What if the Tampa Bay Rays weren’t limited in financial resources and could afford a team payroll closer to $100 million?
It’s an interesting question for a team that has made the most out of limited funds, fielding a team that has won at least 90 games in four out of the last five seasons.
It’s also an interesting question when you think about the potential roster that could’ve been.
Of course injuries and declining player performance can’t be prevented simply by having a larger budget. We will leave those parts of the scenario out, because it’s just not as fun.
Some parts of the roster probably wouldn’t change. It’s safe to assume that even if the Rays had more money available, they would still spend it with the same frugality as they have always shown.
Also, the starting rotation being completely home grown would keep their payroll levels close to what they are today. The only difference would be the ability to extend either David Price or James Shields to a longer deal—a luxury the team currently cannot afford.
The bullpen would also probably not look much different. The Rays have proven that they can gather talent for low salaries, and seem to always put together an effective bullpen. The advantage of having a higher payroll would be in possibly keeping someone like Rafael Soriano or Joaquin Benoit on the roster longer.
The Rays' infield might still lack a quality player at shortstop and catcher, but would at least be able to afford a quality first baseman and a designated hitter. One who isn’t past his prime or recovering from injury.
Again, it wouldn’t have to be a top-tier free agent, but being able to sign a player like Marco Scutaro could improve the roster.
The outfield is where the additional resources could come in handy. It’s quite possible that Carl Crawford still would’ve left for $145 million, but B.J. Upton’s departure wouldn’t have been a foregone conclusion due to costs. It’s also possible that a trade could’ve been made for Justin Upton to build an outfield of Desmond Jennings, Upton and Upton.
Although additional money could buy the Rays a lot of players that they can’t currently afford, there are also things it can’t buy. It can’t buy Game 162. And more money probably would’ve prevented some surprising player performances, like that of closer Fernando Rodney last season.
Besides, the Boston Red Sox had a large payroll. And it didn’t quite work out for them last season, did it?
Jamal Wilburg is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.