Tagged: Jeremy Hellickson

It’s Been Awhile, but the Trade Deadline is Here!

Kids take alot of time.  Totally worth it…

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So what will the Rays do as the trade deadline looms? 

It seems that the Tampa Bay franchise is best when it avoids the big deal at the deadline.  The deals that make this team what is has been for the last four years or so are the deals that go unnoticed by the MLB public at large.  The Rays will likely end up picking up a guy off the waiver list and stand pat with what they have.

But, just in case…

WHO IS LIKELY GOING?

BJ Upton has already called the trade rumors about him “comical.”  It’s true.  A trade rumor about BJ is like all of the foreclosed houses in the area–omnipresent and depressing.

He’s a big talent, of course.  But he hasn’t utilized that talent at all, which makes him expendable.  Plus, he’s apt to make about $7 million in arbitration next year.

That REALLY makes him expendable. 

The best rumor I’ve heard is that he would go to the Nationals (they are doing things right in DC, aren’t they?) for their SS Ian Desmond and a catcher.  I’m a big fan of Desmond–of his speed, his power, and his youth.  Not many teams have strength at the SS position, so brining him to St. Pete would be great.

Let’s not forget that the Rays have Desmond Jennings, who is hitting .500 right now, primed to take BJ’s place. 

Oooooo, things do not look good for the underachieving Upton.

LIKELIHOOD: Medium

James Shields has had a TON of rumors about him.  The Reds seem to be the frontrunners in the “Big Game” sweepstakes.  However, I do not see the Rays, a team who is so shrewd when it comes to storing pitching, moving him.  His price next season will be $7 million, just like BJ, but that money for a solid #2 pitcher is much smarter to use than on a center fielder.

LIKELIHOOD: Miniscule

JP Howell has made a nice comeback from Tommy John surgery a few years ago, but he is not all the way back.  Nevertheless, there are suitors for the left-handed reliever.  They say that the Royals might want him back, but who wouldn’t want a strong lefty with a wicked curve in their bullpen?

LIKELIHOOD: Could Happen

Kyle Farnsworth has had a renaissance this season, becoming the closer the Rays thought they had lost when Rafael Soriano left town for the New York Yankees last season.  He would fetch a pretty penny on the market.  With the Rays falling out of the race, they can afford to experiment in the closer department.  Since Farnsie would ask for much more money next season, the Rays likely would not be able to afford him.  So…

LIKELIHOOD: Gone

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The bottom line is that the Rays listen to deals on all of its players.  Jeremy Hellickson has been mentioned in trades, but there is no way he’s going anywhere.  That doesn’t mean the Rays won’t listen.

Tomorrow will be a big day.  4 pm Eastern Time is the drop dead time, and it will be fun to guess about who is going where.  Unfortunately, for Rays fans, anyway, no matter what deals are done they will not lead to October. 

But next season, who knows…

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Catching Up

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.

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Rays Resilience

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Caught up.  Now let’s get ahead.

Trayde Winds A-Blowin’

As many of you know, I have been pretty incommunicato this week due to a week of sipping cocktails poolside in Orlando. 

It’s been a good week.

I wanted to say alot about the upcoming trade deadline, but it has been difficult to find the time, obviously.

However, I do have some ideas of who might be coming to the Rays, who might be leaving the Rays, and who will be staying with the Rays.

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Who’s Comin’?

–With the rumor that the Yanks are near a deal to acquire Lance Berkman, I would say that the Rays have become the frontrunners for picking up slugger Adam Dunn.  They could do worse, for sure.  But I am not sure I would like to see the Rays give up players for a guy who will be here only for these final few months and more more.  That said, his incredible walk numbers, batting average, and power numbers will be a welcome addition to the DH slot.

Honestly, there is not alot of talk about who the Rays might try to pick up.  The front office has been very quiet on the subject.  I think that the Rays could use a stronger DH, surely, but a stronger 5th starter and another bullpen guy (never have enough of those) would strengthen this team as well.

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Who’s Goin’?

–Minor league pitcher Jake McGee will more than likely be moving on.  He has great talent, but it still not 100% after arm injuries.  He is young, and will likely recover completely, which makes him valuable as a future ‘pen guy or bottom of the rotation guy, a la Wade Davis.

Reid Brignac has done great things for the Rays this year.  His power surge as of late has really lifted this team.  But he is a man without a country.  Or a position, anyway.  He is a middle infielder in an organization full of ’em.  Jason Bartlett is too beloved by the Rays management to go anywhere.  Sean Rodriguez is the future 2b of the Rays (though he is kind of the present-day 2b of the Rays as well).  Brignac does not fit in.  He will somewhere else.

–This might be a longshot, but Wade Davis might be moved.  If he can bring in a solid bat, he will certainly be moved with the pitching depth the Rays have in the minors. 

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Who’s Stayin’?

Jeremy Hellickson will be moved when hell freezes over.  ‘Nuff said.

Jason Bartlett ain’t goin’ anywhere.  His arrival catapulted the Rays to the playoffs in 2008.  They expect a return to form in these final months.

–Minor league veteran Dan Johnson might lead the International League in slugging numbers, but that just makes him more valuable as a late-season callup for the Rays than a bargaining chip.  Plus, after Carlos Pena’s departure next season, he might inherit the 1b job.

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It’s late, but I wanted to get some thoughts down before the trades start a-flyin’.  I’m returning from poolside soon and I can’t wait to see what the Blogosphere’s intrepid writers have to say on the subject of the tradewinds.

Back soon!

Five Battles to Watch for in Spring Training

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:

DH

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.

 

2B

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.

 

RF

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.

 

5th starter

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.