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Rays Tales: Evaluating Rays' timing on Zobrist, Crawford, Price decisions

World Series MVP Ben Zobrist speaks to the crowd during the Chicago Cubs victory celebration in Grant Park on November 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs won their first World Series championship in 108 years after defeating the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in Game 7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) 680567173
World Series MVP Ben Zobrist speaks to the crowd during the Chicago Cubs victory celebration in Grant Park on November 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs won their first World Series championship in 108 years after defeating the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in Game 7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) 680567173
Published Sep. 17, 2017

Consider this old friends week for the Rays.

David Price is at the Trop again today with the Red Sox, a pack of eight familiar looking current Cubs led by former manager Joe Maddon and Ben Zobrist are rolling into town on Tuesday, and Tim Beckham will be waiting Thursday when they get to Baltimore.

You can figure on plenty of hugs, handshakes (or fist bumps in Maddon's case) and lots of memories shared.

But not too many regrets.

Price and Zobrist are two of the most successful players in Tampa Bay franchise history, but the Rays tried — as with many others and not always succeeding — to say goodbye at the right time.

As a product of how they do their baseball business and how they run their business, the Rays seek to determine the juncture when the player's salary is rising to exceed the value of their performance and move them then.

In short, a philosophy to get the best years out of them they can afford, then trade or let them leave as free agents so someone else can lavish them with riches for what they've done.

That doesn't mean they haven't paid some high-end salaries. And they've worked out a number of big-bucks long-term extensions — with mixed results, though the team-friendly terms, including options, tend to help facilitate trades.

With the exception of Evan Longoria — thus far anyway, since his de facto no trade clause triggers in April based on 10 years with the team — the Rays eventually part ways with all their best players.

Consider that RHP Alex Cobb is about to join OF B.J. (now Melvin) Upton as the only players to start their career with the Rays and, without signing an extension, stick around until for the six full years of service to get to free agency.

Here are how five of the top ex-Rays in team history (based on WAR, wins above replacement) were dealt with:

INF/OF Ben Zobrist

With heading into the last year of his extended deal in 2015 at a reasonable $7.5 million, the Rays figured they wouldn't be able to re-sign him so opted to get something then, trading him to Oakland (attaching the dumping of SS Yunel Escobar to the deal) for C/DH John Jaso, prospect INF Daniel Robertson (who may work out) and OF Boog Powell (who didn't). Zobrist was then traded to the Royals and at age 34 signed a four-year, $56 million deal with the Cubs

With Rays9.264.78336.7$23,320,500
Since Rays3.265.7926.6$37,500,00*

* Signed for two more years for a total of $28-million

OF Carl Crawford

One of Rays' best examples of good scouting, drafting and player development, signed a six-year extension in April 2005 that, with two options, kept him around full-term through 2010, then left as a free agent. Signed a big bucks deal with Boston (seven years, $142-million) that was a major bust, traded to the Dodgers and now at age 36 is out of the game, though still getting paid $21 million this year. Rays got two top 2011 draft picks as compensation and took RHP Taylor Guerrieri (injured a lot) and INF/IF Tyler Goeddel (lost in Rule 5 draft).


With Rays9.296.78135.5$31,365,000
Since Rays6.271.7176.6$102,714,000*

* Plus $21,857,000 for not playing this season

LHP David Price

Arguably the best-ever Rays pitcher with an 82-47, 3.18 record in parts of seven seasons, four All-Star selections and that shiny 2012 AL Cy Young Award.

After paying him $10 million in 2013 and signing a $14 million deal for 2014 they decided they couldn't afford him any longer, trading him, at age 28, to Detroit that July. Price made $19.75 million in 2015 for the Tigers and Blue Jays, then hit free agency and landed a seven-year, $217 million deal with Boston. The Rays got back prospect SS Willy Adames, INF Nick Franklin and LHP Drew Smyly, who after three so-so seasons was flipped for OF Mallex Smith and minor-league LHP Ryan Yarbrough (starring at Triple-A Durham) and INF Carlos Vargas. Whether they got enough depends on how good Adames (and, in theory, Smith) turns out to be.

