Clear66° WeatherClear66° Weather

Rays keep young players under team control

Recent new deals for RHP Chris Archer and SS Yunel Escobar are the latest moves in the Rays' ongoing efforts to keep their run of success going by keeping their team together. By building with young players not yet close to free agency, signing select players to long-term extensions and signing some veterans to multiyear contracts, the Rays have positioned themselves to maintain their core group for an extended period. Twenty-one of the 29 players on the active roster and disabled list for Saturday's game are under team control though at least the 2016 season. Five key guys — Archer, Evan Longoria, Matt Moore, Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi — are controlled through at least 2019.

In doing so, the Rays, despite some financial risks, clearly see considerable benefit.

Some is obvious on the field, as they have a lot of good players they can keep.

"We really like the core group of players we have together on an individual basis, and also feel like they complement each other really well," executive VP Andrew Friedman said.

Some less so off the field, as they see good chemistry as a key element in their success.

"There's a strong culture in the clubhouse; at the end of the day it's the players who dictate, develop and nurture that culture, and continuity can only help that," team president Matt Silverman said. "Especially when guys know they're going to be here for a long time, they're more likely to invest their time and energy. And that extends to the community, too — they see Tampa Bay as their long-term home and want to make it as good a place as possible."

And some strategic, as the Rays' extension strategy involves giving large chucks of guaranteed money to young players in exchange for the chance to keep them into their first few years of free agency.

"There are real risks that come with a multiyear contract," Friedman said, "but obviously it is incredibly difficult for us to retain a player when competing against 29 other teams on the open market."

Those type of deals aren't offered to all good young players, and not all accept it, not wanting to trade off larger future earnings for security. RHP Alex Cobb, OF Desmond Jennings and OF Wil Myers would all seem to be among the candidates who — to this point anyway — don't have long-term deals.

Some end up leaving, on their own or via trade, with David Price likely the next star to go. And because the Rays don't offer no-trade clauses, even a long-term deal isn't a guarantee a player will be here the whole time.

With limited revenues, Silverman said there are trade-offs for the team as well, which has a record payroll this season of around $80 million.

"There's some cost certainty when you have long-term deals, but at the same time there's more risk because we have dollars committed which reduces some of our flexibility. … We like to be financially nimble."

Silverman said the Rays also think the fans like the continuity of the roster because they know that most of the players will be around, and can develop personal attachments to them.

"When the fan invests their hard-earning money on a jersey or a T-shirt," Silverman said, "they can have confidence they'll be able to wear it as long as they stay the same size."

A look at how long some key Rays players are under team control contractually.

Outfield

David DeJesus

2016-$

Desmond Jennings

2017-FA

Matt Joyce

2015-FA

Wil Myers

2019-FA

Infield

Evan Longoria

2023-$

Yunel Escobar

2017-$

Ben Zobrist

2015-$

James Loney

2016-$

Pitchers

David Price

2015-FA

J. Hellickson

2016-FA

Alex Cobb

2017-FA

Matt Moore

2019-$

Jake Odorizzi

2019-FA

Chris Archer

2021-$

Catchers

Jose Molina

2015-$

Ryan Hanigan

2017-$

Bullpen

In bullpen

Grant Balfour

2015-$

Joel Peralta

2017-$

Jake McGee

2017-FA

Key: $-signed multiyear deal; FA-last year before eligible for free agency

Short stops

• LHP Matt Moore's elbow injury — whether it leads to Tommy John surgery or not — is obviously a major blow. But it's also a rare occurrence, as the Rays have had among the fewest pitcher injuries of all teams, a combination of youth, health and the tremendous work of their conditioning, athletic training and medical staffs. "I would consider ourselves fortunate, yes, in terms of staying healthy, but you create your own fortune a lot of times," pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "I don't know that we know any more than anybody does, but I just know we have a bunch of diligent people."

• One idea that would make interleague play more interesting for fans — that I first heard from Lou Piniella — would be to "flip" the rules and play with the DH in NL parks and without at the AL parks.

• Whatever selfish reasons RHP Alex Colome had for taking the veterinary steroid that led to his positive drug test and 50-game suspension clearly hurt the entire team as he would have been a strong candidate to replace Moore.

Rays rumblings

Todd Kalas will get 10 games in the TV booth this season, with Brian Anderson taking six off and Dewayne Staats four. … Principal owner Stuart Sternberg feels strongly that "the draft order should be based on revenue" rather than W-L record, telling ESPN the Magazine's Howard Bryant that the Rays have been "banging the table" for change. … The Rays will do like other teams in presenting Derek Jeter a retirement gift — though he's probably good on a house in Tampa — but will wait to give it to him until the Yankees, who are in town this week, make their final visit in September. … After "posing" for the kiss cam in Kansas City last week, RHPs Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi are talking about making similar appearances at other stadiums. … The Rays remained 20th in Baseball America's online-updated organization talent rankings, with RHP Nathan Karns slotted as their No. 9 prospect, behind Odorizzi, SS Hak-Ju Lee, RHP Taylor Guerrieri, LHP Enny Romero, RHP Alex Colome, OF Andrew Toles, C Nick Ciuffo and 2B Ryan Brett.

Got a minute?

David DeJesus

Food you hate the most?

Deep-dish Chicago pizza — just too much calories.

Must-see TV?

I'm a big NFL Network guy — everything on there.

Go-to karaoke song?

I Want It That Way, the Backstreet Boys.

Reality show you'd be best on?

I think it'd be cool to go on Survivor, but I don't know 'cause I like eating.

Dream date?

Back in the day it was (model) Adriana Lima, but now it's my wife (Kim, an actress/model). Put that in there.

Rays keep young players under team control

04/12/14 [Last modified: Sunday, April 13, 2014 12:11am]

© 2014 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...