The reality of Friday's surprising trade of Alex Colome and Denard Span to Seattle is, of course, between the extremes.
One side is screaming this is the latest proof the Rays are driven more to pocket money than winning games (and, for the loudest, on their way OUT OF TOWN!); don't care about the fans' loyalty or team chemistry in dumping two more key veterans for unheralded prospects; and are perpetuating a fallacious narrative about building for a future that will never get here.
The other is congratulating the Rays for taking advantage of Seattle's largesse in a no-brainer to deal two players whose trend lines and trade values were going down in pre-empting what will be a tough July market for midtier veterans; for landing a potential midrotation starter in Andrew Moore; for banking $9 million for future financial flexibility; and for accelerating a transition to the young core of players they have good reason to be confident will bring success sooner than later.
In the middle, this view:
Ditching Colome and Span, and a bunch of others, was going to be the right move at some point. And doing so sooner might reap a better return in players, or at least ensure saving money rather than eating it later, especially as business hasn't been good at the Trop, with some gates and concessions closed.
But it felt wrong before Memorial Day. Especially in the clubhouse where, as unrealistic as it might have been, players and staff felt with the recent improved play (19-13 after a 4-13 start) and overall mediocrity beyond the AL top trio of Astros/Red Sox/Yankees there was a chance to make a wild-card run, especially as they got healthier. This seems like the bosses didn't buy it.
Though the Rays have a solid history, no young pitchers, such as Moore, are a sure thing. And projections of a mid- to back-end rotation starter in the mold of Marco Estrada or Jake Odorizzi (hey, maybe they could get him?) aren't exactly exhilarating.
Conversely, and coldly, dropping a .238 hitter and an increasingly erratic closer isn't exactly franchise-shattering either. Churning the roster has always been part of how the Rays operate. If this accelerates and expands opportunity for more players who are part of the future (rather than Rob Refsnyder/Wilmer Font types), that should only help. So should adding these savings to others, increasing future flexibility for what general manager Erik Neander termed "the potential to do some things aggressively," which at least sounds intriguing (though not pronounced "Bryce Harper"). Ultimately, it comes down to believing the future truly is bright. And that it's really coming.
Who’s next to go?
Since the end of last season the Rays have now dealt veterans RHP Brad Boxberger, 3B Evan Longoria, RHP Jake Odorizzi, OF Corey Dickerson, OF Steven Souza Jr., RHP Alex Colome and OF Denard Span, and let, among others, RHP Alex Cobb and 1B Logan Morrison leave as free agents. Other players that will be talked about and potentially dealt (or dropped) as the Rays continue to transition to the future (with 2018 salary, relevant info):
RHP Matt Andriese ($585,000, arbitration eligible 2019)
RHP Chris Archer ($6.25M, $27.5M '19-21)
RHP Nathan Eovaldi ($2M, free agent '19)
OF Carlos Gomez ($4M, free agent '19)
SS Adeiny Hechavarria ($5.9M, free agent '19)
1B/DH Brad Miller ($4.5M, arb eligible '19)
C Wilson Ramos ($10.5M, free agent '19)
RHP Sergio Romo ($2.5M, free agent '19)
Also possible: 1B/DH C.J. Cron, INF Matt Duffy, RHP Chaz Roe, LHP Jonny Venters
The future is … June?
Time and results will ultimately determine how bright the future the team keeps talking about really is. But there was an intriguing glimpse Tuesday, when the starting lineup included 3B Christian Arroyo (22), SS Willy Adames (22), 2B Daniel Robertson (24), plus OFs Mallex Smith (25) and Johnny Field (26). With the unofficial deadline to avoid Super 2 arbitration eligibility a few weeks away, the Rays should soon start shuttling that talent to the majors. Besides Adames (who was sent down after his three-day cameo) and Arroyo, others you might see soon include 1B Jake Bauers, RHP Diego Castillo, RHP Ian Gibaut, LHP Colin Poche, OF Justin Williams, INF Kean Wong.