With Rays6.582-473.1821.4$26,741,842
Since Rays3.544-213.356.6$86,750,000*

* Signed for five years more years for $157 million total, can opt out after 2018

RHP James Shields

Staff leader got a rich seven-year deal going into 2008 season and got to stay with Rays through first option year, then was traded to Royals (with Wade Davis) for a big return in Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and minor-leaguer Patrick Leonard. Finished that deal in Kansas City, then signed four-year, $75 million deal in 2015 with Padres, who traded him to White Sox in June 2016.

With Rays787-733.8919.3$16,644,900
Since Rays550-494.18$74,500,000

* Signed for one more year at $21 million, plus $16 million option for 2019

LHP Scott Kazmir

A steal in a deal with Mets made two All-Star teams, signed an extension with Rays in May 2008 then got traded in August 2009 to Angels (for Sean Rodriguez, Alex Torres and minor-leaguer Matthew Sweeney). Pitched his way into June 2011 release by Angels, then worked his way back to sign two big deals, $22 million for two years with A's, $48 million over three with Dodgers.

With Rays5.7555-443.9216.5$8,897,000
Since Rays7.2553-524.096.5$72,333,334*
* Signed for one more year at $17,666,666, plus $16-million option for 2019

The Ray-Cubs

As the Cubs roll into the Trop Tuesday, they will eight players and coaches spent time in Devil Rays/Rays uniforms:

* Chris Bosio, pitching coach: Same job with Rays in 2003.

* Wade Davis, RHP: Pitched here 2009-12

* Eric Hinske, asst. hitting coach: Played here in 2008

* Joe Maddon, manager: Managed here 2006-14

* Dave Martinez, bench coach: Played here 1998-2000, instructed 2006-07, coached 2008-14.

* Mike Montgomery, LHP: Pitched in Rays minors/spring training 2013-14

* Rene Rivera, C: Played here in 2015

* Ben Zobrist, INF/OF: Played here 2006-14

Lord Baltimore

INF Tim Beckham has understandably cooled off after his sizzling Orioles start following the July 31 trade (through Friday) but has still impressed:


Rays 87/.259/12/36/.721/11


Rays rumblings

As you'd think they would, and certainly should, the Rays will have a Maddon tribute video on Tuesday. ... CF Kevin Kiermaier played arguably one of the best individual games in team history Friday with two amazing catches, several strong throws and a game-tying homer in the 14th. ... The hurricane-delayed instructional league starts this week, with SS Matt Duffy planning to test his finally-feeling-better heel in some games. ... It won't help the Rays, at least perception-wise, that the A's announced plans for their new ballpark being privately financed, even though the plan reportedly depends on "hundreds of millions" in federal, state and local money for infrastructure. ... Three smart-aleck lines heard at the Mets' Citi Field while the Rays were "hosting" the Yankees in the relocated series: The three-game total crowd of 49,510 was more than the Rays would have drawn at the Trop; the Rays should be used to more fans at their home games rooting for the Yankees; head Ray Stuart Sternberg, once-rumored to be interested in buying the Mets, could for three days say he owned the home team at Citi Field. ... Congrats to Triple-A Durham manager Jared Sandberg and short-season Class A Hudson Valley's Craig Albernaz for winning league championships. ... FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman mentions the Rays among options for free agent 2B Neil Walker and 1B Yonder Alonso. ... OF prospect Jesus Sanchez was the No. 2 overall pick in the Dominican winter league draft of first year players. ... RHP Nate Eovaldi, impressive thus far in his return from Tommy John surgery, is being talked about as a big part of the 2018 rotation. ... Final approval seems set for the Braves spring training site in North Port, to open in 2019 near the Rays in Port Charlotte. ... RHP Jake Faria was 26th on's list of 2017 rookies based on long-term potential.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays