Sunday, June 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

"This is what we do": analyzing the Rays' Forsythe-De Leon deal

ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday's paper informs us that the specific reason the Rays traded Logan Forsythe to the Dodgers was the unexpected opportunity to get highly touted pitching prospect Jose De Leon in return.

But history tells us they made the deal because it's how they do business, constantly waging a two-front battle of trying to win now and, due to their limited financial resources, position themselves to also win in the future.

"Adding Jose where he's at certainly deepens our starting pitching, and we're excited about that," general manager Erik Neander said. "It's very important as we try to have success in 2017 and into the future.

"Our eyes are constantly on where we're at in 2017 and beyond that. In this case, beyond that … the later, I don't think is too far off.

"This is what we do. I think it's a big reason we've been able to have the success that we've had over time. And it's what we believe will get us to the point of being successful again."

Three straight losing seasons, capped by last year's 94 L mess, has made the run of making the playoffs four times in six years seem like a long, long time ago, so the Rays have to figure something out.

Matt Silverman put a focus on rebuilding the farm system when he replaced Andrew Friedman as head of baseball operations after the 2014 season, and a transaction ledger dotted with hits and misses has shown some promise but no actual progress.

So, this is what they do.

Part of that philosophy is the calculus based on contractual control. The Rays will get six years of De Leon (and the first three at near the major-league minimum, so less than $1.8 million total) in exchange for two years of Forsythe, at more than $15 million, including his 2018 option.

Forsythe, 30, had been around enough to know that he wasn't likely to finish his career with the Rays, that their model was to churn the roster. He had heard rumors of the Dodgers' interest but, not being much for social media and with 3-month-old baby Trace occupying much of his and Ally's time around their Tennessee home, hadn't paid much attention. He was eager for spring training, looking favorably on the moves the Rays had made, and excited to be part of a team, even after trading veteran starter Drew Smyly, that he felt could compete.

All of which made it stunning to get the call Monday that he was the next to go.

"I didn't know it would be this soon," Forsythe said. "That's where the shock came from, that it was done."

The deal surprised, and disappointed, many of his now ex-teammates as well, most notably franchise player Evan Longoria, who told the Tampa Bay Times he was "upset" to see Forsythe go.

Neander said they remain committed to fielding a competitive team this season. But fans and even some players are questioning that, wondering if they will keep going and trade another big name, maybe a starter since they could put De Leon in the rotation now.

If not sooner, then later. By June or July, De Leon is likely to be in the rotation in place of Alex Cobb, who is in his final year before free agency, and the Rays certainly aren't going to let him walk away without getting something in return.

After all, that's what they do.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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