That title has so many meanings.
First, it is good to be back. Vacation was great. A week at a resort ain’t bad no matter what.
But, obviously, I have missed alot. Let me check that, I have not written about alot. I have missed nothing.
Second, it seems that “catchin’ up” is exactly what the Rays have been doing. They fought back in this tough division to take the lead by a game, only to fall back out of it before finding themselves back in the thick of it with a few strong games of late.
Here are some of the things I have seen over these last weeks.
The Rays have not given up on this season at all. As I mentioned, they took the division lead a week or so ago, despite a 7-game losing streak. Then, just as soon as they got the lead, they relinquished it to the Yanks again.
Even though they currently sit in 2nd place in the division, they could easily have packed it in. They overcame a mini-losing streak in the last few weeks before getting a nice start from Jeremy Hellickson his last time out (before today). Then they seemed to hit rock bottom, being shut out by the last place Orioles on Friday. Now they have won 2 in a row (again, behind a strong start from Hellickson) and find themselves wrapping up the weekend in the thick of it once again.
One Game Out
The Rays are sitting just one game behind the Yanks.
They are heading into a very difficult series with the AL West division leading Texas Rangers. There will be no easy wins there. The Rangers are as good as it gets, and the Rays will have to be on top of their game if they want to get closer than they already are.
Hellickson is Awesome
How good is this kid?
His win today pushed his record to 3-0. He has given up almost no hits in his starts; specifically, he has not given up more than 3 hits in any of his three starts. And he is still a kid. He has stopped any bad baseball played by the Rays to inspire them to wins in each of his starts this sesaon.
In other words, he is exactly what a contending team needs down the stretch.
DL? What DL?
You would have thought that the Rays would have faltered when 19 wins of their starting rotation left at the exact same time with shoulder injuries.
I know that I was very worried when Jeff Nieman and Wade Davis went on the DL together. However, Andy Sonnanstine and Hellickson have not missed a beat, pitching solid baseball over these last few weeks to bridge the gap to the two starters’ return from their respective ailments.
What’ll Joe Do?
Finally, there are some really important decisions Joe Maddon will have to make in the coming days.
First, he will have to decide what to do once Nieman and Davis return from the DL. Does he replace a hot Hellickson and solid Sonnanstine or does he ride the hot hand and send the incumbant starters to a “rehab” in the minors? You would think that Sonny’s move to the ‘pen is a foregone conclusion–he’s a great spot starter, but it is tough to rely on him longterm–but you really don’t want to send down Hellickson. Tough one.
The other decision will be what to do when Carlos Pena returns from his plantar faciatis issue. Maddon has already said that nobody from the bullpen will be sent down. So, does that mean Dan Johnson’s days are numbered? They might be. He has a ******** .405 OBP, but his average (.125) is pitiful, even when compared with Pena’s.
Caught up. Now let’s get ahead.
Rays Manager Joe Maddon announced this morning that the competition for the 5th starter spot in the rotation would go to the young righty Davis over the slightly older right-hander Andy Sonnanstine.
Davis the Entire Time
It seemed a foregone conclusion heading into the season that the Rays would go with Davis instead of Sonnanstine or a free agent to be named later. His salary is more affordable for the Rays than a free agent and he has had much more recent success than the incumbent Sonnastine.
While Davis put up 4 quality starts out of 6 in 2009, Sonnanstine spend much of last season at AAA Durham working on his delivery–and failing at making that delivery more effective as he struggled before settling his ERA down to a manageable 4.40.
Decision NOT Supported by Spring’s Stats
This spring, however, both pitchers had their share of ups and downs. Sonnanstine started out poorly before putting together an 8-inning scoreless streak. That streak made him the favorite to take the final spot in the rotation, as did his 2.00 ERA in 9 innings pitched. And Davis did little to elevate himself about “Sonny” as he put up a 1-1 record in 9.2 innings and a 10.24 ERA.
However, Sonnanstine’s limited experience in the bullpen–compared to Davis’ zero experience in the bullpen–made him a more likely choice to leave the rotation. Sonnanstine made it clear following the announcement at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte that he was disappointed not to be a member of the rotation at the start of 2010. He told reporters that he was a starter at heart.
Sonny a True Pro
What was more memorable about Sonnanstine’s reaction today was that while his disappointment was palpable, he reiterated that he is a “team guy” and will work hard to make the Rays successful from the bullpen.
Davis has some success last season that led to a 2-2 record and 3.72 ERA and several double digit strike out games. Clearly, that potential helped Maddon make his final decision.
So, the rotation is set. It will look more than likely look like this heading into Opening Day:
This will certainly be one of the younger staffs the Rays have ever put together and will easily be one of the youngest–and most talented–in the majors.
As Spring Training approaches (not fast enough, despite my Indianapolis Colts’ moving the Bowl of all Bowls), there are several areas on the Tampa Bay Rays that are in need of shoring up. These five areas certainly “ray-se” concerns among fans, and failure for Andrew Friedman and company to address them may result in a long summer for the Boys in Blue.
Here are the five key areas of consternation heading into these few weeks before pitchers and catchers report:
Rays fans loved Pat Burrell in 2009.
He did an amazing job of keeping those in attendance at the Trop cool every night as the human oscillating fan. Hearing Dwayne Staats announce, “Swing and a miss,” with regards to Burrell never got old. Wait…it did.
No folks, “The Bat” was far from a fan fave-the typical fate of so many .221, 14 hr, 64 RBI guys making 9 million dollars. As of this moment Burrell is still a Ray-not for lack of trying, though. While the much maligned Milton Bradley’s name was bandied about as a possible replacement at DH, nothing happened. Tough to know whether that was for the best or not.
The question remains, though: Who will fill the DH role in 2010? There is no clear cut answer. It seems unlikely that Tampa Bay will look to free agency to find a Burrell replacement. The addition of closer Rafael Soriano and the resigning of Kelly Shoppach pretty much ate up the petty cash lying around Stuart Sternberg’s office. Promoting from within might occur, with Willy Aybar itching for a chance to play every day. A Burrell trade could happen too, but the price tag for the 33-year-old veteran might be a little high for most teams.
Perhaps Rays fans should prepare for another breezy summer inside the Trop.
This position was occupied by several people in 2009. Akinori Iwamura was certainly one of the Rays’ most beloved second basemen of all time (sorry, Brent Abernathy). However, he is now gone, doomed to the Sarlaac Pitt. Other second basemen of 2009 include Reid Brignac, Joe Dillon, Willy Aybar (what an experiment in futility that was) and the great Ben Zobrist.
While Zobrist may very well become the Rays everyday 2B in 2010, there could be a problem should Zorilla be moved to right field instead. Brignac probably will not be the every day answer-though it would be neat to see him break camp as the starter so we can see what he can do with consistent at bats-so the Rays might just consider the recently acquired Sean Rodriguez.
Side Note: I know that every team wishes they had a player with the last name “Rodriguez” simply so they can take that player’s first initial and add it to “Rod,” ala “A-Rod.” But, seriously, Rays fans, let’s please avoid calling him S-rod, ok?
Rodriguez has some serious pop (easily 20 hr power) and shouldn’t be a defensive liability should he take over the 2B position. I am sure that the Rays see him as a long term answer at that spot in the infield, but it will remain to be seen if Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon will give the youngster the green light coming out of Spring Training. If he can win the job when the team breaks from Port Charlotte, many things would be cleared up as Zorilla’s move to right would be set.
Should S-Rod (oops!) take the 2B competition, the question of who will be the next right fielder becomes simple arithmatic.
Zobrist’s bat and strong arm at the corner outfield position would be a perfect fit. He would seemingly complete one of the better outfields in the majors and finally settle the revolving door that the Rays have had at that position for years.
