Rays and Red Sox both trade their best pitchers; guess which one blames it on their stadium?

Former Cy Young Award winning pitcher David Price was traded yesterday by the Tampa Bay Rays — pretty much everybody was traded yesterday by everybody — and Rays manager Joe Maddon decided to make it all about the Rays’ stadium issues, because somebody had to:

“You lose (James) Shields. You lose (Carl) Crawford. You lose B.J. (Upton). A lot of good guys. That’s what happens around here.” Maddon said. “Until we build a new ballpark, it’s going to continue to happen.”

Now, Maddon is a smart guy — he was the first to figure out that baseball’s new replay system sometimes requires recording four outs, for example — so he probably already knows this, but: You know who else has traded away a lot of good guys in recent years, including their two top pitchers yesterday, plus none other than Carl Crawford? The Boston Red Sox, who have sold out pretty much every game in recent years, and who are the third most valuable team in baseball, according to Forbes.

The constant trading of veterans for young players — or for players who are signed for more years, anyway — is less a small-market thing these days than a function of the weird baseball arbitrage that’s taken over the sport: If you have a player heading for free agency and don’t expect to keep him, you can either deal him for somebody without those issues (Shields was traded for young outfielder Wil Myers, who was only named A.L. Rookie of the Year last year), or let him leave and use the money you would have spent on him on somebody else (Crawford and Upton were both allowed to walk, and were replaced by cheaper, better alternatives — Desmond Jennings in the case of Crawford, Myers in the case of Upton). If the Rays had a new stadium, they would likely have more money to throw around (assuming somebody else was footing the stadium bills, anyway), but there’s no reason to believe that they’d stop trading away players headed for free agency — the only teams that don’t ever do that, pretty much, are the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, and no new stadium is going to turn Tampa Bay into New York or Los Angeles.

Also, not to mince words, but Crawford and Upton have both pretty much sucked since leaving the Rays. Maddon should be counting his blessings that the lack of a new stadium has given ownership the excuse not to throw money at keeping around familiar faces who are aging poorly, and instead allowed him to field a contending team year after year. Though that probably wouldn’t have made his bosses too happy if he’d said it out loud.


9 comments on “Rays and Red Sox both trade their best pitchers; guess which one blames it on their stadium?

  1. Hey if you worked in an industry where a few little lies led to gullible politicians sprinkling hundreds of millions of dollars on your employer and thus indirectly leading to your salary being 30% higher, well you too might also help perpetuate the lies.

  2. Do teams with new stadiums pay their managers more? That hasn’t been my impression.

  3. It’s not so much about the teams with new stadiums, but it’s reasonable to assume that all player, coach, staff salaries would drop a bit if teams had to build their own stadiums. However, 30% sounds a little high.

    In any case, 70+% of a ton of money would still be a ton of money.

  4. You could probably argue that the only way the Rays will ever win is by doing what they have been doing anyway–getting strong seasons out of good players and then letting them go before they become bad/expensive. It is highly unlikely that, whatever the stadium, they could afford to sign a guy for seven years to get three good years out of them.

  5. They should just move. I’m surprised Indianapolis or Oklahoma City don’t have teams yet. What about New Orleans? No? I’m not getting the impression Tampa Bay OR Miami are too hot about baseball.

  6. Corporate speak or not, maybe Maddon should go manage another team if it bothers him so much. I refuse to blame Rays fans (like Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan does) – it’s all because of MLB’s stubbornness & insistence that taxpayers should always foot the bill for new stadiums, either be it a poor revenue sharing plan or the lack of a salary cap or both, and for putting a team in that market.
    Looking at the Rays payroll, after Longoria, the next highest salary is $7M this year & $5M next year. Longoria has a very team-friendly backloaded contract & it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s traded eventually.

  7. That almost sounds like an Onion piece: “Owner Thanks Taxpayers For Not Building Stadium That Would Have Allowed Him to Overpay for Players Whose Careers Nosedived” or something like that.

  8. Maddon should look at what Cherington is doing in a ‘big market’. It’s more or less what the Rays are doing, though the Red Sox can of course keep their young stars longer if they choose… they just don’t seem to choose to do that with pitchers much over 30.

    Let’s be frank… even if the Rays sold out every game and did so in a brand new $800m stadium, they would still be in one of the least valuable markets in MLB and would still struggle to out bid even middling franchises for free agents. That’s just part of not being in NY, Boston, Dallas, LA or Chicago.

    On the other side of the coin, though, does anyone think the Dodgers wouldn’t love to undo their trade with Cherington from last year? Crawford, Gonzalez and Beckett look pretty awful these days and Dodger fans don’t really have a great deal to look forward to from them in future – unless their team can send all three and $100m in cash to some desperate third world franchise for a bag of baseballs…. hey, maybe the Rays can finally get some veteran players after all…

    The Dodgers resurgence both on and off the field has everything to do with young players, the absence of the McCourts, and little to do with their high priced acquisitions. Even Ramirez looks like his best days might be behind him…

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