Tampa Bay Rays (23 days until pitchers and catchers report)
We have other things to write about later today, so we won’t waste an entire post on Marc Topkin’s latest piece. Rather we will just bitch about it here. In the piece,”Rays paying it forward“, Topkin suggests that the recent contracts signed by Carlos Pena and Scott Kazmir are an indication that the Rays front office is committed to spending money and retaining the team’s talent. The contracts therefore are indications of the team’s commitment to winning.

By giving more than $24-million over three years to Carlos Pena and going up to nearly $4-million for a one-year, arbitration-avoiding deal with Scott Kazmir, the Rays on Friday put two of their best players under contract for the upcoming season.

And they may have put to rest questions about their commitment to assemble, and retain, a competitive team.

There is only one problem with this thinking. In the two contracts combined, the Tampa Bay Rays gained ONE extra season out of the two stars. The Rays have now “retained” the services of Pena and Kazmir for ONE additional season.

The Rays and Scott Kazmir agreed to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. And where would Kazmir be playing in 2008 if he had not signed the contract? THE TAMPA BAY FRIGGIN’ RAYS. Kazmir is arbitration-eligible. NOT a free agent. Unless the Rays decide to trade Kazmir, he will be playing for the Rays for the next three years. He does not have a choice. And avoiding arbitration probably saved the Rays a little money. Topkin does not seem to comprehend this. The Rays avoided arbitration with Kazmir. They have done nothing yet to retain his services beyond what he is already committed.

In the case of Carlos Pena, the Rays reached an agreement on a three-year contract. That deal does keep Pena in a Rays uniform for the first of what would have been his free agency years. Not three free agency years. Not five. Not seven. Pena is now locked into playing for the Rays for one more season than he would have been otherwise.

This is not a knock on the Tampa Bay Rays. They have shown this off-season that they are willing to spend money and that they will retain their young talent, IF THEY CAN DO SO FOR LESS THAN MARKET-VALUE. That is a commitment to the bottom-line. Not to the talent. Not to the team and not to the fans.

If Topkin wants to make this point, he can tell us about the Pena deal. It is not a huge commitment as it is just for one additional year. However, it is something. Topkin can also tell us about the Troy Percival deal and the Cliff Floyd deal. But please…please…don’t use the Kazmir-deal as an example of the team’s commitment to retaining talent and their commitment to winning. The deal has ZERO bearing on the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, 2009 or 2010. It does however have a bearing on the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays in that as of now, the chances of Kazmir playing for the Rays beyond 2010 are now a little less.

Here is a suggestion. If and when the Rays reach an agreement with James Shields on a long-term contract, that goes into his free agency years…we want Marc Topkin to erase Kazmir’s name everywhere it appears in the article and replace it with the name “Shields”. Then he should resubmit the article to his editors, because only then will the article make any sense.

Rays paying it forward [St. Pete Times]

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • Gerry Hunsicker appeared on XM radio’s The Show. Among the topics covered were the recent signing of Carlos Pena to a three year contract and whether 2007 was a surprising performance. “I got to think in Carlos Pena’s case it wasn’t that he never showed the talent because that’s not true, we were the beneficiary’s of Carlos Pena coming to Tampa Bay where there is a little less pressure, the expectations for him might not have been as high and he felt very comfortable. He was given the opportunity to play through the ups and the downs and had a manager that had the confidence in him to put him in the lineup everyday“. Hmmm? A manager that had the confidence to put him in the lineup every day? Let’s see…He only made the roster out of Spring Training because Greg Norton was injured in the last week before the regular season. The Greg Norton. And Pena did not become the everyday first baseman until the second week of May because Joe Maddon was giving starts at first base to Ty Wigginton and Jorge Cantu. Yes folks. Papa Joe had so much confidence in Pena that he benched him in favor of Jorge freakin’ Cantu. [MLB on XM]
  • Rays Anatomy offers two points-of-view on what to expect from Carlos Pena in 2008. [Rays Anatomy]
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