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.