However, if Zobrist were forced to man the 2B position because Rodriguez was not ready for the majors and Reid Brignac was, well, the same ol’ Reid Brignac-a move that Maddon may not frown upon as much as may be thought-then the Rays could potentially be in trouble in right.
In the offseason they unloaded one of the Gabes (both Kapler and Gross were really one entity in 2009, but the Kap has stuck around for about a million in 2010) which means more playing time for Kap-should he earn it. But his struggles with righties means that the Rays will have only 1/2 of a right fielder-not ideal.
Right fielders in waiting (for how long is to be determined) might be Matt Joyce, Justin Ruggiano, Fernando Perez, and Desmond Jennings, but it is difficult to determine whether or not any are ready to be with the big club. Jennings, Ruggiano, and Perez may be better suited for CF, which limits thier contributions to RF to a simple “fill in” status from time to time.
Joyce was a big part of last year’s Edwin Jackson trade, a trade that Maddon has consistently said may work in the Rays favor despite Jackson’s double digit wins and All-Star appearance in 2009 and Joyce’s almost season-long stint at Durham. Will this be the year that Joyce shows his own All-Star potential and takes the right field spot by force?
If Rodriguez could take over 2B and Joyce was the every day RF (or at least could platoon with Kapler) then that might give Maddon the option of using Zobrist as that super-sub again-something that certainly worked in the past. Perfect scenario? Maybe, maybe not. It would seem that Zobrist would prefer to have his position staked out beforehand so he could maintain his focus throughout the long season.
This might be the most contentious position battle as we near spring training. However, the emergence of either Joyce or Rodriguez will clear everything up quickly.
The Rays seem to have gotten their money’s worth (we hope) in the Scott Kazmir deal. Adding the highly touted Sean Rodriguez and the potential of lefty Alex Torres and infielder Matt Sweeney (the biggest Sweeney) has put the Rays in a great position for the future.
However, after moving Mitch Talbot to Cleveland in the Kelly Shoppach trade (he was the player to be named later) the Rays find themselves potentially a little thin in big league ready starters.
Sure, the rotation looks fine at the top with James “Big Game” Shields and Matt “Just As Big Of A Game” Garza. Spots 3 and 4 should be fine with David Price and Jeff Nieman, especially if both build on their 2009 performances.
But where do the Rays go from there?
At the moment the 5th spot is manned by Wade Davis, but he was hardly consistent in his 6 starts last season in spite of his 2-2 record and 3.72 ERA. While he struck out an impressive 36 in 36 1/3 innings, he also had games where he simply blew up.
If Davis does win the 5th spot, who do the Rays turn to should somebody or, God forbid, two somebodys get injured? In the wings stand Jeremy Hellickson (he might be ready sooner than we think-hopefully) and-<gulp>-Andy Sonnanstine. Not exactly a scenario that inspires great confidence.
The likelihood of the Rays adding a 5th starter via free agency seem small, though veterans such as Vicente Padilla and Joel Pineiro might be interesting (both would likely expect more than the Rays could afford).
At the moment it seems that Joe Maddon’s squad will be content with the arms they have and head into Spring Training hoping for two things: 1) that those aforementioned arms remain healthy; and 2) that one of the guys in camp really stands out to claim the 5th spot.
We are now through the first week of Septemeber! The season is quickly approaching its final end.
It feels like a good time to get away from what the Rays might be doing on the field these days (especially since it could be better) and take a look at the guys who have been recently added to the expanded Rays roster.
Ginny at The Watercooler and Bob at More Cowbell are doing another co-post.
This time the duo will be analyzing the September callups of the Rays and deciding whether each player’s promotion to the big club should be designated a
GOOD CALL or a BAD CALL.
Remember, just because a guy is moved to the MLB roster does not always spell good things for the team. Or does it?
Let the debate begin!
After reading Bob’s analysis, click here to See what Ginny thinks!
