Jamal has been a writer for Bleacher Report since 2010 focused strictly on the Rays. He has had his work featured on websites such as Forbes, USA Today, CBS Sports, Houston Chronicle and the LA Times. Jamal is a special correspondent for 620wdae.com covering the Tampa Bay Rays.
Chris Archer looked impressive in his first start since signing his six-year $25 million contract extension on Wednesday. The 25-year-old pitcher only gave up four hits and two earned runs in six innings of work in the Tampa Bay Rays 7-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Of course, it will take more than one start to confirm whether the Rays early investment in the young right-handed pitcher was a smart move. With that being said, the early returns are looking like the decision was a great move for all parties involved.
It’s also a necessary move if the Rays want to sustain success for years to come.
The first chapter of the Rays success story involved a group of young players that were drafted and developed by the team. In 2008, the World Series team featured homegrown talent that included James Shields, B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and David Price as key contributors.
Since then, the Rays have had to restock the shelves by trading their top pitchers in exchange for future prospects. Previously, the Rays had a top prospect in the pipeline ready to take over when the previous player left.
The farm system is not as well stocked as it used to be.
Jake Odorizzi is the highest ranked prospect in the Rays organization by Baseball America. Even though he is the highest ranked player on the team, he is ranked as the No. 67 prospect in baseball.
This year ends an 11-year run of the team having a top-10 prospect waiting for their call to the majors. The streak started with Rocco Baldelli in 2003 and lasted through Wil Myers in 2013.
The 2014 Rays’ Opening Day 25-man roster is comprised with 15 players (60 percent) acquired by trade including Archer, Myers, Odorizzi, David DeJesus, Yunel Escobar, Ryan Hanigan and Ben Zobrist.
Relying on a trade market for a top player to fill future roster spots is a very difficult and unpredictable model to maintain. It only works if there is a trading partner with quality prospects that is also interested in the player the Rays are looking to unload at the time.
At some point the Rays will need to be able to retain their talented starting pitchers and position players. They have proven more than capable to re-configure the bullpen annually but cannot afford to pay market rates for starting pitching and top-tier offensive players.
This is where the Archer deal becomes so pivotal.
By locking up Archer, the Rays have added to the foundation they started with the contracts for Matt Moore and Evan Longoria.
If this is the model for version 2.0 of the Rays it should create a more predictable means to keep the team financially sustainable and competitive in the toughest division in sports. Only time will tell if the team can continue to come to similar agreements with Myers, Jennings, Alex Cobb or other players on the roster.
One thing we do know, Archer has the cash to buy all the leather bound books his heart desires.
Photo: Getty Images