July 12, 2014

#Cardinals thoughts: What is it with Tampa Bay fans on Price and Zobrist?

Rays fans, at least judging by visitors here and the more ardent ones I've run into on NBC, seem to be drinking the Kool-Aid of their GM, Andrew Friedman, on overvaluing the trade value of David Price. And, they seem to be in a league of their own on overvaluing the trade value, or value in general, of Ben Zobrist.

Price first.

I'm not the only Cards fan to say that whatever Freeman is wanting for Price, it seems to be too much, especially since he turned down an offer from the Oakland A's that included Addison Russell, who one commenter here admitted is one of the top 5 prospects in the minor leagues.

I've blogged before that a likely final offer by the Cardinals was better than what the Rays could likely get from other teams, per a guesstimate of those other teams offerings made by a Tampa sportswriter, no less.

Not all of us Cardinal fans are alike. One, at least, among NBC commenters, hugely overvalues Tyler Lyons, who in my opinion will never be better than a regular back-end starter, and IMO probably won't even be that. Some probably think it funny that, after Boston-inspired, Boston-fueled rumors that the Cards were interested in Jake Peavy started getting airplay, I suggested a reverse salary dump, sending Matt Holliday to Beantown as part of a larger trade. Why did I suggest that? Because Holliday's on Cardinal books for three more years, if he doesn't waive his no-trade, and his age-related decline curve is about the same as a certain Tampa second baseman.

But we're all agreed on one thing: Friedman seems to be getting greedy on Price, and Rays fans are even worse.

I've noted before that Friedman faces two ticking clocks. One, of course, is the July 31 waiver-free trade deadline. If Friedman can't move Price before then, his trade value drops, and drops a fair degree, of course.

The second is March 31, 2015. After that, Price becomes strictly a rent-a-player. A team unsure of resigning him, who trades for him after the start of next year's season, would be unable to offer him the qualifying offer at the end of that season, of course.

But, hold everything.

Masahiro Tanaka is now on the disabled list with what's been diagnosed as a partial ulnar collateral ligament tear. No Tommy John surgery planned yet, but if non-surgical methods don't work, it will be the knife. And, the Rays may know that by July 31; if not, they can probably at least assume they won't be seeing the Tanaka of his first dozen starts. Between that and CC Sabathia likely not coming back this year, stressing the back end of the rotation to where it will blow up, the Yankees are due to sink, no matter the skippering genius of Joe Girardi.

And, in Toronto, Adam Lind, for 2 months, is hitting the DL, joining Edwin Encarncion, though his injury is much less severe.

Friedman, at a minimum, has to wait until close to the trade deadline unless he gets a big offer. He has to see how series Tanaka's injury is, how much they fall and may continue to fall if it is serious, and then, see if his own team's recent surge can continue. Ditto on the Jays.

If answers to all the above are favorable, the Rays could be in third place in a weak AL East at the trade deadline, and close to passing the Jays into second, assuming the Orioles don't also slump.

In any case, the Price being right or wrong is seemingly not a Cardinals problem any more. I'm sure that Yadier Molina going on the shelf for the rest of the season with his thumb injury surgery means John Mozeliak's not trading for anybody. Well, not as a "buyer." It makes me wonder, speaking of Holliday, if the Cards might become a "seller," in fact.

Meanwhile, per my Holliday comment, picking up that other thread.

I've already blogged that I think the Rays' infielders' previous years' defensive performance is overrated due to Tampa's early and aggressive use of defensive shifts, a tactic much of the rest of the league is now catching up to. (Zobriest's dWAR is down a lot this yer, and Evan Longoria has a negative rating.)

Another issue is that 2B has a relatively rapid aging curve.

Looking at relatively recent history? Robbie Alomar’s last season was at 36. Lou Whitaker’s last full season was at 36. Bobby Grich’s last full season was at 36. Second base has a pretty rapid aging curve on the far side of 35; Ryne Sandberg also illustrates this.

Zobrist will be 34 next year.

On another post, a Tampa fan, after saying Zobrist is so valuable, hinted at the idea of a straight-up trade of Kolten Wong for him, or those two being a primary trade focus.

Well, you can't have it both ways; you can't say Zobrist is so great, then say you'd want him and Wong mentioned in the same breath. As for value? I said that if Zobrist offered the Cards 3.5 WAR next year, and Wong 2.5, it's only a 1-WAR trade. Hardly enough for getting rid of long-term control of Wong before we see him play out. And no, I don't think that's an overestimate on Wong. In fact, it may very well be an underestimate by a full point of WAR.

Hence, the people, whether Rays fans or ESPN baseball writers who, in general, look stupider by the day, thinking the Cards had a black hole, or near it, at 2B, "had to" have a replacement there, etc., and saying all of this because Wong had a slow start, and then, after his send-down and call-back, played much better until he had played several games with an injured shoulder before going on the DL. Seriously, the "Worldwide Leader," at least in baseball, becomes a leader only in stupidity. (Well, with the new 538, it becomes a leader in hyperbole, too.)

As for Rays fans? I appreciate the frustration of being in a small market while you've had a winning team until this year. Don't blame Cards fans, or Cards writers, or even neutral writers smarter than the ones at ESPN, for calling you out on your greed, though.

Blame the people who don't show up for Rays games. Maybe you could never have a huge market. But, you don't have that small of a population market, either. Greater Tampa-St. Pete is bigger than metro Cincinnati. Or Kansas City. Or Pittsburgh. And, that's not counting getting a few Orlando fans to make a relatively short trip.

Just a little more attendance would also allow for a little more in ticket prices, even at a place like the Trop. It would also help the next TV contract a bit. With that in mind, if that were happening, the Rays could easily run an $85M payroll, and probably a $90M one.

So, if you have Stockholm syndrome, don't blame me; blame the people not filling the seats.

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