Roger Mooney covers the Tampa Bay Rays for The Tampa Tribune, TBO.com and News Channel 8. He has covered the Rays since their first season in 1998, including 11 years for the Bradenton Herald. Roger has also covered Florida, South Florida and Florida State football, the Bucs and the Lightning.
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Sternberg: Rays willing to spend
Posted Jan 18, 2008 by Marc Lancaster
Updated Jan 18, 2008 at 03:14 PM
The Rays’ $24.125-million commitment to Carlos Pena fell in line with the organization’s strategy for building and maintaining a winning team, principal owner Stuart Sternberg told the Tribune today.
Building on the multi-year deals given to Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli after Sternberg took over, the Pena contract gives the Rays some salary assurance and the peace of mind that a key player will be in place with no salary haggling necessary for the immediate future.
“The goal for us is to have people want to be here, have them be guys who work for us, and they have to fit into a framework,” said Sternberg. “We do sort of have to pick and choose a little bit because we can’t do it across the board—we have to find the right situation. Fortunately for us, we’ve been finding the right situations.”
The Rays seem to have zeroed in on their targets. The team is in the midst of discussions with James Shields about a deal that could cover at least the next five or six seasons, and the process is far enough along that it may be wrapped up within the next week.
As for making such a significant commitment to Pena, Sternberg said the first baseman’s fondness for the area and the organization played a part in the team’s willingness to extend such a lucrative deal.
“His desire to be here lent a lot to it,” said Sternberg, “and the way that he’s shown his leadership and carried himself put us over the top to do something like this.”
Today’s deals with Pena and Scott Kazmir ($3.785 million) added nearly $10 million onto this year’s payroll, and the team has blown past Sternberg’s estimates of a payroll somewhere around $35 million made last fall. Sternberg noted the flak the Rays took for reducing their payroll heading into last season, but shedding some high-priced veterans who didn’t fit in the long-term plan “gave us the ability and flex to step up a little bit more this year.”
“We didn’t expect to be where we’re going to be this year [payroll-wise], but as we’ve said in the past, we’re going to be opportunistic,” said Sternberg. “If an opportunity presents itself, we can go outside of where we are.”
Sternberg acknowledged that laying out more money this year than expected will have an impact on financial decisions going forward, but he emphasized the Rays wouldn’t dismiss an opportunity to add more payroll—say, at midseason—out of hand.
“We’re always going to leave ourselves in a position to have room to do something,” he said. “That’s just way going to run our business.”