Quick question: what team has the lowest winning percentage in the majors? No cheating.
Did you guess the Tampa Bay Rays? I sure didn’t, but they are 17 games below .500 and things are not likely to get much better. Since Wil Myers went on the DL (May 31) the Rays have only scored 24 runs, the second lowest in the majors, in 10 games.
It’s pretty safe to say the Rays are not going to make the playoffs this year, which is shocking considering they were the favorite among baseball experts to win the division. There are two options for Rays management moving forward:
- Keep the band together for another year
- Start the rebuilding process.
If they do sell there will be plenty of fantasy implications.
Other than Erik Bedard, everyone on Tampa Bay’s roster is under contract for 2015 so it’s possible to make another run in the hope everyone is healthy.
Before the season began the Rays built the team with a window to be competitive for 2014 and 2015. They signed veterans Grant Balfour, Jose Molina, and David DeJesus to two-year deals this past offseason. They also signed veterans James Loney and Ryan Hanigan to three-year deals and acquired Heath Bell.
All the signings and acquistions in the offseason have made the team the sixth- oldest team in the majors and they now have the largest payroll in team history. According to the Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, the payroll is unaffordable.
The Rays have a bad farm system; Jason Parks and Keith Law rank their farm system 26th and 23rd, respectively. Once the season began some of their top prospects lost their prospect eligibility due to major league call-ups. Their best prospects (Enny Romero and Hak-Ju Lee) are struggling at AAA. Overall, the Rays only have a few impact prospects and those players are at least two years away from potentially contributing at the major league level.
The farm system is down due to a combination of low draft picks and bad drafts. Before the call-up of Kevin Kiermaier and Tim Beckham this past September, since 2007 there have been no other players drafted and developed by the Rays that played for the major league team other David Price and Matt Moore.
The Rays are an aging team, they are a last place team, the farm system lacks immediate impact prospects, and the payroll is unaffordable.
The primary reason why the Rays have been successful has been the pitching staff, but there are a lot of question marks about the staff heading into the future. How will Matt Moore look after the TJS? Will Chris Archer eventually find consistency? Can Jake Odorizzi become a number 3-4 starter? Is Jeremy Hellickson past the elbow problems? If so, who is the real Hellickson? Is he the fantastic pitcher from 2010-2012 or is 2013 his true talent level without luck on his side? Are Romero and Alex Colome, two of their best prospects, ultimately relievers?
The Rays are an aging team, they are a last place team, the farm system lacks immediate impact prospects, and the payroll is unaffordable. This is the worst scenario for any team to be in. The tea leaves are saying they should be sellers at the deadline.
The best way to rebuild is to go all in and trade away every player that will not be on the team when the team is good again. The Rays are a smart organization and I believe this is the course of action they’re going to take.
Their two most tradeable players are Price and Ben Zobrist. Price would have been traded in the offseason, but the Rays couldn’t find the right package of prospects. Will they find a better prospect package at the deadline? Zobrist, whose offensive numbers have been in decline for the past two seasons, has a one more year left for $7MM in 2015. Zobrist is at the age where players start to suffer their biggest decrease in performance; it makes more sense to trade him sooner rather than later.
The fantasy implications are two-fold if a massive rebuild occurs. First, there would be more playing time for the younger players. Logan Forsythe, who is a Zobrist Starter Kit, would get an opportunity to be more than a platoon bat. In 2012 Jerry Sands hit 26 home runs in AAA; why not see if the power translates in the majors? The once highly-regarded prospect Lee is at the age (24) where it’s time to see if he can play at the major league level. I wrote yesterday Kevin Kiermaier could become the Rays leadoff hitter of the future.
Second, if the team is going to lose 90-plus games, the Rays closer (whoever that is) will have a limited number of save opportunities. If you own Balfour and another Rays reliever, it’s time cut bait and use one or two of the roster spots on other players.
Of all the players that could be traded, the least likely is Evan Longoria, so if a rebuild occurs he will be the one who will suffer the biggest decrease in fantasy value. He’s currently on pace for 65 RBI, which is low considering his career norms, but if Zobrist, Loney, and DeJesus are gone I doubt his numbers are going to positively regress.
If I own Longoria I’m selling before things potentially get worse with the level of offensive talent around him. One line of thinking may be to hold onto him because there is more value in holding onto him than trading him. I bet there will be at least one owner that would be willing to trade a Jayson Werth or Matt Holliday in the hope Longoria rebounds.
Baseball teams are no different than any other type of business; you’re either growing or dying (thank you, Tommy Boy). The Rays are a smart organization and the writing on the wall says it’s time to wipe the slate clean and start over.