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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Robothal: Rays’ will to win overcomes any obstacle in their path

Robothal is hitting .500 in yesterday afternoon’s columns.

The point is, Tampa Bay is competing, as Tampa Bay always competes, even as Rays owner Stuart Sternberg describes the team’s current run as “beyond improbable.”

Sternberg, in speaking to reporters, was referring to all of the injuries, all of the rookies. But really, the Rays expected to be good last season, when many of us picked them to win the division, if not reach the World Series. Injuries and poor performance in high-leverage situations—some of which was attributable to poor luck—sunk them to 77-85.

Maddon left for the Cubs, Friedman for the Dodgers. The Rays reconfigured their front office, shifting Matt Silverman from team president to president of baseball operations and promoting Chaim Bloom and Erik Neander to VPs. The new group then hired a first-time manager, Kevin Cash, and at some point made the decision that defined their 2014-15 offseason.

They still liked their team.

So, rather than simply acquire future pieces, the Rays also traded for present value—similar to what Friedman did when he sent David Price to the Tigers and acquired Smyly, infielder Nick Franklin and shortstop prospect Willy Adames.

Jaso came back in the deal that sent Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the Athletics, a deal in which the Rays also landed shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson and outfield prospect Boog Powell.

More telling, the Rays acquired outfielder Steven Souza from the Nationals for two prospects, shortstop Trea Turner and pitcher Joe Ross, whom they landed as part of the Wil Myers trade.

While the futures of both Turner and Ross are bright, the Rays wanted Souza’s immediate 25-homer potential. Good call—Souza leads the club with 13 homers, eight stolen bases and 30 walks.

Not every move is proving as fortuitous—Asdrubal Cabrera, signed to a one-year, $7.5 million free-agent contract, is playing above-average shortstop, but batting only .204 with a .547 OPS. But the Rays’ pro scouting director, Matt Arnold, has helped the team succeed on the margins. Butler, Elmore and reliever Ron Belisario signed as minor-league free agents. Ramirez arrived in a trade from the Mariners for lefty Mike Montgomery. ...

No Maddon, no Friedman, and the Rays march on.

It’s not beyond improbable. It’s typical Tampa Bay.

JE (Jason) Posted: June 20, 2015 at 08:43 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: first place, injuries, ken rosenthal, rays, small market, trades



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