The Tampa Bay Rays are credited for their use of defensive shifts, for their bullpen reconstructions, for their trades, for competing in the AL East annually. But what the club's leadership doesn't get enough credit for is how competitive it is.
Manager Joe Maddon is eclectic and intellectual, GM Andrew Friedman is analytical and self-deprecating, and owner Stuart Sternberg is genial and circumspect. But the three of them have demonstrated, through their work, a dogged desire to -- how can we put this politely? -- deliver a groin shot to other teams. There is a great competitive arrogance, a necessity given all the inherent disadvantages in place for Tampa Bay; they believe they will outwork or outthink or out-executive or out-something when they play. It is from this place that Maddon made eight pitching changes in the Rays' last game of 2013, in the team's attempt to will itself over a better team.
The Rays know their odds, they know the postseason history of teams with modest payrolls, and they've demonstrated they will make big-picture, clear-eyed assessments.
But at heart, the Rays, as much or more than other teams, want to kick some butt, which brings us to the current state of the David Price trade talks. The equation being weighed by the Rays is shifting as the winter drifts by.
At the outset of the winter, rival executives fully expected Tampa Bay to trade the left-hander, who is two seasons away from free agency, and the primary question for the Rays was: Which offer will be best for Price?
Officials with other teams say it was evident Tampa Bay had done a lot of summer assessment work on the minor league systems of the Diamondbacks, Rangers, Dodgers and others.