In 2020, it was clear the NY Yankees tried to play the Tampa Bay Rays’ game and got burned. In 2021, it appears as if the Rays are now trying to play the Yankees’ game, and, well, to say they’ve gotten burned before the season even started would be a massive understatement.
Not only did the Rays try to get ahead of the curve by declining Charlie Morton’s team option and trading Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres — two moves, in all honestly, that make no sense regardless of how you spin it — but they tried to patch up those departures with … Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, according to reports.
Get out of here, in all sincerity. First of all, why would Tampa ever think that they’d be able to downgrade as significantly as they did and then be able to attract a guy like Kluber, who is both looking for a bounce back year and a chance at a ring? As as for Taillon, we think the Pittsburgh Pirates learned their lesson trading with the Rays after the Chris Archer deal.
While we could convince ourselves that Kluber and Taillon are Rays-like acquisitions, viewing it through the lens of this offseason swiftly changes all of that. Tampa objectively got worse and embarrassed themselves in the World Series by making one of the most egregious pitching changes in the history of the sport. That move alone isn’t going to convince a two-time Cy Young winner to come on down to Tampa — Kluber’s not ready for retirement just yet. And did the Rays really think they could steal Kluber from the Yankees given the connection with Eric Cressey? Come on now.
And as for Taillon, he’s been a target of the Yankees for the better part of two offseasons now. The Yankees previously had talks with the Pirates about the right-hander, which was indicated by reports over the last year. The Rays thought they could jump in and convince the Pirates otherwise?
Instead of doing their “own thing” which, admittedly, has resulted in smashing successes, the Rays are now just trying to stave off the Yankees attempting to undercut them in free agency and on the trade market because, well, the Yankees are so much better.
They just so happened to be hampered by injuries, untimely offensive droughts, and inexplicable late-game gaffes for the last four years.
The Rays are aggressive on the trade market and shrewd on the free agency front in their own right, but the Yankees are on a mission this offseason. Attempting to go toe-to-toe with Brian Cashman, the longest-tenured general manager in baseball, is a game the Rays should not be playing.
They got got for it, and now they’ll be significantly worse a year after winning the American League.