Ok, corny puns aside…
Who’ll be the new JP?
When lefty JP Howell went down with an arm injury a little while ago, the season passed through all Rays’ fans eyes. The Rays’ plans for 2010’s bullpen were about to fall apart. And, with it, the season.
In 2010 the bullpen was going to be perfectly put together. The 6th and 7th innings would be manned by a combination of Lance Cormier, Grant Balfour, and Dan Wheeler. In the 8th Howell would make hitters look silly just as he has done the last two seasons, providing a knee buckling curve and low-key fastball to contrast with new acquired closer’s Rafael Soriano’s slider and blistering heat.
But a twinge of pain in Howell’s elbow caused the lefty, and the Rays, to shut him down for the time being. While the initial fear was season-ending Tommy John surgery, it turns out that Howell will just need some rest. That rest could take as long as a few months into the regular season, but better to work without Howell now than lose him, as the Rays pretty much did the last month last season, at the end of the year.
In House, or Out House?
It would seem that the Rays might need another left-hander to fill out the bullpen and compliment the in-house lefty, Randy Choate. Who that lefty could be is up for debate.
The Boston Red Sox recently dismissed one of last year’s delights in the Rays bullpen, Brian Shouse.
Why they let him go only to sign another slightly older lefty (Scott Schoenweis) is up for debate. The veteran lefty only put up a 0.96 ERA for the Sawx and even earned a win in 10 games (9 1/3 innings). Last year for the Rays he got into 45 games and provided key lefty relief.
Certainly, Shouse could be gotten for a song right now as teams often shy away from 42-year-old arms, lefty or righty.
So who else could it be?
I would argue that a great choice would be a suddenly relevant Heath Phillips.
Phillips’ numbers have been decent this spring, though not outstanding. His ERA is not great (5.62) but he has shown durability, pitching about 2 innings per appearance.
However, what makes him an attractive option in the Rays’ bullpen at the start of this season is simple:
HE’S A LEFTY!
He has had an outing this spring against the Twins vaunted lineup in which he pitched 3 scoreless innings. No doubt, this performance has made his case for a spot in the bullpen much stronger than it was before Howell’s injury.
Remember, it was another long-shot lefty a few seasons ago who broke into the Rays 25-man roster after an injury occurred right around the start of the season.
It was 2008.
The lefty in question was Carlos Pena.
The point is, that the Rays seem to have a run of success with lefties filling in for their starting counterparts.
Let’s hope that, should Phillips win the job, the Rays’ streak will continue.
I had a few ideas of moves that the Rays should consider before the 4 pm trade deadline hits today. I know that this post has a shelf life (about 6 hours), but I think that talkin’ trades is one of the fun parts of this game we love. I wanted to spend a little time on it.
Of course, NOTHING I write about here is coming true.
But I did a little digging and a little research to see if something out there made sense for my Rays that could get them to the post season again.
Guys to Get: Catcher
One of the needs the Rays have falls right behind the plate. Our catcher position has been brutal offensively. Dioner Navarro and Michel Hernandez have combined to hit about .228 with 6 home runs and 38 RBIs.
Not the type of production you can live with from ANY position.
In their defense, so to speak, those two guys have played some great defense this year and really called some solid games. That is worth its weight in gold and will probably keep both of them at the Trop for the remainder of the year.
If the Rays made a move I think that there are two guys who would fit VERY VERY well.
.255 5 HR 20 RBI
Doumit is better known for his offense than his defense. He broke out big time for the Pirates last year (.318/ 15 / 69 / 34 2b). He has had some setbacks with his health this year, missing time several times over the course of the season. However, the production he has been able to put up in spite of only 109 at bats is phenomenal for a catcher.
He’s 28 years old, which means that he is getting ready to enter his prime offensively. I am sure his defense can come along if coached properly.
And keep in mind that the Bucs just trade for Jeff Clement with Seattle. Clement was a highly touted catching prospect for the M’s and just might have made Doumit expendable.
He has a team-friendly contract that puts him under team control until 2013. Hmmmmmm….sound like a Rays-type of player?
.285 6 HR 47 RBI 1 error
This is the guy I’m most excited about. And it might be a long shot for the A’s to drop him. But he is only 25 years old, has some pop in his bat (26 doubles!), and does not make errors. He calls a good game and, if you’ve watched him play much, is nimble around the plate. He is a tough out and will draw a walk from time to time.
His contract is league-minimum right now and for next year. In 2011 he becomes arbitration eligible–something the Rays should be able to buy out after Pat Burrell’s contract is off the books.
He could bring alot of stability offensively to the catcher position and maintain the defensive prowess behind the plate we have been used to.
Guys to Get: Reliever
I don’t think that that the Rays have a big hole anywhere on the team right now. Surely, the starting pitcher has been quite inconsistent, but you don’t want to make any trades to shore that up (especially with Cliff Lee gone and Roy Halladay ridiculous). Our other position players have done just fine–offensively and defensively.
I look at the bullpen as a spot where we could improved. Specifically, our 7th and 8th inning guys. I love Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler, love ’em. But they have not put together the most consistent seasons this year. And you can’t have guys who are inconsistent come into the game to hold the lead for JP Howell.
It is with this in mind that I nominate the two following guys for acquisition.
1-2 1.88 ERA 65 K 18 BB 15 SV 12.19 K/9 (!!!)
This guy is just a dream, more than likely, because the Rays are probably not going to throw the money he will be scheduled to make next year at him. He should make 6.1 million next season in the final season before he becomes a free agent. He is 29 and is coming off a shakey year in 2008.
He has shuttled from setup guy to closer all year long. But wow. What a drastic difference if you could get hitters looking at Soriano’s 95mph heat in the 8th and Howell’s 85 mph “heat” in the 9th. The Braves don’t mind moving him because they have….
3-3 3.06 ERA 60 K 20 BB 9 SV 12.06 K/9 (!!!)
He is 31 but seems to be finally hitting his stride with the Bravos. He is a lefty, but he would be a great replacement for either (or both) Randy Choate and Brian Shouse. He has been moved from team to team over the course of his career, playing middle reliever, setup guy, and closer at each stop. The Braves have been pleasantly surprised at his output this year and have alternated between Soriano and him as the closer all season long.
His contract is more manageable for the Rays next year–his final contract year–as he should make 3.45 million. He has a quirky delivery but he can strike anybody out at any time. Not too bad for a setup guy.
Guys to Go
For reasons mentioned before, I think that the Rays could throw in these guys to any deal just to help sweeten it. I don’t think that any of the players mentioned below will work for one-to-one straight up trades, but they are certainly salary dumps and add-ons that could help any deal go through.
His value has taken a hit since his return from the DL. His ERA has balooned to above 5.00 and he is not getting the one guy Maddon allows him to face out.
He is not recovering from his slump. He is trending in the wrong direction. As a switch hitter he does fine against lefties, but against righties he hits only .190. Not good.
I love the guy. He leads the team in holds, but he is not reliable. He’s given up 6 runs in his last 10 appearances. That is not a consistent set up guy. He is a free agent after this year.
The Red Sox have pulled 4 1/2 games in front of the Rays for second place in the division with the Yankees up 7 games! Time is ticking.
I don’t want the Rays to make any drastic moves that will affect negatively our ability to win next year. That is one of the things that makes me proud of our front office–they do NOT succumb to peer pressure at all. If they think we can make it to October, the deal will be done, but only if it does not hurt us next year or the next two years.
Only 6 hours and counting!!!
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.