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

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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.

Josh Donaldson is still seeking a long-term deal with the Blue Jays

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If it were up to him, Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson would finish the remainder of his career in Toronto. In fact, he’d be “ticked pink” if the club decided to sign him to a long-term deal. Whether the Blue Jays share that sentiment is still unclear, as Donaldson said Saturday that the team has yet to engage his agent in extension talks.

“I’ve said that I wanted to be here,” he told MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm. “That’s pretty much all I can say. I’m not the one who makes the decisions, nor would I try to put them in the position to do that. Like I said, I believe the situation will become more fluid when the time is right.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean an extension is out of the question. The Blue Jays reached an unprecedented one-year, $23 million agreement with the three-time All-Star in arbitration, and have been reticent to field trade offers despite continued interest from the Cardinals this winter.

Donaldson, 32, is poised to enter his eighth season in the majors and fourth with the Blue Jays. In 2017, he batted .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs and a .944 OPS in 496 plate appearances, ranking sixth among all major league third baseman with 5.0 fWAR. He’s scheduled to enter free agency following the 2018 season.