Boy, you take a few days off for the first time in months, and all hell breaks loose around baseball. Some catch-up is in order:
1. The Rays' rebuild is constantly evolving.
It really shouldn't have been surprising that the Rays would deal off ace Blake Snell. After all, it's part of their M.O. In the past, they've traded (deep breath): James Shields, Chris Archer, David Price, Scott Kazmir, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Garza and Jeremy Hellickson -- many in the immediate aftermath of their best seasons.
It's what the Rays do -- they unload their best pitchers while they can still maximize the return on them. Then, they go about the business of developing their replacements.
To accomplish their goal of sustainability, the Rays are constantly remaking their roster. As it gets older (and, by definition, more expensive), the Rays first unload, then try to reload.
The haul they pulled in for Snell was, by most accounts, a bountiful one. Luis Patino is projected as a No. 2 starter, and for most organizations, he would represent the best starting pitching prospect. (It just so happens MacKenzie Gore occupies that spot for the Padres). Francisco Mejia gives them an offense-first catcher, a position that's been a concern for the Tampa organization. And in Cole Wilcox, drafted only last summer, was a first-round talent who dropped to the third round because of signability issues. He could be a solid No. 3 starter in another two or so years.
But even as the Rays plant the seeds for the future, there's little doubt that they've taken a significant step back in 2021. It's perhaps unavoidable that a franchise as budget-conscious as the Rays is going to have its ebbs and flows, but after getting to Game 6 of the World Series, the Rays are quite obviously retreating.
Other franchises may have responded to a season in which they got to Game 6 of the World Series before losing by adding another star player or addressing a final roster need, believing that one acquisition could put them over the top the following season.
The Rays, however, do not have that luxury. If they wait too long to turn their present assets into future ones, it defeats the whole purpose. Put simply, the Rays have made the determination that they'll be slightly worse off in 2021 so that they can be much better in 2023 and 2024.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
It can be