.282 AVE 24 2B 8 HR 44 RBI 5 SB
This is the third time Brignac has been moved from Durham to St. Pete. Over the course of the season it seems that the guy has logged more air miles than a pelican! He has had so much promise, yet has yet to break Spring Training with the club and become a regular starter. All that aside, Joe Maddon has said that having Brignac is a good thing because when starter Jason Bartlett needs a day off he can avoid putting Ben Zobrist in a position he has rarely played this year and simply plug in Brignac. I like that idea. It allows Zorilla to concentrate on 2B or RF and keep his bat steady.
10-9 3.40 ERA 1.25 WHIP 158 IP 140 K
I get chills when I think about what this guy can do on the mound.
This 24-year-old righty has been seen as the next big thing in the Rays system. How amazing is it that the Rays can continually put out the “next big thing” for their fans year after year? (see: Evan Longoria, Jeff Nieman, David Price, Wade Davis) He will make his first start Sunday for the Rays against the Detroit Tigers, and I think that the entire Republic will have its eyes glued on the screen (or in person, hopefully) to see just what the kid can do.
Having him on the roster now gets him a few major league starts before Spring Training next year. He just might have a shot at cracking the rotation next year, especially with the move of Scott Kazmir out west.
.200 AVE 2 2B 1 HR 5 RBI (11 Games)
The call on this move is kind of tricky. I think that the addition of Gregg Zaun was a godsend for a club whose catcher play was inconsistent offensively at best. Seeing Zaun from the left side and Dioner Navarro from the right side has really helped the offense click a little more from the backstop position and the results have been pretty solid (who can forget Zaun’s grand slam!?). Adding Riggs might be a mistake, though. He will not log much playing time with the big club because of the reasons mentioned above and whatever playing time he does get will take away–and disrupt–the smooth flow that has been established by the Zaun/Navi platoon. It can’t hurt having Riggs on the bench, but if he gets some playing time I think the results will be less than desirable.
Last start: 4 IP 8 H 3 R 4 BB
Sonny is kind of a strange situation in that he was brought up September 1st because of the departure of one Scott Kazmir. His first start did not go much better than the previous 15 before it. This is a great chance for Sonny to earn a spot in next year’s rotation, but he did not impress in his first game back. He’ll be moved back one day to allow Davis to start at the Trop on Sunday and to get Sonny into the double header against the Yankees Monday. I am losing some faith in Sonnanstine’s ability to get batters out, and he may be ticketed for a long relief spot if he’s not careful.
.278 AVE 3 2B 0 HR 2 RBI 8 SB (13 games)
(This is Davey Lopes…but the ‘stache is the same–I can’t find a good pic of Perez’s stache!)
If the mustache doesn’t get you excited, then you must be dead!
This is one of my favorite players. The “Columbia Kid” was impressive in his stint with the Rays last season, culminating with a 2008 playoffs to remember. He is exciting on the basepaths and plays above average defense in center or right field. His bad is adequate, but he is also young (26) and will get better. His switch hitting ability is another plus.
He comes along at the right time, for BJ Upton’s ankle injury will sideline him for a few days. I think that this is a perfect chance for Perez to show the front office that he and BJ are the same age, possess the same skill set (minus the power for Fernando), but totally different salary situations. Hmmmmm….
The September callups for the Rays used to mean that the year was over. That it was time to figure out what to do next year.
I don’t think that is the case just yet, though things don’t look so great.
The guys above are all guys who could/should break Spring Training on the Rays major league roster. They should all be contributers to next year’s team as well.
This opportunity, though, comes with alot riding on it. Not only do they get to audition for the team for next season, but they can help get the team to the playoffs if they do well.
I’m hoping for some great baseball from these guys over the next few weeks!
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR OUR NEXT CO-POST, COMING SOON!
Last night was not pretty. Not at all.
I have never been so “up” for a game, only to have it stink so much.
In the end, Boston won 8-4 and the Rays fell another game out of the wild card lead. It was the start to the biggest series of the season for Tampa Bay that no Rays fan wanted to see.
Let’s hope our guys can put it behind them and get “up” for tonight!
