Thursday, July 05, 2007
Even if Crawford, Young and Upton do not develop into superstars over the next few seasons, the Rays are hedging their bets with Evan Longoria and Reid Brignac at third and short, respectfully, who are killing Double-A pitching. Two out of these five should become the lineup anchors in 2009 with the others likely providing league average production. The Rays offense should be fine. And if James Shields is for real, then Tampa could have two top of the rotation starters in a couple of years not to mention Jeff Niemann and Andy Sonnanstine in eating up AAA. They should be playoff contenders in 2009 or 2010 like the Brewers this season.
After that the Rays may need to reshuffle the cards, as players become arbitration eligible. With that in mind, the Rays might want to frontload a contract for a veteran free agent this winter. For example, a four-year deal for $13 million in 2008, $10 million in 2009, $9 million in 2010 and $8 million and no state income tax is worth more than Ted Lilly’s deal with the Cubs. The norm is to backload contracts, but this kind of deal would smooth out payroll for the Rays and give them a competitive advantage in the free agent market.