With the rumours about the Rays being willing to listen on Blake Snell, I thought it might be fun to imagine a Ross Atkins / Erik Neander conversation
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The setting: Erik Neander’s`office. Erik (the Tampa Rays GM) is sitting at his desk. The phone rings.
Ross Atkins: Hey Erik. It’s Ross. How are you doing?
Ross: I wanted to touch base on Blake Snell. Can we talk?
Erik: Always willing to talk, Ross. But we are in no hurry to move Blake. So it would take an exceptional offer. Were you planning to make one?
Ross: Could be. I hear that you are looking for “catching, catching and catching”, so should we start there? Sounds like you are interested in more than one catcher – am I right?
Erik: For the right catchers, definitely. Who did you have in mind?
Ross: I am thinking that you are looking for a young, cheap, MLB-proven catcher with multiple years of team control. How do you feel about Reese McGuire? He had a scary-good 2019, with a .299/.346/.526 batting line and a +3 DRS in only 236 innings. And he is not even arb eligible until 2023, and not a free agent until 2026.
Erik: I agree that Reese has upside, Ross, but his 2020 scares me. And that incident in Dunedin – right next door – would not endear him to the Rays fans. And before you offer “Captain” Kirk, he is not yet MLB-proven in my mind. If you are serious, we would have to start the conversation with Danny Jansen.
Ross: Ouch! That is a big ask, Erik. But let’s keep talking. Who would you see as the second catcher? I would need to keep McGuire and Alejandro Kirk if I lose Danny – how do you feel about Riley Adams and Gabriel Moreno?
Erik: I like Moreno’s upside. He is likely not MLB-ready until 2022 at the earliest, but if I had Danny as my #1 I could sign a cheap veteran as his backup until Moreno is ready. (speaking softly, as if to himself) Maybe re-sign Mike Zunino …
Ross: So are we getting close? I doubt another MLB team can offer you both a MLB-ready Gold Glove finalist like Jansen and an almost-top-100 like Moreno.
Erik: Close, but not quite there. What else are you offering?
Ross: How do you feel about Kevin Kiermaier, and his remaining 2 years and $26-ish million? Suppose we took him off your hands? And gave you Randall Grichuk as a replacement? Your team are expert at unlocking value, and Randall has shown flashes. Remember his second half of 2018? .280/.326/.569, with 14 homers?
Erik: I like Grichuk, but you know we are cash strapped, Ross. He has – what? – 3 years and $31 million left? Way out of my budget.
Ross: What if I paid half?
Erik: Half of Grichuk’s salary? So he would only cost us just over $5m a year?
Ross: You got it. Jansen, Moreno, Grichuk and $15m for Snell and Kiermaier. And we could make the full $15m payable up-front, rather than over the remaining three years of Randall’s contract, if that would help you out. I know 2020 was a particularly rough year.
Erik: I’ll tell you this much, Ross. You really have my attention. Let me chew on it a bit and get back to you.
Ross: Fair enough, Erik. You let me know. And by the way – do you remember which agent at CAA Sports represents J.T. Realmuto? I may need to make a call.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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A Jays fan since pre-Series, Jim’s biggest baseball regret is that he did not play hooky with his buddies on 7 Apr 77. But hearing “Fanfare For The Common Man” played from a rooftop on 24 Oct 92 helped him atone.