Blast of Cold Reality before the Hot Stove Season
Mother Nature has done her best in the last day to remind all of us in Florida that Winter is quickly approaching. It’s blustery message was delivered locally by a huge weather trough of icy Artic air that has temperatures in the Tampa Bay region tumbling from the mid 80’s to a blustery 50 degree in the last 24 hours . With that blast of colder air comes the oncoming and anticipated hibernation of most of the Tampa Bay Rays non-baseball related staff as the rest of the Rays front office embraces for a hot and humid Hot Stove season. Does it really seem like it has been 5 days since the members of the San Francisco Giants first thrust the MLB Commissioner’s Trophy high into the Texas sky and signaled the beginning of a well orchestrated off seasonal dance between Major League Baseball players and the upper management of their respective franchises who can take this 120 hour grace period to entertain or separate themselves from players that once could be considered critical to their team’s plans.
Within this ticking of the clock all 30 MLB teams can either play the respective “devil or angel” card by securing their valued players by joyfully acknowledging their acceptance of their players’ exclusive club options, or possibly declining the same said options with an eye to a possible salary reduction and welcome back into their team’s fold as if nothing happened. It is in this time of the year that the player’s agents and representatives can either make or break their clients “bankability” with their clubs, or begin to put feelers out for another opportunity.
It is the time when the gloves come off and the pleasantries can sometimes take a back seat as clubs’ begin to weed and filter out veterans or high risk contract players who’s declining skills or performance potential doesn’t adhere to the club’s style of play or forecasted remolding of the franchise. Within this 5 day period more than few gasps and whispers will be heard when players who were considered “untouchable” almost 4 months ago are given their unconditional walking papers or left dangling within the trade winds as pieces that could be acquired for a few pieces of silver now.
Take what has happened recently to Giants Shortstop Edgar Renteria who in the beginning of this 5-day period was preparing for a huge celebration with the fans of San Francisco, but even before he could step upon the float for a celebration parade was non-tendered his option by the same club that saw him hoist the Most Valuable Player award for the World Series. In less than 120 hours Renteria went from the penthouse to the basement with nothing to break his fall from Giants grace.
This 5-day fiasco is where your personality and abilities as a player are defined under a stark microscope along with a dollar sign anointed to your forehead and either you gain the fiscal approval, or you are cast into the darkness with one match and candle. It is where the ugly head of business within the MLB has to rear its hideous face and make decisions that are not welcomed or anticipated by either the fan base or the general public. Where even a team fresh off a whirlwind World Series trip has to define their 2011 goals and payroll within the confines of cold reality and monetary limitations that might exclude a key member of the celebration.
Dan Wheeler was one of the first pitchers in the Rays farm system to ascend through the ranks and get to the Major League level back in 1998. He has a long history of his love and involvement with the team having a chance to come back to the team that gave him his start in 2007. But Wheeler’s $ 4million dollar salary is not conducive to the Rays structure of their payroll for 2011 and saw his 2011 club option declined by the Rays. Wheeler will receive a nice $ 1 million consolation prize from the Rays with a hope of extended talks to possibly come to a financial crossroads that can benefit both parties and rejoin the team.
With this chill felt in Florida today, it instantly reminds me of the brief time period between the final out of the 2010 MLB postseason and the sudden approach of the 2010 Free Agent season. A time when MLB member clubs will see the leaves (players) fall from their roster trees as they begin to shed salary and personnel for the long Winter. 120 hours doesn’t seem like enough time to fully examine and filter out the pros and cons of a currently MLB player before plucking him off your roster….. possibly forever.
As the chilled wind rustles through the trees outside, Winter is approaching and Spring is still just a daydream away. But within the next 24 hours every front office of the 30 MLB clubs will poise to again spring into action the off season fight for Free Agents and begin the hearty task of creating another possible winner who 51 weeks from now will thrust their own MLB Commissioner’s Trophy into the night sky and the process begin all over again.