Think back to the 2015 trade deadline, when the Tampa Bay Rays were just three-games back in the AL East. Toronto made a pair of big acquisitions, trading both for David Price and Troy Tulowitzki. The Rays, on the other hand, traded away Kevin Jepsen and made no other real moves to improve on the then 51-52 ball club.
Because of it, Chris Archer was very critical of the front office for not going all in, first tweeting:
If anyone wants to know what it looks like to be all in, check out the Jays.
— Chris Archer (@ChrisArcher22) July 30, 2015
Archer later told Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times):
I’m speaking for our clubhouse when I say this, WE are hoping and confident that the areas of need will be addressed in the coming hours so that we can stay competitive not just in September but through the month of October as well … Other teams have, and I hope that motivates not only the players to give it all they have but the management as well.
The comments were not composed of random words that were thoughtlessly strung together, rather they were premeditated. He spoke for the team, which means they were based on conversations he’d had with other players in the clubhouse, and in the end Archer articulated the thoughts and feelings not only of the 2015 squad, but of us Rays fans.
Fast forward to the present. The front office has made a pair of moves to address some of the Rays needs with the additions of Adeiny Hechavarria and Trevor Plouffe. And while we are still a month away from the 2017 trade deadline, the acquisitions should signal several things — none of which being that the team is content with the status quo.
The Rays believe they have a horse in the race
While injuries abound, and they haven’t completely addressed the bullpen yet, all of the teams in the AL East are formidable and flawed. Even with the most DL days in the American League, Tampa Bay is in a good spot.
The Rays added two players in the month of June, and with them more than three million dollars in salary. That’s not something they typically do. It bears mentioning, between the 2008 and 2013 seasons — when the Rays went to the playoffs four times — they weren’t this aggressive before the trade deadline. That should energize the clubhouse because, it shows the front office believes the time to win the division is now.
The front office felt they needed to shore up the defense at short
This isn’t a knock on Tim Beckham, who has performed well above expectation this season, nor is it a knock on Daniel Robertson, who was optioned back to Triple-A Durham. But, unfortunately, Beckham has been slowed by a couple of injuries over the last few weeks, with a sore knee and a hit-by-pitch wrist. A need became apparent, and an elite level defensive shortstop popped up on the market. Enter Adeiny.
Hechavarria posted excellent defensive marks at short from 2015-2016, grading out at +18 Defensive Runs Saved and a +24.1 Ultimate Zone Rating, while accruing a +3.1 fWAR. In fact, from 2015 and 2016, he was fourth in the majors in DRS, trailing only Francisco Lindor, Brandon Crawford and Andrelton Simmons.
In the words of Neil Solondz,
…adding a premier defender can help reduce the number of outs the staff has to earn. A hit can become an out, a single out can become two. That helps the confidence and conviction with which your pitchers throw.
If they felt they needed to address one area of concern, they likely would address others.
They have started to address the beleaguered bullpen
Tampa Bay moved Blake Snell back into the starting rotation so Erasmo Ramirez could return to — and bolster — the ‘pen. Brad Boxberger should return this week and he, ideally, will also reinforce the relief staff. And even though bullpen pieces are usually more costly at the deadline, the Rays will likely explore the possibilities and add on.
What shouldn’t go unnoticed, Tampa Bay seemed to be closing in on a cheaper power arm with some team control, although that did not materialize in the deal for Hechavarria. Still, there is plenty of time to add an outside arm.
The Durham shuttle has chugged along all season long as Kevin Cash (and company) sought ways to patch holes, and solidify the team they view as a contender. However, when outside opportunities have presented themselves, the front office has jumped at the chance to better the team. That, in and of itself, should be telling — the Rays want to win. With this in mind, I cannot see why they wouldn’t continue making moves into the trade deadline. Because of it there is a tacit, underlying message: the Rays are all in.