If there is one thing we’ve come to expect in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium saga, it’s that flows of progress are often met with ebbs in momentum. From the previous attempts to build a new stadium in Pinellas County — either at the Al Lang Stadium site or in Carillon — to Tampa and St. Petersburg‘s recent stadium site announcements, stops and starts are to be as expected as, well … death and taxes. This week brought more of the same.
It was thought that with Hillsborough’s announcement, the stadium search had been narrowed down to 11 — 10 sites in Pinellas County, including the Trop and Derby Lane, and one in Hillsborough — allowing the Rays to finally get to the brass tacks in assessing the potential stadium sites. However, it appears that Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan’s surprise announcement has thrown a wrench in the gears; a complication to the process.
As it turns, Hagan’s announcement not only was a surprise to the Rays and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, it was also was reported that the announced location “may not have been our choice given all other considerations,” county administrator Mike Merrill told county commissioners at a Wednesday board meeting. What was thought to be a collaborative decision between Hillsborough County officials and the team now appears to be one between the Rays and Hagan himself.
Hagan went as far as to claim the “Ybor site became both the team’s and our preferred site” after “discussing the benefits and challenges” of every option. This in spite of the team’s distant relationship from the selection process. The front office has repeatedly said they were waiting for Hillsborough County to present a site that the team could evaluate against the other 10 proposed sites.
Merrill indicated that when becoming privy to a number of sites east of the bay, the Rays chose the Ybor site:
This was the Rays’ choice. It was the only choice. We showed them a number of sites. This was not Ken Hagan’s choice. This wasn’t this board’s choice. It wasn’t my choice. At this point we are still at the mercy of the Rays with respect to selection because they’re the ones that have to play there.
It was not correct the way the media has represented that this was a county or even county board choice,” he said. “It was the Rays choice of land after showing them a number of parcels. The next part of this will be to see if we can make this work from a financial point of view.
In other words, Hagan seems to have jumped the shark.
Moreover, after making many questionable decisions in the site search — from transparency issues (or lack thereof) with taxpayers, to what appears to be a politically motivated decision in the timing of the announcement, favoring Rick Baker’s mayoral campaign — it would seem that Hagan has poisoned the waters with his methodology.
After Hillsborough County’s self-appointed stadium negotiator left the board meeting, his six colleagues discussed whether it was time to change the strategy on Rays negotiations. Board Chairperson Stacy White pondered whether Hagan’s lead had come to an end:
Does that delegated authority need to continue on at this point or should it be moved over into staff’s hands? White asked.
That does not appear to be the rumination of someone in lockstep with Hagan on the matter.
When put into context it becomes abundantly clear that the proposed Ybor site probably likely isn’t any better than where the Rays currently call home, especially when you consider the following that:
— Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa are hurting for stadium funding.
— The proposed site’s 14-acres will only fit a stadium, without the potential ancillary development outside the stadium footprint.
— Fans from outside the general vicinity of the stadium likely won’t be willing to spend 45 minutes to one hour getting to the stadium during rush hour traffic, only to find that surface parking could be more than a walk from the stadium.
Ybor site is perfect…if you like being stuck in traffic while driving from Pinellas-to-Hillsborough. pic.twitter.com/xdikQXrKuI
— X-Rays Spex (@XRaysSpex) October 25, 2017
But hey, look at the bright side:
— Shadow of Stadium (@StadiumShadow) November 2, 2017
Eight Rays players now officially are free-agents
With the culmination of the 2017 baseball season Wednesday night, eight players who aren’t under contract for 2018 are now officially free agents.
Full list of MLB free agents … https://t.co/sn4NujNKgU
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) November 2, 2017
Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison top the free-agent list for Tampa Bay, joining six others: Steve Cishek, Tommy Hunter, Sergio Romo, Lucas Duda, Trevor Plouffe, and Peter Borjous.
The team now has a five day window to exclusively negotiate with them in order to potentially bring them back in 2018, including a $17.4-Million qualifying offer to Cobb.
With the eight free-agents coming off the 40-man, the roster now stands at 36.
The Rays not only picked up Nathan Eovaldi’s option for 2018, they also reinstated him 60-day DL along with Matt Duffy, Taylor Guerrieri and Shawn Tolleson.
Per Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) Eovaldi’s option was part of the deal when the Rays signed him going into the 2017 season, in which they paid him $2-Million to rehab.
The right-hander can earn up to an additional $3.5-Million based on innings and games started. (He has a similar package on incentives based on relief innings, appearances and games finished.)