Monday, July 16, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Should the Rays consider tanking? Recent history says ‘maybe’

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays spent considerable time and assets last season and, to a lesser degree, the previous couple trying to get the 85-88 wins necessary to squeeze their way into the playoffs.

But here’s a question, based on the teams that celebrated the past two World Series championships, worth pondering:

Would they be better off trying to lose 100 games?

Just for a few years, anyway.

Stripping down their big-league roster and payroll, in trading their big-name players such as Evan Longoria, Chris Archer and Kevin Kiermaier, to where they don’t have any real chance of competing.

Benefitting from the ensuing high draft picks and financial flexibility.

And rebuilding a team stocked with young talent, positioned to afford adding supplementary parts and primed to win.

Tanking, as the cool kids call it.

It worked for the Cubs, who lost 91, 101, 96 and 89 games from 2011-14 before transitioning to a run that has led to three straight NLCS appearances, including the 2016 championship.

And it worked for the Astros, who lost 106, 107, 111 and 92 over the same period before making the playoffs in 2015 and winning it all in 2017, the vindication a subject of conversation Monday at the annual GM meetings.

"The plan we executed was the right plan for the Houston Astros," GM Jeff Luhnow said. "It certainly would not be the right plan for the other 29 clubs depending on their circumstances."

Could it work for the Rays?

Would it make sense to try?

"You spend some time thinking about it," Rays GM Erik Neander said, "because you’ve seen the recent outcomes of those clubs, and that’s something that shouldn’t be lost with this."

But, he quickly added, probably not.

With the organization still trying to show it can win since the October 2014 departures of Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon; with Neander taking charge of baseball operations this year; with manager Kevin Cash trying for a fourth time to finish on the plus side of .500; and with a new stadium potentially in play during the next year, the Rays may not be able to afford to do so.

Instead, Neander suggests they can find a less painful way, however much trickier it is, to rebuild, limit costs and remain competitive.

Kind of like the Indians, who’ve made the playoffs three times in a run of five straight winning seasons, have done.

"Despite being in a relatively small market, they never truly tore it down," Neander said. "They went into each year, some years with a weaker roster than other, but always a chance if things break right you put yourselves in a position."

He says the Rays have tried to do that each of the past four years, that they felt they had a chance if the right breaks went their way, and if the bad ones, such as Kiermaier’s wrist injury in 2016, didn’t happen.

"I don’t think it necessarily always has to come from tearing an organization down to the studs and then building it up," he said.

"While at the major-league level things have kind of been stuck somewhat in the middle and we recognize the perception of that, we’ve gone into the years having a chance, and all the while our minor-league system has gotten considerably stronger and put us in a position where some of the rewards of really taking a huge step back and rebuilding in full, we’re about to see some of the rewards of the farm system becoming stronger, better drafting, better signing internationally, trades, etc."

In other words, they don’t feel they have to get worse before they can get better and younger and cheaper, that "you can rebuild from payroll standpoint in a way that doesn’t necessarily force you to rebuild in terms of wins and losses on the field."

Maybe so. But the Cubs and the Astros have trophies to show their way worked.

Also:

• Perhaps due to the extensive number of staff changes around the game, Neander said trade talks seem slow developing this offseason, with the Rays still in the "info-gathering stage" of seeing what other teams are interested in.

• Pitcher Alex Cobb said he has yet to decide whether to take the Rays’ one-year $17.4 million qualifying offer or decline it to get a better deal in free agency, with the Rays getting draft pick compensation. FanRag Sports had reported Monday he had decided to decline, which still seems most likely.

Comments
Tune into the only All Star Game that matters

Tune into the only All Star Game that matters

Summer was for beach days and watermelons and shorty pajamas and fighting with my brother over who gets to sleep in front of the fan.And summer was for the MLB All-Star Game.They'll hold the Midsummer Classic on Tuesday night at Washington's National...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Live from Washington: Rays Blake Snell was under consideration for All-Star start

Live from Washington: Rays Blake Snell was under consideration for All-Star start

UPDATE, 2:33: AL manager A.J. Hinch said  Snell, even though he wasn't named to team until Friday, was in the mix to start the game, that he was "not too far behind," though Boston's Chris Sale was chosen.  Snell is likely to be 3rd pi...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays conclude surprising first half of season

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rays conclude surprising first half of season

A walkoff loss on Sunday is the Rays' third in four games to the Twins and brings the first half of the season to a close. The team enters the All-Star break a surprising two games over .500 but will be without All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos for ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Twins game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Twins game

There are times when Rays OF Carlos Gomez looks lackadaisical, but he made an urgent dash in from rightfield to near the mound when the benches first cleared and was ready for any action. Reminiscent of Jonny Gomes in '08.The loss is still what matte...
Published: 07/15/18
Rays journal: Twins grand slam ends heated game

Rays journal: Twins grand slam ends heated game

MINNEAPOLIS — That the Brian Dozier walkoff grand slam in the 10th inning that beat the Rays 11-7 was only part of the drama probably tells you all you need to know about Sunday's 4½-hour plus roller coaster ride, which included two benche...
Published: 07/15/18
Rays lose hot-tempered game to Twins 11-7 on walkoff grand slam

Rays lose hot-tempered game to Twins 11-7 on walkoff grand slam

MINNEAPOLIS – The Rays didn't have quite enough fight in them Sunday.Brian Dozier hit a walkoff grand slam in the 10th inning to give the Twins an 11-7 win in a back-and-forth and hot-tempered game that sent the Rays into the All-Star break at ...
Published: 07/15/18
Wilson Ramos injury is a giant pain for Rays

Wilson Ramos injury is a giant pain for Rays

MINNEAPOLIS — The immediate reaction around the Rays to the extent of catcher Wilson Ramos' hamstring injury is disappointment, everyone knowing how much he was looking forward to playing in Tuesday's All-Star Game in Washington.But they are li...
Published: 07/15/18
Rays Wilson Ramos is “going to miss some time”

Rays Wilson Ramos is “going to miss some time”

The Rays don't have an exact timetable yet for how long C Wilson Ramos will be sidelined, but it sounds like it could be weeks, or maybe even months, which could impact and possibly eliminate the opportunity to trade him."Not the best" news, manager ...
Published: 07/15/18
For starters: Rays at Twins, with a lot going on

For starters: Rays at Twins, with a lot going on

UPDATE, 1:03: Cash said it's "not the best" news on Ramos, who has a left hamstring issue. … No set timetable but "he's going to miss some time." … Duffy was scratched from the lineup after all, the Rays deciding not to risk a further iss...
Published: 07/15/18
Rays shuffle bullpen, acquire Hoby Milner, send down Chih-Wei Hu

Rays shuffle bullpen, acquire Hoby Milner, send down Chih-Wei Hu

The Rays went outside the the organization to add a fresh arm to the bullpen, acquiring LHP Hoby Milner from the Phillies on Saturday night for cash considerations.The Rays sent down RHP Chih-Wei Hu to make room on the 25-man roster and designated fo...
Published: 07/15/18