It pays to be bad in baseball, and the Tampa Bay Rays know it.
While it might not be entirely true, it sure feels like more and more teams are turning to sacrificing seasons to expedite their futures. The latest team to fall into that category is the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays are no stranger to the tanking process, but the team was in the Wild Card picture during moments last year.
The first big piece to move was franchise-face 3rd baseman Evan Longoria, as the Rays packaged him in a deal to San Francisco, acquiring outfielder Denard Span and stud infielder prospect Christian Arroyo, along with pitchers Matt Krook and Stephen Woods.
Arroyo was the prize in this deal, currently ranking as the fifth best third base prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline.
Next was starter Jake Odorizzi, who was moved last week in a deal with the Twins in which the Rays only saw shortstop Jermaine Palacios come back in the deal.
Many speculated that despite Odorizzi’s high ceiling and previous successful seasons, his poor 2017 season dragged down his value.
Palacios, a 21-year-old shortstop with potential, isn’t expected to be on the MLB club for at least another year. And despite some initial struggles, Palacios has improved at each level he’s been at within the Twins system.
But the Rays weren’t done there either, designating 2017 starting All-Star designated hitter Corey Dickerson for assignment, while also acquiring C.J. Cron from the Angels to replace Dickerson at designated hitter.
Finally, the Rays were involved in a three-team deal with the Diamondbacks and Yankees, which netted them pitcher Anthony Banda and infielder Nick Solak.
Essentially, the Souza deal was a salary dump. However, the Rays then signed Carlos Gomez to a deal worth $4 million:
This is where the head-scratching reaches an all-time high, as the Rays are paying the 32-year-old Gomez about $500,000 more than they were Souza Jr., who’s four years younger playing the same position.
Maybe the rationale is that Gomez, a right-handed hitter, helps balance out their left-handed-dominant outfield.
But if that’s really the case, why pay Gomez $4 million this year when you could find cheaper options, possibly in-house, to play this season? Gomez wasn’t on many teams’ radars, at least not publicly, but this move has to rub the players remaining on the roster the wrong way.
However, starter Chris Archer, who is going to be popping up in trade the rumors for the remainder of his Rays career, spoke on the matter Wednesday:
The sad truth is that it pays to be really bad in baseball.
Teams like the Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, and Chicago Cubs have all won championships by accelerating their rebuilding process in choosing to be non-competitive.
The Twins just appeared in a Wild Card game following a season in which they lost 96 games. The White Sox look like the next team to explode onto the scene, with six players in the top 100 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.
As the Rays load up for the future using a proven and popular method, it’s hard to find the teams who are trying to win now in baseball. Tanking is the new norm in baseball, and until the MLB finds ways to discourage bad baseball, teams will continue to lean into losses as opposed to pushing for every win.