Quick Recap of Last Night
Andy Sonnanstine was NOT the answer last night. Did anybody think he would be?
I know that Sonny came into last night’s game fresh off the plane from Durham. I know that he had a 5.06 ERA at the Trop this year. I know he was facing one of the best teams in the league in one of the Rays’ biggest games of the year.
I know he blew it.
Sonnanstine went only 4 innings, and while errors might have dampened his start, he did little to pick his guys “up.”
Sonny was knocked around more than a pinata, and Boston endured an 8th inning bases loaded scare from the Rays to hold on to the win.
I yelled, I screamed, I cried.
None of it did any good. Boston was better last night. And the Rays left their “A game” somewhere they couldn’t find it.
3 Keys to Last Night’s Game
1–Lester is get-able. NOPE He wasn’t even close. He torched the Rays’ K-susceptible lineup and dominated throughout.
2–The crowd must step up. YEP Despite what others might think, the Trop was rolling for the Rays. The intense moments felt intense, and the cowbells were out. The problem was that Boston did what good teams do on the road–TAKE THE CROWD OUT OF THE GAME EARLY.
3–The bullpen must pitch well. NOPE The ‘pen came in and gave up 3 runs in its 5 innings of work. Before you argue that that ain’t bad, remember we lost 8-4. Who knows how the Rays’ hitters–and the crowd–responds if it is a 1-run game in the 9th.
2 OF 3 “NOPE” = LOSS
What a great matchup tonight. The Rays put Matt Garza on the hill to face off against a guy who is a little epicureal, Josh Beckett.
Garza owns the Sox. He is 5-1 with a 2.98 ERA against them. Unlike Sonny last night, though, he also has decent numbers at the Trop. I am hoping that those two factors come together to give the Rays a nice start in a big game for a change.
Beckett is as “get-able” as Lester is.
I said that last night, too.
And look what that got us.
But apparently Beckett has been slumping lately (as read on raysbaseball.com) and is more vulnerable than ever. But he is the Sox big game pitcher, and while tonight is not as big for Boston as it is for the Rays, I expect to see nothing less than his best.
The Boston hitters should be susceptible to Garza’s mixing of pitches–if he is able to get his fastball over for strike 1. If not, then his off speed stuff won’t be as enticing–as is the case with most pitchers–and he WILL get rocked.
3 Keys to the Game
1– Don’t chase Beckett’s junk. Sounds weird, but the Rays chased all of John Lester’s lesser offerings last night to the tune of 14 Ks. Can’t win with totals like that.
2–Garza’s gotta show that savvy. We need Matty to go out and dominate the Sox as he usually does. His numbers against Boston need to hold up tonight.
3–The ‘pen must stop the Sox hitters. If we are behind or if we are ahead, whenever the bullpen gets the nod from skipper Joe Maddon it has to be ready to shut things down. They have been far from trustworthy. This is a night we might need them.
I don’t know what to expect tonight. I thought that the Rays would have a real shot last night, and they did. They loaded the bases multiple times last night against the Sox, but they were unable to punch through.
The Rays sit 6 games out.
That does not sit well with me.
Dropping another game tonight to Boston might well put the Rays into a hole they can’t dig their way out of.
A win tonight will catapult them into a huge rubber game Thursday that could spell the return of the Big Rays Mo and help them to a series win.
It starts tonight, though. We’ve got to forget the foibles of last night.
I’d love to see a complete performance from our Boys in Blue.
I’d love to see some passion from the players and the fans.
I’d love to see a W-I-N.
Who knows, with a win tonight things could really start looking “up.”
Sounds like a geography lesson, eh?
First, let’s review a bit.
The Rays played a heck of a game today, winning 11-7. While the pitching left something to be desired, the hitting was just what the doctor ordered.
Carlos Pena’s big home run helped to cap the matinee tilt today. Congrats on the win, guys. It got us to within 5 games of the wild card.
