Retooling Vs Rebuilding And Why It’s Not Just Semantics

CJ Cron hit a bomb a few days ago. Blake Snell and Nathan Eovaldi had perfect debuts. Matt Duffy played on back to back days. As I type this, Christian Arroyo is 3 for 3.

It’s way too early to be this excited.

But there is something interesting about this team, something different. And I’m not just talking about the faces on the field.

The word is that the Rays are rebuilding, tanking even. Taking part in baseball’s ‘race to the bottom.’ The MLBPA has even filed a grievance against them.

To boot, local writer Marc Topkin said this:

‘Yeah, this thing could get ugly. Like triple-digit losses ugly.’

But then he also said this:

‘Longoria is 32 and getting less productive every season. Odorizzi is, at best, a No. 3 pitcher in the rotation and won only 10 games each of the past two seasons. Dickerson was here two seasons and was invisible for all but about two months of that time. And while Souza hit 30 homers last year, we’re talking about a guy who is a lifetime .236 hitter.’

And this:

‘We’re not exactly breaking up the Big Red Machine here.’

And then ended his article with this:

Let the tanking begin.’

I see his point, the Rays are indeed approaching 2018 a little differently, that is easy to see. What I don’t understand, is how he, the writer closest to the organization, the one who follows the team, the one who has the responsibility and the obligation to educate the Rays faithful, could make such a bold triple digit loss prediction as well as a tanking accusation, without providing any such evidence to support his claim. Not to mention, every statement he makes seems to contradict the one before it.

A little foolhardy if you ask me.

Shots fired. Worldstar.

While I agree that this team will be hard pressed to compete for a playoff spot this year, the tanking argument just doesn’t sit right with me. They Rays won just 80 games with all of these players. So, why keep them? The Rays made all the right moves last July to go all in, and they got worse. So again, why keep a losing band together?

You may have heard a new word being thrown around this offseason: ‘Retooling’

When I first saw this word, I thought to myself, ‘Well that’s just a new way to say rebuilding,’ a PR spin maybe. The baseball equivalent of saying ‘climate change’ instead of ‘global warming.’ But in the case of the Rays, I think it applies perfectly.

One thing the Rays have is depth, in the form of a top five minor league system. With that said, let’s go back to Topkin’s article. ‘Longoria is declining, Odorizzi is a No. 3 at best, Souza is a .236 hitter, Dickerson was invisible other than two months.’ In other words, they weren’t helping them win. Not now, not in the past, nor will they in the future.

So, again. Please help me understand why this is a tank? Why you think this team will lose 20 more games than they did a year ago by trading players who, by your estimation, don’t give them any value? Furthermore, why would the team spend $4 million on free agent Carlos Gomez if they were throwing away the season? Why wouldn’t a losing franchise with expendable assets shed themselves in order to get the players who will help them win in the big leagues sooner? If the team feels like their best options are the ones from within, why not promote them?

If you ask me, keeping them would’ve been more indicative of a tank. Keeping them would’ve been throwing away the season. And thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Enter Jeff Sullivan, the only one who understands.

Enter PECOTA, who, despite all of these moves, still projects an 84 win season.

Now, while I realize projections are nothing to go by, I feel obligated to back my statements up with facts and research, unlike most of the writers who’ve written about this team this offseason. This is why I frequently post links in my articles to other articles.

Even Topkin himself has changed his tune on the situation since the Gomez signing. Glad you’ve finally seen the light, Marc.

As everyone know by now, when the league goes one way, the Rays go the other. This was never more apparent when they averaged better than 90 wins from ’08-’13. When they shifted more than anyone in baseball. When they walked Josh Hamilton intentionally with the bases loaded.

But when teams with deeper pockets caught up, the Rays’ window closed. The only mistake the Rays front office did make was to try and build a team that mimicked the others, a team that tried to follow the pack, instead of innovating.

This year, Sternberg and the crew are back to innovating. These moves may not be win now as much as they are win sooner.

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