Sunday, February 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

It's time for Rays to start selling

ST. PETERSBURG

Sell.

Sell now.

Sell pretty much everyone.

Mark down the infielders. Discount the outfielders. Run a blue-light special on the pitchers. Slash the prices on the bullpen. Print coupons. Offer two-for-one deals. Turn Tropicana Field into Crazy Andy's House of Bargains.

Sell vigorously. Sell desperately. Sell furiously.

It is time, before a bad season settles into a bad reality. The dead-last Rays, 17 games under .500 and sinking like a rock in water, lost another game Wednesday afternoon. This time, it was 2-0, and the Rays gave every impression they would not have scored if the game had gone on until a week from Sunday. If then.

Remember 2008, the year the Rays came from nowhere? Evidently, this is the year when they go back. There has never been a season as disappointing as this one for the Rays, not the Hit Show, not the 106-loss season. None of them. If it gets any worse, Ben Grieve is going to start in rightfield again.

And so you start over again. You exhale, and you grab a fresh canvas. You swallow hard, and you begin again.

You trade David Price.

You trade Ben Zobrist.

You trade Matt Joyce.

Most importantly, you try to trade in today for a better day.

Look, this is not about assigning blame for the season that has wandered off course. There was nothing wrong with the Rays trying to squeeze one more good season out of their window. If nothing else, executive vice president Andrew Friedman has been smart enough to deserve that. It was as big a surprise to him as to anyone that the pitching rotation would be shredded, and the offense wouldn't be good enough, and the bullpen would suffer, and the defense would be sporadic.

That said, the pressure on Friedman is as great as ever, because this doesn't just look like a team having an off season. This looks like a team whose shortcomings have caught up with it. This looks like a team that doesn't have enough power, enough speed or enough clutch hitting to survive. This looks like a team where the focus fades in and out like bad radio reception. This looks like a team that has worked very hard for last place.

And so, some five weeks before the trading deadline, it is time for Friedman to let the rest of the American League know that his guys can be had for the right price. And his Price can be had for the right guys.

Yes, the Rays are better than this. But are they good? Ask yourself: Where are all the All-Stars here? Where is all the greatness? Where are the teams that make the Yankees quake in the night?

Be honest: If you were ranking the teams of the American League, where would you have the Rays? Tenth? Twelfth? Fourteenth?

Do not fool yourself by the familiarity of the names. Look at the production. It isn't there.

So what can you do?

You trade Grant Balfour.

You trade James Loney.

You trade Yunel Escobar.

Sadly, it is time for the Rays to reload. Price will be gone soon enough as it is. It is time to see what his return might be. Might a contender who can smell success offer more than another one might in the offseason? It is time to see.

Zobrist, while short of being a star, could bring something in return. Same with Joyce. Put it this way: Do you see the Rays winning big with those guys? Really?

Ask yourself: Have you ever seen a team that hits less with men in scoring position? Desmond Jennings and Sean Rodriguez are hitting .226, and David DeJesus is hitting .222, and Escobar is hitting .197, and Zobrist is hitting .105, and Kevin Kiermaier is hitting .091, and Jose Molina is hitting .031.

Frankly, there has been enough talk about bad luck and bad breaks. This is how a last-place team looks, and this is how a last-place team plays.

So you gather a few assets. Evan Longoria. Alex Cobb. Chris Archer. Wil Myers. Matt Moore. You hang onto them. And you try to rebuild around them.

In another era, the Rays held onto Carl Crawford instead of trading him. In one after that, they held onto B.J. Upton instead of trading him. Both times, however, the playoffs were at stake. This time, they are not.

So you trade DeJesus.

You trade Juan Carlos Oviedo.

Maybe you even trade Jennings.

No, the Rays are not a team that usually deals in widespread changes. They are normally not reactionary. They have survived because they are one of the least reckless teams in the major leagues.

Then again, the current regime has never been in this deep a hole before. And so they should think about trading almost everyone.

In particular, they should try to trade last place.

You know, before it moves in for good.

Comments
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