Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Trade deadline suggestion: Stay the course

Staying the course is never easy. It wasn't easy last year when the Rays were in first place, trying to hold off the Red Sox.  The 2008 team had some holes. They needed a right handed bat. They could've used a solid closer.  Those holes led to rumors.  This closer is coming here for so-so. That team wants some unknown prospects for the right-handed right fielder.  We've got to make a move! The Red Sox are dealing, so should we.  The Yankees are making moves, we need to slow them down.  In the end, the Rays front office didn't get any major moves done. Yet, the Rays still won the Al East.  The Rays still went to the World Series.  The Rays still finished better than the wheeling and dealing teams.

Fast-forward to 2009.  These Rays don't have as many glaring holes as the 2008 Rays, yet they're in 3rd place.  Panic is setting in.  And the rumors are flying again. Big names. Big prices. To read some publications, you would think Andrew Friedman is on the phone non-stop, figuring out ways to get Cliff Lee for Scott Kazmir.  Or Victor Martinez for Carlos Pena. Or even Carl Crawford for Roy Halladay. What a deal, right?

I'm going to say that none of those deals really make any since in the long run.  Would I like to see Roy Halladay in a Rays uniform? Of course. Would I like to gut the farm system to make it happen? No.  Would I like to see the Rays trade Carl Crawford for Roy Halladay? No.

Here's the deal.  The Rays are a talented team.  There is no doubt that this group of guys has what it takes to compete with the Yankees and the Red Sox.  This is a team that struggled in April and has been playing catch-up ever since.  This is a team that is capable of going on a run and scooting right past the Yankees and the Red Sox.  It's also a team that has a friendly August and September schedule to do just that.  The Rays don't need to mortgage the future now. They just need the players they have to play better.

And then there are those who say the Rays should start selling. Get rid of Kazmir. Trade Crawford. Dump salary. Start over.  I disagree.  The Rays are still very much in this race.  They are 9 games above .500.  They have plenty of games left against the teams ahead of them. It would be foolish for the team to give up on the season right now.  

What kind of message would that send to the locker room? What kind of message would that send to the entire team? Guess what guys? You're playing good ball... but, not good enough. We have standards. You'd better be in first place by the trade deadline or we're throwing in the towel.

As for those who say the Rays can't afford to keep the roster, I would like to remind everyone that baseball does *not* have a salary cap.  The only spending limitations the Rays have are their own, self-imposed limits. Limits that Stu Sternberg has already shown willing to break. We don't know what goes on inside the Rays front office.  This is a team looking to get a stadium. They're not going to have a fire sale with some of their most bankable stars.  Sternberg didn't buy this team as an investment. He bought it because he wants to own a baseball team.  And that means he wants to win.  Am I suggesting that he's going to go deep into a hole? No. I'm suggesting that the Rays are more flexible on payroll than you might think.

Maybe I'm just a little too loyal. Maybe I don't get the "business" side of things. But, I just think it would be a travesty to trade Carl Crawford or Carlos Pena or Scotty Kazmir in the next couple of days. It would be overreacting. Stay the course. Catch fire. Return to the playoffs. This team has the talent as it stands right now.

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