The Rays' 3-2 loss Monday gave the team three total runs for the three games at Fenway. Tampa Bay has now scored 35 runs in 12 games, an average of less than three a game and the lowest total in the majors, save for the hapless Marlins. Zobrist's ninth-inning single was the Rays' first hit with a runner in scoring position in 25 at-bats; the three outs that followed left the team 1 for its last 28 with RISP. The end result is a Rays team that's 4-8, tying the worst start in franchise history. With one phone call, the team could have the best-hitting prospect on the planet in the lineup. All Wil Myers did in his age-21 season last year was hit .314/.387/.600, blasting 37 homers and winning Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year award. Even if he doesn't hit a ton right out of the gate, Myers would figure to improve a Rays lineup that badly needs a jolt of power. The problem is one of service time. Over the weekend, we reached the point where any prospect who hadn't yet played in the majors could get called up, stick with the big club for the rest of the year, and still not become a free agent until after the 2019 season. But that's merely the first service-time milestone the penny-pinching Rays are watching. If Tampa Bay can keep Myers in Triple-A Durham long enough to avoid him falling into the Super Two class of call-ups, the team would push his arbitration-eligibility clock back a full season, too. It's tough to predict exactly what the cutoff date will be. For the Rays to safely dodge arbitration an extra year, they'd likely have to wait until at least mid-June before calling up their young slugger. Throw in the team's reported desire for Myers to improve his defense in right field (he's a converted catcher who just started patrolling the outfield two years ago), and management seems in no rush to bring him up. The big question is whether the Rays' prudence is a good idea. The AL East looks like a wide-open division this year, with the usually mighty Yankees battling a litany of injuries, the heavily upgraded Jays already dealing with bullpen concerns and a major injury to Jose Reyes, the Orioles potential regression candidates after posting the best record in major league history for one-run games, and the Red Sox probably better than the masses expected coming off a 69-win season, but still not quite the powerhouse team that we saw for much of the previous decade. Meanwhile, the Rays still own a strong starting rotation, even without Shields, and they figure to run well and catch the ball better than most other teams. They'll also likely squeeze a couple of extra wins from all the little things they do well, be it shifting more aggressively than other teams on defense or deploying all kinds of aggressive matchups, not only straight left-right platoons for hitters and lefty-righty matchups for pitchers, but also leveraging ground ball vs. fly ball tendencies and many other subtle factors. The question is whether they'll hit. Even accounting for the offense-dampening environment of Tropicana Field, the Rays at least seem undermanned offensively and badly in need of an upgrade. Getting Scott back from the DL in early May or so figures to help. Even with a healthy Scott in the lineup, the Rays will still have a hole that needs filling, with Zobrist currently playing right field while the mediocre Kelly Johnson mans second base. Promoting Myers would push Zobrist to second — where he can deliver maximum defensive value — while also providing a potentially big boost for the Rays' offense, as Myers ostensibly replaces Johnson. Yes, bringing up Myers tomorrow would seem to cancel any chance the Rays would have to hold back Myers's service-time clock and save themselves several million dollars in the process. But other factors need to be considered, too, from the AL East crown looking attainable with as little as 90 wins to David Price's price tag rising and thus his tenure with the Rays winding down, to the offense standing to benefit a little if Myers shows a little lack of polish at first, or a lot if he comes out of the gate hitting like he did during 2012's player of the year campaign. So what should they do? In an ideal scenario, they'd sign Myers to the kind of long-term deal that Evan Longoria inked six days into his major league career. The Rays approached Longoria and his agent, Paul Cohen, when Longoria was still in Triple-A, eventually convincing him to sign a deal that would max out at nine years and around $48 million if the three club options were all exercised. Five years in, the Rays reworked that deal, giving Longoria a nine-figure contract that will keep him in Tampa Bay through his prime. Given Tampa Bay got that first Longoria deal done, and also approached B.J. Upton with a long-term proposal when Upton was still in Triple-A, you have to figure they've at least had preliminary talks with Myers about locking him up for six or more years. Of course, both parties need to be interested for a deal to happen. Myers and his agent might well decide to forgo the security of a big contract right at the start of his major league career in favor of bigger riches if he doesn't sign and then puts up the kind of big numbers many expect.
Is Wil Myers the Cure for the Anemic Rays Offense?
Grantland | May 3