No. Not the underwhelming performance that left us 2.5 games out in the East. (I mean, yes, that stings, but that isn’t what I am talking about. You get it.)
Before last night’s game, Rays owner/New York resident Stuart Sternberg visited with the local media and promptly threw a wet blanket over Rays fans everywhere by reminding the media that the Rays have to get to $50MM in payroll next summer — no matter what.
That, of course, means this is the last summer for these Rays. Make sure you drink it in because a $22MM cut might mean more than simply letting Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and Rafael Soriano walk. If that were the extent of things, I’d survive because I already had my own memorial services for all three months ago. I’m ready to see them play elsewhere.
But $50MM is a small number. Cork Gaines, over at Rays Index, has done yeoman’s work breaking down the 2011 40-man roster by salary. He gets to $42MM with 23 players on the active roster. That estimate assumes, however, that the Rays will pick up Dan Wheeler’s $4MM option, Willy Aybar’s $2.2MM option, keep both Lance Cormier and Andy Sonnanstine, and finally give Justin Ruggiano a shot as the 4th outfielder. It also includes Jason Bartlett’s $5.5MM and Dioner Navarro’s $2.9MM.
To me, that seems optimistic even though it fits within Sternberg’s stated payroll budget. Here are a few additional roster thoughts to consider with an eye towards 2011:
- Jeremy Hellickson will definitely make the rotation. If the Rays had their way, I don’t think they’d like him replace either Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis because that doesn’t save the club any money. Obviously, David Price is untouchable, so that means the Rays will try to find a new home for either James Shields or Matt Garza and, in the process, save themselves about $5.1MM in 2011 salary.
- If the Rays get down to the $40MM or $35MM range for 2011, are they willing to spend some money to acquire a closer or will they let Joe Maddon tinker around with his beloved closer-by-committee? If they don’t want to spend the money (there are a lot of good reasons – most importantly, closers are overpaid and overrated) on a closer, it looks to me like Jake McGee, Dan Wheeler, and the rehabbed JP Howell will get a look. Not exciting.
- I’d be shocked if Fernando Perez didn’t beat Ruggiano out for that 4th outfielder spot. Ruggiano isn’t one of Joe Maddon’s favorite people on earth despite his minor-league success.
- I wouldn’t be shocked if Willy Aybar’s days as a Ray are over as well. He makes too much money for a guy that doesn’t do a lot of things other than hit (and for long periods, doesn’t do that either). It was a fun ride though.
Will the 2011 Rays be World Series contenders without Crawford, Pena, Soriano, (and possible Shields/Garza, Bartlett, Navarro, and Aybar)? I don’t know. Who thought the 2008 Rays were going to be good? I still think the dire predictions for next season we are seeing in the local media vastly overestimate the club’s demise. It will hurt to see our guys elsewhere, and it will take some time to get used to the new home team, but this team will still be young, still be fun, and still play with their hair on fire. That is all I need from a club.