USATSI_8154767_154511044_lowresYesterday I declared that the expected trade of Ben Zobrist meant the Rays were effectively sacrificing the 2015 season with a look to the future.

Several people argued that  the Rays can’t be in rebuilding mode since they gave Asdrubal Cabrera $8.0 million, which is actually $0.5 million more than Zobrist will make. Well, there is a big problem with that argument.

First of all, not all rebuilding projects are as extreme as the Marlins or Astros where you gut the roster down to a $25 million payroll and win 55 games. It is possible to sacrifice the present for the sake of the future and still put together a competitive team that wins 80 games but has little shot at making the playoffs.

An 80-win team will sell more tickets than a 55-win team. Also, more people will watch an 80-win team and the Rays have a new TV contract coming up soon. They need all the TV viewers than can find.

But here is the bigger problem with the argument. Are the Rays better with Zobrist or Cabrera? Of course they are better with Zobrist. So then the question becomes: Why would they rather have Cabrera at $8.0 million over Zobrist at $7.5 million? Because Zobrist can fetch good prospects.

Sure, the Rays do this all the time. But they normally do it with players they can no longer afford or whose money can be used on 2-3 other players and the team remains just as competitive. In this case, the Rays are actually spending more on a lesser player.

The simple fact is this, if the Rays do trade Zobrist as expected, they are sacrificing wins in 2015 for the sake of 2016 and beyond. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But there is no getting around it, the Rays will be worse off in 2015 without Zobrist.

Last year, you needed 88 wins to make the playoffs in the AL. According to Fangraphs.com, the Rays are projected to win 84 games in 2015 and that is with Zobrist. What do you think that number is going to be without Zorilla?

THE JUNKYARD DOGS WEBTOPIA

  • According to Jon Morosi, the Rays have had discussions with outfielder Colby Rasmus. This is interesting because as of now the Rays have five outfielders on the projected roster and that doesn’t include Ben ZobristNick Franklin, or Logan Forsythe, all of whom can play the outfield. Brandon Guyer would seem like the odd-man out, but he is a right-handed bat and Rasmus is a lefty. So maybe it makes sense if David DeJesus is shipped off to another team. Of course, the Rays have discussions with everybody, so this may be nothing. [@jonmorosi]
  • Meanwhile, Jon Morosi also says Colby Rasmus met with Orioles manager Buck Showalter and left with a “very favorable impression.” [@jonmorosi]
  • Ryan Howard’s no-trade clause includes 20 teams. The Rays are not one of those teams. Howard would seem like a typical Rays DH pickup if the Phillies are just looking to dump and will eat 90% of his contract. [ESPN]
  • Yesterday we discussed James Shields having a 5-year, $110 million offer from a mystery team. It should also be noted that it is not the Red Sox a team that was considered a front-runner. [FoxSports.com]
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16 Comments

  1. Dave L says:

    I am still trying to wrap my head around Zobrist being worth $30M with Fangraphs wacky 1 war = $6+ million per year metric. I think that only works if Molina gets nothing and actually owes the Rays $10M.

    Anyways we dont even know what the Rays are getting in return so how can we judge it yet? I argued at the time of the Shields trade that the Rays would lose the first two years and make it up in the out years which is starting now in fact. Well we overall did lose the first 2 years (first year was a surprising wash at best and last year was a wipeout)but today Shields and WD would be walking away as FA if they stayed and thats the whole point.

    I hope no one has the naive illusion we will extend Zobrist. The only way we do that is if he has a bunch of nagging injuries and puts up bad number and then he's damaged goods. Barring that he walks.

    Think he has value at the trade deadline? Not as much as you think, not as much as a Price WAR be damned. At the trade deadline you want a showhorse to put you over the top not a plow horse like Zo. Quote advanced metrics all you want but at the end of the day but how many times was Zo on the highlights? How many walk offs did he produce? How many days did he go 4 for 5 and carry the team?

    Zobrist is a guy who mops the floors fills in to mask a teams overall shortcomings throughout the season and sort of eats up some of the negative WAR of your roster thats more evident over the long term and we should maximize his value now.

    At the end of the day he had a .272 BA with 10 HR and 52 RBI and he walks alot. His WAR points out his hidden value and if every GM was Brian Kenny and Bill James then maybe we would get top value for him. But they aren't and we won't. We will get much less at the trade deadline I assure you. If you come from the premise that we have realistic WS aspirations in 2015 then I guess you could vehemently disagree with me. I feel we have a 25% chance to compete for a WC and maybe a 10% chance to make the WC game. For me thats not enough to not cash in on his value now.

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    • Bossman says:

      Maybe you should look up how WAR is calculated before bashing it.

