Top starter Chris Archer had some strong words Thursday for his Rays bosses, most pointedly saying "we've got to spend more money" to win.
He also questioned whether they are fully committed to fielding an annual contender and noting that their common citing of the "competitive disadvantage" they face as a small-market team has had a negative effect on the players' psyche.
Archer, in making his initial comments to SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio, sounded — at a time when trade rumors have started percolating — like a man looking to talk, if not pitch, himself into a new home.
But later, in speaking to the Tampa Bay Times, Archer said he spoke out because he is confident — hinting maybe even assured — he won't be dealt and, in turn, wants to prod ownership and management, after three straight losing seasons, to make necessary improvements.
"I have very, very good insight and feeling that I'm going to be a Ray for 2017," he said. "In order to have the most fun and for it to be most desirable for everybody, these are some of the things that we should do."
Archer isn't expecting the Rays to suddenly double their $70 million or so payroll, instead suggesting they spend wisely to fill their primary holes — bullpen, catcher, leftfield/DH — with proven, established players.
"I'm not saying we have to sign somebody for $30 mil; I'm saying let's find the piece that fits and spend the money on it," he said. "We're searching for these things, but a lot of them are right there in front of us. We have to be willing to stretch beyond what we've done here recently."
Who? How? Archer didn't get into specific names or positions. And he wisely made points of saying he very much likes the Rays' core and a return to contention must include better work by him and the other starters.
But there are examples: Last offseason, veteran hitters Mike Napoli (Indians), Ian Desmond (Rangers) and Pedro Alvarez (Orioles) signed for $8 million or less and made impacts.
Whether the Rays do something like that will be part of their narrative the next few months, given principal owner Stuart Sternberg stating that the payroll "ain't going up" and baseball operations president Matt Silverman saying they are "hell-bent" on improving but most likely through trades, meaning any additions will come at a cost elsewhere.
Clearly, Archer, signed with options for five more years at an extremely reasonable $38.5 million, wants to see some things from this bosses:
One, that they stop talking about the "competitive disadvantage" they face, especially when they have advantages in scouting and creative thinking.
"I get it. We might not be capable of spending with the Yankees and Red Sox," he said. "But if we keep harping on it, then it permeates the minds of the players. And we don't want the players to think that we're at any competitive disadvantage."
Two, that they talk and act like they are committed to winning annually rather than routinely trading or letting go key players. "With all those moves, you're unsure, like, are we trying to do this, are we rebuilding, are we in between?" Archer said. "We're looking at it just like the fans are. … Sometimes I think it's in question."
Archer's initial radio comments evolved from an answer to a question about what he believed the Rays needed to improve, but it's logical to assume that fans, staff, even teammates believed he was speaking for them. Now it will be interesting to see if his bosses respond.
BRAVES: Former NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey agreed to a one-year deal. The 42-year-old knuckleballer spent the past four years with the Blue Jays.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.