Not only did it help with our wild card chase, but it also gave the Rays a little bit of the Big Mo’ as they left Motown to come home to face the guys from Beantown.
Now the Rays enter one of the biggest series they’ve played all season long.
And it’s against the Red Sox.
Let the insanity begin.
When you look at the matchups, it looks like you are seeing two teams in the playoffs ready to get into some serious fighting. I’ll preview the pitching matchup as each game comes around.
Andy Sonnanstine vs. John Lester
Sonny is fresh up from Durham, which could be a good thing and a bad thing. Good in that he has had a little extra rest and has been facing lesser AAA hitters–his confidence should be fairly high. His arrival is not the best, though, because, well, he was sent to Durham for a reason.
And, um, there’s the little thing about his 5.00+ ERA at the Trop.
Lester has simply been on a roll. He hasn’t lost in 7 decisions!
His success against the Rays is far from guaranteed, though, as his career ERA against our Rays is a robust 4.66!
Somethin’s gotta give here, but I don’t know where. It could be that both starters struggle and the bullpens will take over.
Judging from our lack of bullpen consistency in our last 8 games, I would say that it sounds like a scary proposition to allow our bullpen to figure too much in the decision right now.
#3’s Been Missing
Where have you gone, Longo?
The Rays seem to have been playing without a 3B lately, as Evan Longoria has pretty much disappeared from the lineup.
I think it is pretty easy to surmise that without a strong Longo, the Rays will find it difficult to compete against the BoSox.
It would be difficult to compete with a Longoria hitting on all cylinders, too.
In the last week–and this is WITH his 3/5 day today–Longo has hit:
.160 1 HR 2 RBI
In the month, and this will make you cry, he has hit:
.243 4 HR 12 RBI
Hmmmmm, I wonder why the Rays have fallen to 5 games out of the wild card.
Surely, it can’t all be pinned on him. No doubt, the pitching has struggled just as much.
Imagine a Longoria hitting the way he is capable to go WITH a Pena who has been hitting everything except the wall (I was going to say “momma,” but it sounded bad) and we could have a Rays team that is part of the conversation.
Instead, our Rays have to hope to win the series if they want to stay in contention in the least.
Sure, in his last three games he has put up some decent numbers (a homer the other day, a 3/5 day today). And maybe those numbers indicate a turnaround.
But “maybe” won’t be good enough for a series such as this one.
3 Keys to the Game
1–Lester is get-able. The Rays hitters have rocked him this season (see May 9th: 4.1 IP, 10H, 8 R). I don’t care what his recent string of success might portend, the Rays have the ability to knock him out of the game early.
2–The crowd must step up. The Trop can rock. No doubt about it. It can get hitters and pitchers alike off their stride. The Sox have been to the Trop plenty, and they STILL call it a “House of Horrors.” Let’s scare the living S—- out of ’em!
3–The bullpen must pitch well. Sonny might not have alot to give the team. He might leave early. That means that the ‘pen must come in and slam the door shut. Joe Maddon won’t have alot of patience for Sonnanstine if he falls too far behind.
This series CAN make or break the season.
I’ve said that before, but not without great thought.
This series is HUGE.
These are the possibilities:
If the Rays sweep, they’ll sit (likely) 2 games out of the wild card with 4-5 weeks to go.
If they win the series, they’ll still be 4 out, hardly encouraging.
If they lose the series, they’ll be 6 out. Ugh.
If they get swept, the season is over. 8 games out of the wild card is too much for any team.
There is only one scenario I’d like to see. A series win won’t do it.
I want the sweep.
In the Rays Republic, of course, everybody wants it.
Republic vs. Nation.
Playoff chaser vs. Playoff leader.
Rays vs. Red Sox.
Are we feelin’ it yet?
The MLB trade deadline will hit us this Friday, July 31st.
It is a fun time of year as teams who think they are still in their respective races “buy” what they can while teams that are already looking ahead to 2010 (or 2011, 2012, 2013…) “sell” what they can to prepare.
