|All about Now for Rays||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on August 14, 2010
Break up the Rays. Actually there is no need for anyone to make that call and say that the Rays are too good, even though they are and they are challenging the Yankees and their $200 million payroll for the title of best team in all of baseball. After all these Rays will be disbanded after the 2010 season, maybe even before if they manage to fall five or more games behind the Yankees before the month is out.
The fact that they are still together and in the thick of the playoff hunt is a tribute to how good they really are and how GM Andrew Friedman hopes to make one more big splash -- ideally a World Series splash before the financial realities set in and this team is forced to rebuild once again.
And while the bad old days aren't likely to come back with a vengeance -- the Rays system is too deep for that -- the Rays are looking at a future which sees their stars walking away year after year. It's not what ownership wants, it's not what the general manager wants and it's certainly not what the fans want. It's an ugly reality. As great a city as Tampa Bay is, it just can't financially support the payroll that the Rays currently have -- at least not with their current stadium.
The slashing is going to be dramatic as the team is expected to cut payroll from the current $73 million down to something in the high $40s to low $50 million range. Almost certainly that mean that the team will shed veterans Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, while also likely to be on the chopping block will be closer Rafael Soriano, reliever Chad Qualls and shortstop Jason Bartlett.
That will force the Rays to rely a lot more on their rookies and inexperienced players, something almost certain to show in the standings despite the organization's outstanding player development system and deep farm.
It turns 2010 into a season where the team might as well shoot for the stars, because it might well be a long time before they get this close to them again.
Getting there might well be a problem especially now that sore shoulders have landed both Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann on the 15 day DL. That will force them to start leaning on the rookies and less experienced players a little bit sooner than expected. The promotion of Jeremy Hellickson wasn't supposed to be a key one for this team. They wanted to give him a little more time to grow, to offer him a sprinkling of relief innings the rest of the way while preparing him to be a starter for the 2011 season.
Now it is a key. Without Davis and Niemann, either of whom might be seriously hurt despite the organization's spin, Hellickson in many ways becomes the key man. He'll have to shoulder his share of the burden if the Rays hope to compete with the big boys the rest of the way.
He certainly looked good in his debut, but the pressure wasn't quite as high as it is now. If he can handle it the Rays seem a lock for at least the Wild Card. If they can do that, then who knows? Maybe this Rays dynasty can say goodbye with that big splash that ownership wants and needs, something that may be enough to really push plans for a new stadium forward.
That's something the team desperately needs as the team currently plays in one of the least fan friendly, and least revenue generating stadiums in the game. It's been estimated that the Rays are losing out on somewhere between $25-40 million in annual revenue because of the ballpark which lacks in modern amenities and has few, not to mention low quality, luxury suites.
While having those amenities wouldn't allow the Rays to spend $150 or even $120 million in payroll, it would be enough to assure cover a higher payroll and allow the team to keep more of its stars and remain competitive in baseball's toughest division.