News Flash: the Rays need a new home

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Tropicana Field.jpgThat’s not really news, but it’s now an Official Finding of a committee put together by a coalition of St. Petersburg business and community leaders.  One would think that such a conclusion could be reached upon one or two visits to Tropicana Field, but these guys have been studying the matter for eighteen months.  Though to be fair, that’s a blink of an eye in committee-years.

And it’s actually a handful of related findings, which include the following:

  • The Rays are “an economic driver” of the community and enhance quality of life for Tampa Bay area residents;
  • To stay competitive, the Rays need the higher
    revenues that a modern, retractable roof stadium with lots of amenities
    can generate. It’s not a question of “if” the Rays need a new stadium, it’s “when” and “how.”;
  • Such a stadium would probably cost at least $550 million;
  • Tropicana Field is “nearing the end of its economically useful life,” and renovation would be too costly;
  • To draw more fan and corporate
    support, a new stadium should be closer to the Tampa Bay area’s
    demographic and business centers. The Pinellas Gateway, downtown Tampa
    and west Tampa meet that criteria, but downtown St. Petersburg does not.

I don’t take issue with any of these except the assumptions regarding the team’s economic impact on the community.  The report says the Rays pump $200 million into the local economy.  As economists like J.C. Bradbury and others have repeatedly shown, however, such estimates are typically overblown, and often comically so

I think the Rays need a new ballpark because, generally speaking, their current one is a total drag. But let’s make a deal: unlike we did with the other two dozen or so new ballparks that got built over the past 20 years, why don’t we spend some time making sure that in this case the taxpayers aren’t royally boned and the billionaires that run baseball aren’t given yet another gratuitous bit of corporate welfare.

The linked story in the St. Petersburg Times provides a good start in the form of a chart which provides some critical context to the committee’s findings. Here’s hoping it doesn’t stop there, and that the reporters who spend so much time complaining about how steroid users have stolen from history spend at least a little bit of time preventing baseball owners and allied business interests from stealing from the public.

And if the people of St. Petereburg do balk? Hey, it’s not like the Rays don’t have options.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.