Expensive decision: whether to keep Winn
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 7, 2002
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- There are plenty of ways to assess the progress Randy Winn made to go from part-time player at the start of spring training to the Rays Most Valuable Player through the first half of the season and an All-Star.
He has been a more consistent hitter. He has hit for more power. He has produced more runs. He has delivered in more clutch situations. He has become a quality leadoff man. He has become a more aggressive baserunner and base-stealer. He has improved his defense. He has made more outstanding plays. He has become stronger and shown more stamina. He has become more of a team leader.
"He's worked hard and he's improved his overall game," manager Hal McRae said.
Now the Rays have to decide how much more he can do.
Winn, 28, made just under $1-million this season and probably will jump into the $2-million to $3-million range next season. If the Rays think he can keep doing what he's doing and improving, they might consider a multiyear deal.
They've invested four years in his development since taking him from the low end of the Marlins farm system in the 1997 expansion draft, and they could prop him up as a rare success story.
Bench coach Billy Hatcher, who has been with the Rays from the start, said he is convinced there is more to come. "The scary thing is that he's still learning," Hatcher said.
But if the Rays aren't convinced that this is the real Winn, if they don't think he is going to have more seasons like this one projects to be, a .310 average, 12-15 homers, 80-plus RBIs, 30 steals, then they face a tough decision.
Word is that several teams, including the Giants and Yankees, are interested. If the Rays don't think he can do it again, they should probably trade him now, because his value may never be higher. A first-half MVP ought to be worth something.
NEXT MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE: Sure Wilson Alvarez made it back, Ryan Rupe won five games, Steve Cox played well and the Rule 5 draft picks (Felix Escalona, Jorge Sosa and Steve Kent) contributed.
But the move that's probably worked out best was recalling Aubrey Huff. They brought him up to add offense, and he's done it, hitting .293 with 7 homers and 17 RBIs in 35 games.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: It would be easy to drop this on catcher Toby Hall, who was supposed to be an All-Star and ended up back in Triple A for a month; or Jason Tyner, who was supposed to be the catalyst of the offense; or Victor Zambrano, who was talked about as a future closer; or one of the other struggling young players.
But what we don't know, at least not yet, is whether they are to blame for not playing well, or if the Rays bosses are at fault for expecting too much, for overhyping them in an effort to sell their youth movement to ownership and the fans, thus putting the players in a position to fail.
The true disappointment has been the play of several of the veterans. Esteban Yan hasn't been much of a closer. Ben Grieve remains maddeningly inconsistent. Tanyon Sturtze can't win a coin flip.
But none has been as disappointing as Greg Vaughn. The theory was that he'd come into the season and play so well that he'd be traded by the end of the July. Instead, he's been so bad, the question is if he weren't on the disabled list would he still be in the lineup.
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