Sunday, April 22, 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
Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Members of the Rays organization sent their thoughts and prayers to former teammate Danny Farquhar, who was hospitalized Saturday night in Chicago in stable but critical condition after suffering a brain hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm.Farqu...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays on Sunday: 1:10 vs. Twins

Rays on Sunday: 1:10 vs. Twins

Sunday vs. Twins1:10, Tropicana FieldTV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 760-AM (Spanish)Tickets: $20-$300; available at Tropicana Field box office, raysbaseball.com, surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of game.Promotion: Mascot socks for kids 14 a...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays’ 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays’ 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

* Is it time to take the leap and believe this is the real Blake Snell? He talked a good game this spring and pitched well in his debut, but that rough second outing raised old doubts. But a good outing in Chicago and two dominant ones on the homesta...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

When the Rays, in the opening weekend of their 20th anniversary celebration season, brought back and honored the inaugural 1998 Devil Rays squad, it got us thinking unexpected thoughts, such as which was a better team:The first one, or the current on...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

ST. PETERSBURG – Let's be clear here, the Rays still have a long way to go, and a lot of ground to make up.But seeing them play like they did Saturday in beating the Twins 10-1, putting on a solid all-around show in cobbling their first three-g...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rays will go forth with four starters

Rays will go forth with four starters

ST. PETERSBURG — Three weeks was enough for the Rays to officially ditch their three-man rotation plan.Starting Sunday, they will go forth with Yonny Chirinos as their fourth starter.Which is a five-star idea.The flaws in the three-man plan ...
Published: 04/21/18
For starters: Rays vs. Twins, with a familiar look

For starters: Rays vs. Twins, with a familiar look

UPDATE, 4:17: CF Kevin Kiermaier was back at the Trop, and at one point on the field with a glove on his left hand and protective wrapping on his right, the day after surgery to repair a torn UCL in his right thumb. He said the surgery went "as good ...
Published: 04/21/18
Rays will go forth with Chirinos as fourth starter

Rays will go forth with Chirinos as fourth starter

The Rays have made it official – or as official as things can be with them – in naming RHP Yonny Chirinos as the fourth starter in their rotation.The Rays had been using three, and two "Bullpen Day" slots when playing five straight days.B...
Published: 04/21/18
Archer’s sparkling start precedes surreal finish

Archer’s sparkling start precedes surreal finish

By now, we presume you've had a few hours to digest the Rays' improbable 10-inning triumph Friday night.So instead of rehashing the whole bizarre body of work, how 'bout a closer look at the workmanship. Specifically, Chris Archer's.Partially lost in...
Published: 04/21/18
Now Batting in Double A: Biggio, Bichette and Guerrero

Now Batting in Double A: Biggio, Bichette and Guerrero

HARTFORD, Conn. — Craig Breslow is 37 years old, with a dozen years of experience as a left-handed reliever in the major leagues. He is pitching now for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, just getting to know his teammates. In their openin...
Published: 04/21/18