[image title="tb_RaysPena_450" size="full" id="16872" align="center" linkto="full" ]
I hate to give credence to anything that John Kruk said or wrote, but he penned an article for ESPN today that provides a jumping off point for an interesting discussion:
It’s no secret that Tampa Bay is a small-market team with a small payroll ($68.2 million, which is 22nd in baseball). The Rays have a great team. Not a good team, a great team. But are they contenders or pretenders? Crawford and Pena are free agents this year, so if the front office believes the Rays can win with those guys, they’re going to keep them. If the front office thinks there’s a chance the Rays won’t, then it will get rid of them.
There’s no pressure on the Red Sox, Yankees or Tampa Bay’s players — the pressure is on the front office. What are they going to do? Let’s say it comes close to the trade deadline and they are either a game or two up, or a game or two behind whoever is in first. What do you do then? Do you ride it out and say, ‘Hey we can win with these guys.’ Or do you throw your season away by trading Crawford and Pena?
I think Kruk’s question is silly, as Andrew Friedman is almost certain to keep his club intact if they are within a handful of games of a playoff spot, let alone first place. And considering the Rays roster and hot start, this may be a moot point, as they seem likely to remain in contention all season. That said, I do wonder at what point they would blow things up if the season does happen to go south. Would Friedman trade Pena or Crawford if the Rays are 5 games out of a playoff spot at the end of July? At what point does building for the future preempt the chance to make a run at a playoff spot? I think 5 or 6 games, presumably with the Yankees and Red Sox ahead of them, would seem like too large a gap to make up and would justify the Rays turning their thoughts towards building for the next few seasons.
Do you agree? Is 5-6 games too narrow a gap?
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