We have already seen some interesting moves take place early in the trading season what with Matt Holliday moving from the West (A’s) to the Midwest (Cardinals), Rafael Betancourt going from low altitude (Cleveland) to way up in the air (Colorado), and Julio Lugo being lucky to go anywhere (Cardinals).
Other than those deals nothing notable has really happened.
It is with all this in mind that Ginny at The Watercooler and Bob at More Cowbell are putting together the first (of many) co-posts where we will look at certain aspects surrounding our beloved Tampa Bay Rays.
First up, the trade deadline and which Rays players could/should move before Friday.
We are not really debating on whether or not something will happen with each of the players discussed. We are Rays fans. We know NOTHING is going to happen.
What we are doing is looking at the team’s needs, current player performance, and the potential for a move to occur.
It is pure fun.
More Cowbell and The Watercooler are putting on our General Manager’s hats to see if something can be done to help our guys reach October, and the World Series, for the second consecutive year.
So enjoy our hypothetical (and pathetic-al) attempt at doing a job we’re never ever going to have!
Dioner Navarro C
2009 Stats: .226 13 2B 5 HR 25 RBI 2 SB 266 AB
Keep or Cut?
I am sure Ginny will agree, this is a tough one. Navi is one of the bigger fan favorites at the Trop. He and his family have gone through alot during his time with the Rays and that has kind of bonded fan and catcher together.
Looking at it from a purely baseball point of view, though, I think that Dioner needs to go. The Rays need to look into either moving him or finding somebody (Victor Martinez from the Indians?) to take his place. His stats are some of the worst in the league for a catcher.
Navarro has had a roller coaster career with the Rays. Two years ago he was brutal, hitting just .227 with a .286 OB%. Terrible. Last year he was a big reason why the Rays went to the playoffs, handling the staff well and hitting .295 with a .349 OB%.
If we keep him it will be because he handles the staff’s pitchers deftly. The Rays might also think that he’ll bounce back next year.
The Gabes: Gross and Kapler RF
Gross 2009 Stats: .271 11 2B 1 3B 5 HR 28 RBI 6 SB 177 AB
Kapler 2009 Stats: .250 13 2B 1 3B 4 HR 23 RBI 3 SB 124 AB
Keep or Cut?
These guys have worked in tandem to create a very effective platoon in right field for the Rays. No doubt, you lose a little bit defensively when Gross is in the lineup, but you gain that much back with his bat. Right now it is just the opposite with Kapler.
I think that the rightfielder of the future for the Rays is already on the team. I just don’t know who exactly that will be. It might be Ben Zobrist, Fernando Perez, Desmond Jennings, or even BJ Upton himself (with one of the latter two taking center). It will not be Gross or Kapler in 2010.
With that in mind, I think that either one is expendable. I wouldn’t trade either one of them now, though, unless putting them in a package deal can land us another starter or a catcher. Gross would probably fetch more on the open market than Kapler would. But since Akinori Iwamura is hurt and Zobrist is playing well at 2B, I would keep them both.
KEEP BOTH (for now)
Randy Choate or Brian Shouse LH Relievers
Choate 2009 Stats: 0-0 2.25 ERA 4 SV 16 IP 15 K 5 BB 1.00 WHIP .198 BAA
Shouse 2009 Stats: 1-1 3.77 ERA 0 SV 14.1 IP 9 K 3 BB 1.40 WHIP .298 BAA
Keep or Cut?
Choate has had an amazing year with the Rays. His stats show how well he’s pitched and watching him in action backs them up. His Batting Average Against is stellar. When he is brought into a game to face a left-handed batter you can pretty much assume that Choate will get the out. Lefties are hitting just .189 against him this year. He is just the kind of guy that Joe Maddon loves.
However, we already have that guy in Brian Shouse. Or do we?
Shouse’s numbers do not stack up with Choate’s at all. He gets lefties out to a .235 clip, but righties are hitting .325 against him. That pretty much means that Shouse is in for one batter and that is it. Choate has made righties hit only .200 this year.
