russell.
- Garza was traded to the Cubs for Sam Fuld, Robinsons Chirinos, Hak-ju Lee, Brandon Guyer, and Chris Archer
- Archer was traded for Meadows and Glasnow and Shane Baz (2.99 ERA in 81 IP in Single-A) .
- Brandon Guyer was traded for two other players still in Tampa’s minor league system.
They turned one player into many, many talented players. ESPN did a WAR analysis of the trade. They determined the Rays trade of Delmon Young led to a total WAR of 40.8 plus players currently in the system. That number also didn’t include Meadows, Glasnow, and Baz’s ongoing (and future) contributions. So, the Delmon Young trade is still racking up the WAR.
They have turned one into two, then turned two into four. By the looks of their current roster construction and quality farm system, they should continue to move young, talented players around the league in return for players with more club control and with similar or better production.
The Rays have a firm grasp of how player contracts are structured and when it is time to move on from a player (right before they get paid). While it can hurt to see players rise to stardom in Tampa only to be traded away for a handful of prospects, those are the methods that led to 96 wins last season.
Which of the Rays’ young players do you think the Rays will move in the near future? Let us know in the comments below!