As the leaves turn, the “let’s contract the Rays” talk begins anew


I feel like I spent half of last offseason debunking the notion of Major League Baseball contracting a team, be it the A’s or the Rays or whoever. It’s an easy notion to debunk when you actually think about what contraction of a franchise would entail.

Just off the top of my head it would require the other 29 MLB owners to fork over close to a billion dollars to pull it off, what with paying off the current owners for the franchise, the banks and creditors who are owed money, the governments who are owed money on ballpark leases, the business partners and other stakeholders who would sue, the army of lawyers it would cost to negotiate all of this and then to throw concessions to the union for the loss of 25 major league jobs, 15 more guys on 40-man rosters and all of that kind of thing. Hell, it may be more than a billion dollars. And for what? To keep an owner from losing ten or twenty million here or there? Please.

But the talk starts up again.  This time, however, we don’t have columnists with overactive imaginations to blame for the talk. We can thank Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg, who unleashed this comment yesterday, and which was picked up by Bill Madden of the Daily News and Rick Freeman of the Times of Trenton:

“It won’t be my decision, or solely my decision, but eventually Major League Baseball is going to vaporize this team,” Sternberg said. “It could go on nine, 10, 12 more years, but between now and then it’s going to vaporize this team. Maybe a check gets written locally, maybe someone writes me a check (to buy the team). If I had $80 million to put out there, we’d be moving along in life. We just don’t have $12 million to put into a hitter.”

I like “vaporize” better than “contract.” I hope that catches on.

Anyway, yes, the Rays’ situation is bad. They are just scraping by and there’s no immediate or obvious way out of the financial trouble they’re in.  But let’s also have some perspective here: the two players Madden and Freeman note the Rays can’t afford to re-sign are Kyle Farnsworth and Casey Kotchman. I get the idea that not being able to sign that big hitter is depressing, but if letting Farnsworth and Kotchman walk is the bellwether, we’re going to have to contract, like, 15 teams.

Sternberg is venting. He’s been doing it for a week now.  He’s entitled. But at some point we need to put his venting in perspective and realize that the Rays present a business challenge for baseball. They do not represent an existential crisis requiring vaporization — or whatever else you want to call it — of a franchise.

David Phelps to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Pitcher David Phelps has a torn UCL and will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2018 season, the Mariners announced on Wednesday. Phelps was making brief one-inning stints in the Cactus League as he worked his way back from a procedure to remove a bone spur from his elbow last September. He said he felt the ligament tear on his final pitch against the Angels in his March 17 appearance.

Phelps, 31, was expected to set up for closer Edwin Diaz. The right-hander, between the Marlins and Mariners last season, posted a 3.40 ERA with a 62/26 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. He and the Mariners avoided arbitration in January, agreeing on a $5.55 million salary for the 2018 campaign. Phelps will become eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season.

As the Mariners noted in their statement, the expected recovery period for Tommy John surgery is 12-15 months, so this very likely cuts into Phelps’ 2019 season as well.