Though RHP Andrew Moore was sent back down to Double A after a rough spring (and supposedly to avoid the mental drain of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League), the Mariners seemed pretty high on him. He was their 2016 minor-league pitcher of the year, and it's notable how quickly he moved from being the 72nd pick of the 2015 draft to the big leagues, pitching in 11 games in 2017. Also, his career strikeout/walk ratio (minors and majors) of 353/77. "It's not easy to trade Andrew Moore,'' Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto said. "He works hard. He's always prepared. He shot to the big leagues pretty quickly. We couldn't be happier with his productivity and time with the Mariners.'' Rays LHP Ryan Yarbrough played with him in the Seattle system and offered this scouting report: "Really good guy. Pounds the strike zone. Big strike thrower. … Fastball, slider, big changeup guy. Straight over the top. Changeup, he gets a lot of swings and misses because it looks exactly like his fastball.
More trade rumblings
It's a tough go for Tampa product Span, who greatly enjoyed playing with this group of Rays and playing at home: "I'm just thankful I had this short time to put on this uniform and I get another opportunity to put it on one day.'' … Odd scheduling twist in that the Rays and Mariners play each other seven times between Friday and June 10. … Colome was a Rays success story, signed as a teenager in the Dominican Republic and developed into an All-Star. … Span did note the Mariners "are trying to win over there." … The other pitcher the Rays got, Class A RHP Tommy Romero, was ranked Seattle's No. 26 prospect by Baseball America.
Since Jerry Dipoto took over as GM of the Mariners in September 2015, the Rays have made nine deals with him of assorted consequence, none bigger than Friday's:
Nov. 5, 2015
Rays got: RHP Danny Farquhar, INF Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison
M's got: RHP Nate Karns, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser, OF Boog Powell
Nov. 18, 2016
Rays got: RHP Andrew Kittredge, 1B Dalton Kelly, RHP Dylan Thompson
M's got: INF/OF Taylor Motter, INF/OF Richie Shaffer
Jan. 11. 2017
Rays got: OF Mallex Smith, LHP Ryan Yarbrough, SS Carlos Vargas
M's got: LHP Drew Smyly
Feb. 8, 2017
Rays got: C Jesus Sucre
M's got: Cash
May 9, 2017
Rays got: International signing slot
M's got: RHP Bryan Bonnell
July 28, 2017
Rays got: RHP Steve Cishek
M's got: RHP Erasmo Ramirez
Aug. 6, 2017
Rays got: LHP Anthony Misiewicz, INF Luis Rengifo, INF Osmy Gregorio
M's got: RHP Ryan Garton, C Mike Marjama
Dec. 13, 2017
Rays got: $1 million in international slot money
M's got: LHP Anthony Misiewicz
May 25, 2018
Rays got: RHP Andrew Moore, RHP Tommy Romero
M's got: RHP Alex Colome, OF Denard Span, $4.75M
There's going to be radio guys in the TV booth, as Andy Freed (Monday), Neil Solondz (Thursday) and Dave Wills (next Sunday) join Dewayne Staats and Doug Waechter (Brian Anderson is off) in what a team official called an effort to "cross promote" the radio and TV teams and "have a little bit of fun.'' Hmm. … This is a big final week of draft prep for the Rays with three picks in the top 32, five of 71 and seven of 120, and the second-largest draft pool at $12.4 million. It's not quite as big of an opportunity as 2011, but they're hoping for better results. … Nationals OF Juan Soto, 19, is the first big-leaguer born after the Rays, who debuted March 31, 1998. … Electric scooters are the new thing in the clubhouse, with LHP Blake Snell joining catchers Wilson Ramos and Jesus Sucre, and more on order. … Team officials didn't seem too concerned about losing the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl from the Trop to Tampa's Raymond James Stadium, and they're still in the football business with the college all-star East-West Shrine Game. … Ex-Rays RHP Danny Farquhar's remarkable recovery from a brain hemorrhage continues with word he will throw out the first pitch Friday at the White Sox's game. … Nice touch by the Rays, bringing past players in on Saturdays for autograph signings at the cool 20th anniversary exhibit at the Trop.
.Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.