Monday, November 20, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Long-term deal for Loney a costly mistake by Rays

RECOMMENDED READING


Whether by trade for a small return or release, the Rays today will acknowledge an expensive mistake when they part ways with 1B James Loney, paying most, if not all, of his $8 million salary for him not to play for them.

In this case, the error was made in December 2013. Having gotten a solid return (.299 with 13 homers, 75 RBIs and a .778 on-base plus slugging percentage) after picking Loney up on the cheap ($2 million) the year before, the Rays wanted to keep him around.

But the price, in terms of dollars and years, climbed as other teams, the Brewers and Pirates specifically, were interested. Typically, the Rays walk away when that happens. I specifically remember a team official saying at those winter meetings they would not go to a third year.

But then they did. The three-year, $21 million deal struck by Andrew Friedman was technically the largest free agent signing the Rays have made during Stuart Sternberg's ownership.

Loney dropped off a bit offensively, and defensively, in 2014. But he seemed to fall considerably more out of favor with a further decline last year, even more so when the Rays allowed him to go home to California during a midseason DL stint and he came back noticeably out of shape.

As opportunities presented during the offseason for potential changes — with the additions of Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce to share first, with Corey Dickerson taking the DH at-bats they could have had — the Rays made the decision to move on. They have been trying ever since to trade Loney, with no bites.

If they do before today's noon deadline to set the 25-man roster, it will be only because a team (White Sox? Rockies? Astros? Pirates?) wanted to be sure to get him enough to give up something small, or pay some of that $8 million.

Otherwise, the Rays will end up releasing Loney, he'll sign elsewhere for the major-league minimum ($507,500), and the Rays will pay the rest. That puts Loney on an ignominious list with Pat Burrell and Grant Balfour as costly errors in judgment. Not a place of honor.

COOKING WITH GAS: In an (expensive) effort to provide more players with healthy food options, the Rays built a restaurant-style kitchen in the home clubhouse and hired a full-time chef.

Healthy eaters such as RHP Chris Archer and 3B Evan Longoria were among the players pleased with how the team reacted to the request, as nutrition has become an area of focus. In the past, most of the pre- and postgame food was restaurant catered, so there was little control over ingredients and limited variety.

"It's not going to 100 percent organic quinoa and kale, but there's going to be grilled chicken and fish, and there's going to be Philly cheesesteaks and bratwursts, too, instead of just that," Archer said. "So I think it was a huge move by them, really, looking out for the team like that."

MAKING A PITCH: Naming actor George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) as today's first-pitch tosser was obviously a marketing department move, given how every release says his appearance is "courtesy of Budweiser." Couldn't the Rays have done better? Commissioner Rob Manfred will be there but is said not to like that spotlight. Still, no politician? No former Rays great? (Dan Johnson, having given up on becoming a knuckleballer, is available.) No local celeb? What about newly elected football Hall of Famer Tony Dungy?

RAYS RUMBLINGS: In hosting a pair of sold-out exhibitions, Montreal folks were again chatting/fantasizing about the potential of the Rays relocating. But the weekend games could work to the Rays' benefit, as the Jays played there Friday-Saturday and weren't due back in St. Petersburg until late Saturday night. … C Rene Rivera handled his unexpected release last week very professionally, which is to his credit. … Four offseason acquisitions made the opening day lineup (SS Brad Miller, C Hank Conger, Dickerson, Morrison) and four others the roster (LHP Dana Eveland, RHP Danny Farquhar, RHP Ryan Webb, Pearce). … ESPN's Buster Olney picked Archer to win the AL Cy Young Award and LHP Blake Snell, who is starting at Triple A, the rookie of the year award. … ESPN counterpart Jim Bowden says Dickerson "will be a solid addition, but he won't provide the pop the Rays so badly need." … Four ex-Rays are on the Pirates: 1B John Jaso, OF Matt Joyce, LHP Kyle Lobstein and INF-OF Sean Rodriguez, with INF Cole Figueroa a potential fifth.

Comments
RHP Brent Honeywell among 6 set to be added to Rays 40-man roster

RHP Brent Honeywell among 6 set to be added to Rays 40-man roster

Top pitching prospect RHP Brent Honeywell and at least five others are set to be added to the Rays 40-man roster by tonight's 8 p.m. deadline, keeping them from being eligible for the Rule 5 draft.Honeywell, 22, had a solid season mostly at Triple-A ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

After collecting intelligence at last week’s GM meetings, the Rays soon will launch their offseason mission of trading at least a couple of veterans to reduce payroll.The question is how far they will go — how many players they deal, and how big of n...
Published: 11/18/17
Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

The Rays completed the reorganization of their coaching staff by giving Rocco Baldelli the title of major league field coordinator.In being promoted from first-base coach, Baldelli will implement ideas and information from the staff, while assisting ...
Published: 11/17/17
Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays were banking on pitcher Alex Cobb declining their one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer based on the lure of a longer-term and more lucrative deal elsewhere as a free agent.With that decision official Thursday, now the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

LAKE BUENA VISTA — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t want to talk Thursday about what might happen if the current effort to build the Rays a new stadium at the Ybor City site falls through."I’m more focused on working with the community to figure o...
Published: 11/16/17
A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

Here is a message from RHP Alex Cobb after he officially left the Rays Thursday in declining their one-year, $17.4-milllion qualifying offer to seek a bigger and longer pact elsewhere:"Getting to this point in my career is truly bittersweet."Twelve y...
Published: 11/16/17
UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE: Rays to gain draft pick for loss of free agent pitcher Alex Cobb

UPDATE, 5:01: Cobb did not accept the offer by the deadline, as expected.DEVELOPING: Sometime before today's 5 p.m. deadline, the Rays will get official word that their $17.4-million slight gamble on Alex Cobb paid off.The Rays made the free-agent ri...
Published: 11/16/17
As he prepares to leave the Rays, how will you remember Alex Cobb?

As he prepares to leave the Rays, how will you remember Alex Cobb?

Presuming Alex Cobb declines the Rays’ one-year, $17.4-million qualifying offer by 5 p.m. today, he has pitched his last game for Tampa Bay.Cobb has received preliminary interest from "lots of teams" already, agent Dan Horwits said. The Cubs and Twin...
Published: 11/16/17
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says progress must continue on new stadium to keep Rays

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says progress must continue on new stadium to keep Rays

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made clear Thursday that identification of a site for a new Rays stadium is merely the first step for area leaders to show they want to keep the team long-term and that there needs to "consistent forward movement" on the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Sternberg: Tampa Bay Rays' share of new ballpark could be $150 million

Sternberg: Tampa Bay Rays' share of new ballpark could be $150 million

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said Wednesday that the team is "genuinely excited" about the proposed Ybor City site for a new stadium and more than "cautiously optimistic" the project can be completed. But ...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17