Against a Rebuild | The Process Report

Against a Rebuild

One of the popular sentiments following Joe Maddon’s departure urged the Rays to embrace a total rebuild. That doesn’t make sense for a few reasons.

The most obvious point against is that rebuilding is more difficult and painful than many realize. Though complete overhauls have become en vogue thanks to the Cubs (coincidentally enough) and Astros, the Rays’ situation isn’t comparable to either case. Plus there’s no guarantee the rebuild takes on the first try, or even if it does, that people would like what it produces—see the animosity toward many of Kansas City’s homegrown players.

Another big reason to wave off the rebuild talk is the Rays’ roster remains almost entirely in tact from last season. Obviously the results in ’14 were disappointing, but there’s plenty of room for organic improvement. Additionally—and this is often overlooked—the trade market no longer favors the Rays. As the David Price trade showed, the days of a team collecting multiple top prospects in exchange for a short-term rental appears near their end. Other deals have echoed the sentiment that prospects are, if not overrated, then overvalued. (Yes, Addison Russell was traded, but the Athletics have been one of the few aggressive teams in moving their prospects throughout the past several years.)

Besides, there’s zero reason to believe the players most likely to go would return blue chippers. If James Loney is comparable to Adam Lind (in overall value, not skill set), then his market value is roughly one year of Marco Estrada. Yunel Escobar’s situation is trickier, because of his down season and the positional scarcity at shortstop, but it seems unlikely that the Rays would get more than they originally gave up for him: a decent, but not great prospect with obvious flaws. Each has value, but neither is the prized prospect pig many would want.

Of course none of this is an argument against making any trades, just against those that don’t fit within the team’s structure or intent to win games. Trading Matt Joyce or Jeremy Hellickson makes sense because the roster offers plenty of alternatives; trading Sean Rodriguez makes sense if Tim Beckham is ready to step into a reserve role; and so on. (Ben Zobrist’s situation is admittedly a little tougher due to the chance he’d accept a qualifying offer.) Beyond that, the Rays have a lot of talent that’s mostly under team control through the next few seasons, including what looks like an impressive young rotation.

The Rays are only going to have so many shots at making a run before they’ll have to start over. Why throw a few of those chances away prematurely—especially when the conditions for a rebuild aren’t favorable?

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