The year is 2018; the Washington Capitals have won the Stanley Cup, NASA have captured the first lunar wind on Mars, North & South Korea have marched under one banner at the Winter Olympics, England have reached a World Cup Semi- final and The Kardashians expanded their herd by 3. But the most remarkable event? The Rays spending $30m over 2 years on a starting pitcher.
After a season which surpassed even the most optimistic of expectations for the Rays in 2018, Kevin Cash and his 25 David’s return in 2019 with their slingshots ready to face not one but two Goliaths. One in particular who claims to be the world’s best (and probably rightly so).
This offseason the Rays wasted no time in making moves to help improve their 2019 roster. With an obvious void behind the plate, the phone was picked up and the usual number dialled. Seattle. That was the end of Mallex in Florida, back came Mike Zunino, fresh off the back of a season with 12 defensive runs saved (A major league high). For his efforts, Zunino was rewarded with the Wilson defensive player of the year award and just like that, Kevin Cash had an elite defensive catcher.
Despite the success of the ‘Opener’ or ‘Starter’ in 2018, the Rays were still in the market for a veteran starting pitcher to complement Cy Young victor- Blake Snell and the young sensation – Tyler Glasnow. Little time was wasted again. Enter Charlie Morton at the expense of $30m/2 years. In years bygone, this is the type of deal which the Rays had so often been picked apart by. Major league vultures picking away at the helpless carcass who can’t afford to keep their heart beating. Morton arrives off the back of two hugely impressive seasons in Houston winning a World Series and going 29-10 with a 3.52 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.
Having addressed both the mound and the void behind the plate, the Rays finally turned their attention to a bat. But not necessarily the one people expected. JT Realumuto and Nelson Cruz have long been muted as potential pieces to take the Rays to the next level but they weren’t to be…for now. Instead, Yandy Diaz arrived via a three way trade with Cleveland and yup you guessed it – Seattle. I will be perfectly honest and say I don’t know a whole lot about Mr Diaz but I know the Rays liked him enough to give up their future first baseman- Jake Bauers AND $5m. Just for some context, only one player on their 2018 roster got paid in excess of $5m (Kevin Kiermaier). That is how much they like this kid.
Judging from the intent from the Rays front office (FO) this off-season already, it’s safe to say that the Rays are trying to win in 2019. With a young core of Daniel Robertson, Joey Wendle, Willy Adames, Austin Meadows and Blake Snell to mention all but a few, the foundations have been laid for a sustained period of success in South Florida.
But is that enough?
In-case somehow you had missed it, the Rays have suffered some pretty bad news in recent weeks regarding the new stadium in Ybor City. With the future of the teams viability in Florida even more up in the air than ever before, this is the time for the Rays to go all in. This is the time to get fans into the ballpark and to make the Rays Florida’s team because there is a good chance in 10 years, there may not be a Rays at all.
The solution? Miguel Andujar from the New York Yankees. A power hitting 3B with the ability to move to first base, under team control until 2024, eligible for arbitration in 2021- what’s not to love? Oh and he down right rakes. In his rookie season (second in ROTY voting) he hit .297 in 573 AB’s, with 27 bombs, 170 hits and a 2.2 WAR.
I am not saying he will come cheap, but he is the kind of guy I believe that can a franchise to the next level. Particularly this one.
Given the fact he is due $545,800 until 2021 when eligible for arbitration, money on the rare occasion for the Rays isn’t an issue. Instead of a financial currency, the currency is human. Good ol’ fashioned prospects. Something the Rays are like oil barons of. Andujar won’t come cheap, particularly to a division rival but package up Honeywell, package up McKay, package up anyone.
Windows of this opportunity don’t come around often for anyone, let alone someone like the Rays. Here is a guy who could literally save baseball in Tampa and makes this good team – a great one. Just imagine adding control of Miguel Andujar until 2024 to this list below.
Joey Wendle - 2024
Daniel Robertson- 2024
Kevin Kiermaier – 2023
Tommy Pham- 2022
Tyler Glasnow- 2024
Blake Snell – 2023
Yandy Diaz- 2025
Willy Adames – 2025
Austin Meadows – 2025
Brandon Lowe - 2025
Please Rays baseball. Please. Give staying in Tampa a shot. Give winning a shot.