      In terms of properly valuing a player, you need to take off the fantasy baseball glasses and look at the full picture. WAR for position players is calculated using offensive, defensive, and base running performance. While Zobrist looks like a poor or average offensive performer to the untrained eye, he has actually been well above average over his entire career. Rather than place a large emphasis on luck based stats like batting average and home runs, WAR places a substantial amount of value on plate discpline and ISO, two areas where Zobrist has always been above average, especially for his position. Even last year, he posted a 119 wRC+, meaning he was 19% above league average. For comparisons sake, Longoria was only worth 107 wRC+ last season. Next we come to defense. Zobrist plays average or better defense at every position but catcher and pitcher. He not only gets a boost for being an above average defender, but with position adjustment, his offensive numbers carry more weight because of the positions he plays. Even further, with Tropicana Field being a pitchers par, the park effects are factored in and give even more of a boost to his value. Lastly, rather than place all your emphasis on stealing bases, WAR grades a player on his ability as a base runner. Not just fast, but a smart and efficient base runner. The goal here is to gain as many extra bases without giving away free outs. To summarize, when you are a positive hitter, defender and base runner, play in a park that supresses offense, and play defensive minded positions, yeah you worth a lot.

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  2. Matt says:

    I think they're simply trying to cash in on buy-low players at this point. Asdrubal is the likely heir to Zobrist's spot at second and to get him at $8 million is a pretty nice grab. If he plays well and were not in contention, we can always move him for a couple of prospects. Same situation with Rasmus, lets hope they catch lightening in bottle and return to their former glory. If they don't, then we never invested much in them anyway and it isn't a big deal. It also helps give the illusion that they're trying to contend and keep ticket sales up. The more dedicated, serious fans see right through it, but the casual fan will probably bite the bait.

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  3. CC says:

    In case everybody has forgotten. Zobrist had the worst batting average with runners in scoring position in early August last year. He was hitting something like .085. That will not be missed. I like Ben but I believe it may be a good time to trade him.

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  4. Skateman says:

    The crux of your argument misses a key point:

    "But here is the bigger problem with the argument. Are the Rays better with Zobrist or Cabrera? Of course they are better with Zobrist."

    But we'll get something back by trading Zobrist. What if it's a guy that fills a big need like Andrew Susac? Now your options are

    Team 1: Zobrist and Casali/Rivera as catcher vs.

    Team 2: Cabrera and Susac/Rivera as catcher.

    I really don't see that Team 1 is that much stronger than Team 2 for 2015.

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    • OriginalTom says:

      I guess I am in the minority Skateman but I see Team 1 as much better than Team 2. According to Fangraphs, Zobrist is about 2.5 WAR better than Cabrera and Susac (based on 200-225 AB's) is .5 WAR better than Casali.

      I understand we have another 5 more year of Susac after that and if Zobrist does not resign we only get a draft pick after the 2015 season but I really think you guys are underrating Zobrist.

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      • Skateman says:

        Steamer projections aren't reliable for players w/o much major league experience. Susac is a much better hitter than Casali and I think his defense is at least as good. I think he would deliver a lot more WAR in a full season of work.

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  5. Gus says:

    Lots of split opinions on Zobrist. He remains the best SS on the roster by any meaure -- defense or offense. Why they wouldn't save the cash by dumping Escobar who people keep saying has value but to me in a decline as dramatic as his waistline expansion in 2014?

    In many ways, I like what they have done post-Friedman/Maddon. But dumping Zobrist now seems curious. I almost wonder if they are trying to get him to extend his contract and this trade talk is a reaction to that.

    Zobrist is from Illinois; Maddon loves him; the Cubs have prospects but need some vets; that seems like the obvious deal.

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  6. Mr. Smith 1980 says:

    In Whitman's poem "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" he tells of listening to a great, knowledgable lecturer of Astronomy who goes on and on in great detail about the heavens and their make-up, all the while sapping the beauty out of the stars with all of his knowledge and data. It wasn't until the narrator stepped outside and saw the stars for himself that the true revelation of the heavens' came to him...

    In some ways this is the case with advanced matrices and sabermetrics. The analyzation of data has sapped the beauty out of the game. It has stymied the fan's ability to appreciate a player or a team for what they are beyond data and where they fit-in within someone's algorithm.

    Stop listening to the learn'd lecturers and behold the game for what it is.

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    • Mr. Smith 1980 says:

      I'm curious as to who would 'dislike' this post. Someone who dislikes Whitman or someone who loves sabermetrics.

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      • OriginalTom says:

        Okay Mr. Smith now I feel bad I disliked your post . Do not have a problem with Whitman (although my knowledge of poetry is admittedly quite limited) or you. I despise "the analysis has sapped the beauty from the game stuff." Going to sound like an old fogey but when I was young I had to wait for the Sporting News or the Sunday paper to find out the stats for my any players who were not on my local team. Today we have so much more information and I believe this makes the game more enjoyable not less.

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        • Mr. Smith 1980 says:

          I too enjoy the readily availableness of stats, I just feel that there are elements of the game that cannot be quantified; hence the reference to the Whitman poem.

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      • Dave L says:

        I dont dislike Whitman but just face the facts he was highly over-rated--his BABIP was unsustainable.

        I am glad we parted ways with him despite his mellifluous post game interviews

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  7. edward williams says:

    whatever happened to just watching the game , and loving it for what it is, I admit I am not into sabermetrics , just bores me. Not saying it is a bad thing for others, I just love the game, but I am learning, which I am also not against so I do read all the posts, just would love to see something that says , "the rays are better with zobrist, not without" , but than I do see the reasoning of trading now, oooooohhhh i'm so confused.

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