Going into this off season, the Tampa Rays had a strategy on how they would overhaul the team. Sternberg said time after time last year that the organization would look quite differently in 2011. It was clear that Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena’s salaries would come off the books. However, what was not initially evident for Rays, was that player after player would chose free agency over being part of what Andrew Friedman has built over the past three years. Obviously, the fan base did not get the memo as to what Stuart Sternberg & Co. would do next to keep the organization competitive. The restructuring handed down up to this point was beginning to resemble the salary purge the Marlins pulled off following their World Series championship in 1997.
The Rays took a right angle turn by trading players that had value on the market place like Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza. The replaced them with an abundance of young players that could help fill holes in the organization for years to come. In doing so, they reduced payroll which allowed them to grab some bargains for themselves in the market place.
Salary Subtractions for 2011
Grant Balfour 2 years, $8.1 million
Joaquin Benoit 3 years, $16.5 million
Carl Crawford 7 years, $142 million
Brad Hawpe 1 year, $3 million
Dioner Navarro 1 year deal, $1 million
Chad Qualls 1 year, $2.55 million
Carlos Pena 1 year, $10 million
Rafael Soriano 3 years, $35 million
Dan Wheeler 1 year, $3 million
Jason Bartlett 2 years, $11 million
Matt Garza 1 year, $6 million
Kyle Farnsworth 1 year, $3.25 million
Manny Ramirez 1 year, $2 million
Johnny Damon 1 year, $5.25 million
We can understand the salary constraints the organization must work under. However, as the Rays previous regime had forever been known as a losing franchise, it hurts when you see what the owners have built up go on to other teams. It seems like the the group up to 2010 had their window of opportunity ended prematurely. But, ever since Stu came in they said they would operate like the Twins. You will have to accept in this small market model that you can never so much root for the name on the back of the jersey, as the Rays can bot keep them around long enough. They have to strike when there is a chance to keep the success for the long term continuing.
In a sense, The Rays fans have been somewhat spoiled the past few years seeing Sternberg pay out some long term contracts. You almost got the sense that the team wasn’t operating as a small market team. The list of high dollars paid out in recent acquisitions includes free agent Pat Burrell, Rafael Soriano, and trading for an expensive backup catcher in Kelly Shoppach.
This off season has given the Rays fans a bit of reality that what the Rays are. The fact that they have been able to compete in the American League East power house division has been remarkable. Bringing in big personality guys like Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon along their world series rings and playing for a small market team is unprecedented. They will not only help the fan base, but take a lot of pressure off Evan Longoria who really needs some bats to protect them in the middle of the batting order.