Once again facing the prospect of having to trade yet another core piece in the starting rotation basically because he’s so good that they can’t afford him, it’s probably fair to say that the Tampa Bay Rays are going to have their work cut out for them to cope with the changing winds affecting their 2014 roster.
Unlike their farm system (and Andrew Friedman‘s trade savvy) which continually churns out the next man up when is comes to starters, however, the team doesn’t have that same luxury when it comes to the bats.
What they do know for certain, on the other hand, is that Sporting News’ 2013 Rookie of the Year Wil Myers looks the part of a middle-of-the-order hitter for years to come right now, after just months of big-league experience. It’s that kind of upside that should motivate them to take a risk and extend him to a long-term contract after his stellar first cup of tea in the majors.
Sure, there’s probably some general rule of baseball logic to follow to suggest that teams shouldn’t sign a young player to long-term deals after 88 games of excellent production, but Myers isn’t any young player and the Rays aren’t just a team in any ordinary situation.
As they don’t really have the resources to wait and see if a given player will continue on an upward trend and still expect to keep him if it happens (Evan Longoria being one notable exception), risk-taking is always part of the plan when it comes to how Tampa Bay has to build their roster, even if Myers’ pending free agency won’t happen until 2019.
Is it a tough call? Given his defensive issues and the small sample size, you’d have to think so … but then again, not too many 22-year-olds come into the league and posts a .293/.354/.478 triple-slash in a 2.4 fWAR season. That’s good enough to make him the second-best hitter on the 2013 Rays outside of Longoria, with Myers arguably being the team’s best down the stretch in the final month.
Given his pedigree, his performance, and the fact that an aging Ben Zobrist will be a free agent after his age-34 2015 season, Friedman and co. would be best served to look ahead to find the most cost-effective way to secure what Myers’ bat could be in a year or two — even just for the sake of having that all-important cost certainty.
Besides, it’s not like the team hasn’t done this before both with Longoria and future ace Matt Moore, who was signed to an option-laden deal that could stretch to $37.5 million over eight years.
Myers is younger, and he’ll likely cost more over a higher number of years even in a deal with a similar structure. Once the Rays brought him up in June, however, they set themselves up down this road; the more he succeeds going forward, the more difficult it’ll be for the team to lock him up.
That could be both a good or bad thing, and while there’s definitely a good argument for it being far too early in this 2013 offseason, another successful campaign 2014 will see the Rays facing a quickly diminishing window when it comes to extending Myers.
So even if they’re not really thinking about it now, you’d have to think that it won’t be too much longer until the issue becomes much more pressing, yes?