I think that Choate is a keeper, but since we already have JP Howell, Shouse is now expendable. I know that Maddon has said that he is excited about having a “toybox of lefties” in his bullpen, but 3 is a crowd. Choate stays. Shouse goes.
Choate: KEEP Shouse: CUT
Andy Sonnanstine RH Starter (currently at AAA Durham)
2009 Stats: 6-7 6.71 ERA 81.2 IP 50 K 22 BB 1.52 WHIP .305 BAA
Keep or Cut?
Sonny is doing very well with Durham (2-0, 3.35 ERA) since his demotion a few weeks ago. However, as well as he is doing there is just about how horribly he did here. Maddon kept waiting (as did we all) for Sonnanstine to turn it around, to turn into the guy we loved last year. He was a great alternative to the flamethrowers already in the rotation, but when teams are hitting .305 off of you something has to give. It did. Andy’s at AAA.
He needs to stay unless there is some great trade the Rays can pull off of which he is a part. BUT, if the Rays are able to put him in a deal then we still have Wade Davis at AAA who can come up and be the next Sonny.
KEEP, UNLESS THE DEAL IS GOOD THEN CUT
Scott Kazmir LH Starter
2009 Stats: 4-6 6.69 ERA 74 IP 58 K 40 BB 1.72 WHIP .289 BAA
Keep or Cut?
Ahhhh, Kaz. This guy was the golden child when he was acquired from the New York Mets a few years ago for nothing more than our ace at the time, Victor Zambrano. It was such an amazing deal for the Rays and such a terrible deal for the Mets.
It’s still a good deal for Tampa Bay as Kaz developed in the ace for several years and came up big in big games last season. However, he has developed an inability to go past the 5th inning and recently has developed the inability to get guys out. It is not a good sign for the team’s current #2 starter.
He has quite a fan following (I know Ginny at The Watercooler is especially infatuated), but that is no reason to hang on to the guy. When you look at his performance you see that he is improving here in the second half of the season but that his “improvement” is still worse than many #5 starters in the league. Kaz is slotted to make $10 mill next year. He says he signed the contract to give the Rays a “bargain” and ensure that he would be able to play out his contract in Tampa Bay.
I say let him. I know it sounds crazy, but this guy has talent. It is just off a bit. I have ranted and railed at how sick of his ineffectiveness I am, but he could come back next year and become the All Star he was last year. He is one of the guys who got it all started here, and I respect that. He wanted to stay with the Rays before they were good. I doubly respect that. I want nothing more than to see him return to form. I’ll have to hope for that.
Wade Davis RH Starter (currently at Durham)
2009 Stats (at Durham): 8-6 3.22 ERA 114.2 IP 103 K 47 BB 1.29 WHIP .229 BAA
Keep or Cut?
I’ll be honest, I don’t know a great deal about the Rays’ top pitching prospect. I know that when the Rays drafted him, Davis was supposed to be part of the new wave of Rays pitchers who would arrive in the majors and dominate. He was supposed to team up with Jeff Nieman and Mitch Talbot to form the best homegrown 1-3 of any rotation in the league. Nieman is here. Talbot is hurt. It’s Davis’ turn.
If the Rays make any deal for a substantial return (Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez anyone?) then Davis is more than likely going to have to be part of the package. My gut says “do it.” I believe in NOW in alot of ways, and this season is the NOW for the Rays. Contracts are going to start kicking in soon and it won’t be long before the Rays and owner Stuart Sternberg have to dump some salary. We’ve got to do it now. If there is a way to make a deal for people who will get us to October this year, then do it.
I don’t know if that deal really exists. If we get a pitcher, it will be for about 7-8 starts the rest of the season. If we get a catcher, he’ll have to learn the staff and adjust his hitting to our stadium. In the end, a deal for a pitcher and catcher might not help us as much as we might think. And it would be stupid for a team with cash restrictions to give up an uber-talented and VERY cheap pitcher for that.