There was a recent article in Baseball America by Brian McTaggart that involved both the Astros and Rays organizations. To summarize the article, the Astros are closing their academy in Venezuela after 20 years. The tie to the Rays is that Andres Reiner was the architect of the Astros' Venezuelan academy when they became the first team to open an academy in Venezuela. Reiner left the Astros in August of 2005 to become a special assistant for the Rays and recently spearheaded our opening of an academy in Brazil. This got me thinking about the differences between the Astros and the Rays organizations.
Astros: Parlayed an $88.9 million payroll into a 3rd place finish in the mediocre NL Central, 11.0 games behind the Cubs and 0.5 games ahead of the Cardinals. Star SP Roy Oswalt recently offered to restructure his contract to give the team payroll flexibility to sign a free agent, which ownership politely declined.
Rays: Won the highly-competitive AL East with a payroll of $43.8 million. Advanced to the World Series with a roster dominated by young players with upside.
The Near Future
Astros: BA's recent organizational report card: "Houston has no help coming from the farm system." BA minor league talent ranking (preseason/last 5 years): 29th/29th.
Rays: BA's recent organizational report card: "With the talent already in place and continuing to flow through the farm system, no reason Rays shouldn't be in playoff contention for years to come." BA minor league talent ranking (preseason/last 5 years): 1st/3rd.
The Distant Future
Astros: Disbanding Venezuelan academy, adding Gulf Coast League affiliate.
Rays: Maintaining Venezuelan and Dominican academies, adding Brazilian academy, and adding Gulf Coast League affiliate.
It's good to be a Rays fan.