By Mike Moritz
Manny Ramirez retired last night and the "Manny-Being-Manny" era has ended. Manny was, for a second time, caught for steroids and instead of facing the suspension, he decided to hang it up.A lot of people are saying that Hall of Fame voters are not going to vote Manny into the Hall and I agree that they won't, at least on the first ballot. Personally, I would vote him in on the first ballot. Let's just think about what he did before he took steroids, assuming he did not take them before his split season with Boston and Los Angeles. But I think we all know enough about his great career, don't we? The real question is "in what situation are the Rays in, especially after Manny's retirement?"
Given that we are just seven games into the season, it is a very, very small sample size. But the Rays are still 1-6, yet so are the Red Sox. But I am not worried about the Sox, they have a very good team who I still think will win 96+ games. The Rays are the team that I am worried about. They were already on the outside looking in when the season started, mainly because of all the lost talent from this past offseason and a slow start to a season with the Orioles and Blue Jays being potential contenders and a revamped Red Sox club is the last thing that they were looking for.
With Even Longoria out until May with an oblique injury, the Rays are really looking for some offense. For this post, let's disregard their 9-run out burst from Friday because it was followed up by a two run performance, so we can't really say that the offence has come together. Manny was projected to be the second best hitter on the Rays:
Marcel: .283/.385/.478, 15 homers
Bill James: .286/.394/.479, 20 homers
ZIPS: .259/.369/.459, 17 homers
ZIPS is the projection system that seems a little different from the others, but that is not the point. The point is that Manny was the second best projected hitter. Now he is retired and their best hitter is out for another three weeks. Considering that the Rays are off to a sloppy 1-7 start, maybe it's time to switch their approach.
Perhaps the front office should consider speeding up the time tables for players such as James Shields, Jeff Neimann, B.J. Upton, Felipe Lopez and Johnny Damon. If GM Andrew Friedman and his minions decide to go ahead and pull themselves out the race right now, it would not seem like a totally dumb move.
Tampa Bay has 12 of the first 89 picks in the upcoming draft and an already stacked farm system with Jeremy Hellickson (whose already in the majors), Chris Archer, Matt More, Desmond Jennings, Josh Sale, Alex Torres and, for Christ's sake, the list goes on and on. As Fangraphs noted, Even Longoria has the best team contract in baseball, making $42 million over the next six years, and he is making $2 million this year. Just to put that into perspective, Longoria in 2010 made $950,000 and posted a 6.9 WAR. The average market value for 1 win in the major leagues is $5 million. So Longoria should have made around $25 million, or more specifically, $27.7 million. And the whole Rays' rotation is homegrown, so it should be cheap for years to come.
I trust the Ray's incredibly, amazingly smart front office to know what to do. Either route seems like a decent, to go for the playoffs or to build up even more on the farm system. But now that Manny is gone, Longo is injured, a struggling offense, the team off to a 1-8 start, it might be time to switch the approach on the season. However, the Red Sox are off to a comparable (but definitely not the same) start to the season but they have a lot of on-paper talent so I am not at all worried about them. I'm worried about the Rays, again, because they were already on the outside looking in at the start of the season.
(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com)