It was announced late on Sunday evening the San Diego Padres were finalizing a deal to acquire Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays. The move is an obvious signal that the Padres and loading up for a serious title run in 2021. More relevant to the New York Yankees and the rest of the American League East, it also signaled that the Rays are officially going into rebuild mode.
Here is a list of players they have either traded, cut, or declined to resign going back to August 2020:
Traded to San Diego
5 Years/$50 Million
Released/Signed with Boston
Was projected to make $3.5 Million through Arb. Signed with BOS for $3.1 Million
Declined $15 Million Option/Signed with Atlanta
Signed with ATL for $15 Million
Traded to Cubs
Traded by TAM to CHC on 8/30/20
There are also rumors that the Rays are shopping Kevin Kiermaier and his six-year, $53.5 million contract. Heading into 2021 the Rays will be without the 2018 Cy Young Award winner and the third-place finisher in 2019 and they had complete team control over both. Granted that Morton was due to make $15 million in 2021 but considering his skills the last few years, that would have been a no-brainer for most teams in the league. However, the Rays are a small market team, to say the least. As of today, they are projected to have a payroll just a hair shy of $56 million going into 2021. That puts them about $106 million behind the Yankees payroll (No. 2 overall behind the Los Angeles Dodgers). The Rays are obviously shedding payroll and the only surprise is due to the fact that they just lost the World Series in six games to the Dodgers. So how does this affect the Yankees moving forward?
Do the Yankees change their offseason strategy?
Right now, the Yankees’ focus seems to be on re-signing DJ LeMahieu. They still need to replace or re-sign Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and probably sign a bullpen arm or two. Up until the Rays began to shed payroll, they were looking at Tampa Bay as their main competition for the division title next year. Boston is still without direction and Baltimore is Baltimore. Now it appears the Toronto Blue Jays will be the main rival in 2021 especially if the reports that they want to bring LeMahieu in are true. Embed from Getty Images
My fear is that Brian Cashman will see the Rays selling off their key pieces and decide that the game plan for signing free agents need to adjust to that new information. Maybe he’s more confident in the team he currently has under contract if the Rays have no plans to compete next season. He will never come out and say that of course but I’m sure there are discussions being had behind closed doors at this very moment discussing this topic. If it were up to me, my game plan doesn’t change one bit. The reason for that would be the up and coming Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays already have a solid core of young players currently on the big league roster. Look at the 2021 ZIP projections for the Blue Jays four best players IF they manage to sign LeMahieu away from the Yankees:
Vlad Guerrero Jr.
That’s a solid infield with Guerrero Jr. and Biggio on the corners while LeMahieu and Bichette take care of the middle infield. In my opinion, Bichette is the most talented player on the Blue Jays right now. A lot of the hype that surrounds Guerrero Jr. is real but Bichette has 30/30 potential and plays a premium defensive position and plays it well. Their pitching staff leaves something to be desired because right now their top two starters are Robby Ray and Hyun-Jin Ryu. They also have Ross Stripling whom they traded for prior to the deadline in 2020. They need another pitcher and preferably an ace. Lucky for the Blue Jays, they have about $24 million in free payroll compared to 2020 if they want to sign a pitcher like Trevor Bauer. If the Blue Jays were to sign Bauer instead of LeMahieu, they would still have a pretty good offense and a much-improved pitching staff heading into 2021.
This is all to say that the Yankees’ offseason plan remains unchanged despite the Rays rebuilding signal. Re-sign LeMahieu, sign some starting pitching, and build up some depth for the inevitable injuries.