Tampa Time

So as we leave behind the Winter Meetings, my questions is this:  Who had the best week?

The Marlins with Heath Bell, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle?  Not a bad guess but no.

The Angels with Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson?  They sure had a good one but not the best.

Herman Cain and his Presidential campaign?  Um, no.

The answer would be Matt Moore and the Tampa Bay Rays.

In case you missed it, the Rays gave a five-year contract plus three one year club options to a 22-year-old pitcher who has made a grand total of 5 Major League appearances.  The five-year portion of the contract is worth a total of $14 million and the three club options bring the total value of the deal to just under $40 million.  This seems a bit crazy for such an unproven commodity, don’t you think?

Such is the life a small market team.  And nobody does this better than the Rays.

David Price’s first contract, before he even stepped on a Major League mound was for six years.  Evan Longoria, one week into “The Show”, signed a deal that covers a total of nine years.  If Matt Moore turns out to be no better than a .500 pitcher, his contract is still a reasonable $2 million per year and change up until the club options.  If Moore is everything Tampa think he is, then the deal is a steal.

So what you have right now is a core of Longoria, Price and Moore locked up through at least 2015.  Each of the deals doled out by the Marlins and Angels are loaded with potential pitfalls.  Sure the Pujols contract will be great the first three or four years but what about the last three seasons?  Talk about an albatross.  Can Wilson live up to the big free agent money?  Will Heath Bell come crashing down like so many other closers?  Can Buehrle stay durable?  And can Jose Reyes play more than 120 games a season ever again?  For the Marlins, that is not even taking into account the headache known as Hanley Ramirez.

Short term, both the Angels and Marlins will benefit because each player signed will provide a significant upgrade to their teams.  However, how are those Pujols and Reyes contracts look around year 5?  Consequently, the Rangers, Mets and Cardinals will suffer short-term because there is no quick solution to replace those star players, Then again, these franchises will gain some much-needed payroll flexibility in a couple of years. 

The Tampa Bay Rays will benefit both now and the forseeable future.  What the Moore contract shows is that three potentially significant players will be together and most likely productive.  When you also consider that key players such as James Shields, Ben Zobrist and Jeremy Hellickson are under Tampa’s control until at least 2015, this team won’t be going away.  And if they lose some or all of these free agents, you can bet that their productive farm system will have players ready to go.

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