Tagged: Pittsburgh Pirates

Obligatory (and fun) 2010 MLB Predictions: National League

Pretty much every blog in the universe remotely related to baseball has been making its predictions for what will happen in the majors in 2010.  Some have done it division by division, and some have done it in one big shot. 

I’ll be subscribing to a combination of both as I go league by league.

I will not be including records because, well, I’m just not that smart. 

I see 2010 as a season that will have more than just a few surprises.  Sure, teams such as the Phillies and Yankees will be right there until the end, but there are other squads that I think possess much intrigue because of their offseason moves and the emergence of their younger players.

More than likely this is an effort in futility, but it sure is fun.

Today I will break down the National League.  Tomorrow the American League.  Tuesday I’ll put out my playoff predictions.

NL East

Phillies                        Nobody’s better in the NL.  They would be better with Cliff Lee AND Roy Halladay, but they are pretty darn strong as they stand.

Braves                        I like their mix of youth and experience.  Their pitching will be a strength for them, especially if Tim Hudson can turn in a strong season.

Marlins                       How can you pick against them?  Nobody knows how they do it, but they win every year.  Ricky Nolasco is back and Josh Johnson is solid. 

Mets               How can you pick FOR them?  The addition of Jason Bay would seem to bode well for the offense, but the recent injury to Daniel Murphy won’t help.  Neither will the fact that they seem to have given up on their pitching.

Nationals         I don’t want to pile on.  They are not a good team.  But their offseason moves and slow dedication to a youth movement points them in the right direction.

Playoff team:

 

NL Central

Cardinals         Makes me sick to say it, but they are darn good.  Their offense will more than make up for any pitching deficiencies.  They have the potential for closer problems this year, though.

Cubs                I love this team, but it seems no matter how much talent they get on the squad they do not win.  Sure, they won the division for three straight years, but that was about it.  Last year was an abomination.  Marlon Byrd, and a healthy Aramis Ramirez, will really help the offense.

Reds                They could be the surprise of the division in 2010.  I like their staff (and the addition of Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, even though he is in the minors now) and their bats.  Might sound crazy, but I think these guys could push for a playoff spot this year.

Astros             Sure Lance Berkman is hurt, but this team has some talent.  They are getting older at some positions (Carlos Lee, Berkman, Oswalt) and injuries could derail their season.

Brewers          Their pitching is horrendous.  Yovani Gallardo can’t stay healthy and one of their starters, Jeff Suppan, is already out.  Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are not enough.

Pirates             Andrew McCutcheon will be fun for the entire league to watch and will more than likely represent the Bucs in the All-Star Game.  That’s about it.

Playoff teams:  

 

NL West

Giants              As fans of the Tampa Bay Rays know, pitching wins.  And there are few staffs (provided Barry Zito is actually good this year) as strong as the Giants’.  “Kung Fu Panda” Pablo Sandoval will really shine this year.

Dodgers          Why won’t they win the division?  Health.  I just think that they are going to have some big injuries this year and that Manny will do all he can to distract the team from winning baseball games.  I like their young starting pitching, but it won’t gel enough this year. 

Rockies                       Coors Field seems like a great place to watch a baseball game.  Its offensive stats seem to have calmed down a bit.  The rise of Ubaldo Jimenez and his ability to induce ground balls will help this team have a solid season.

Padres             I love their youth.  Everth Cabrera, Mat Latos, Chase Headley.  I like ’em.  This will be a big surprise if they don’t finish in the basement of the division again.  I think they have some surprises in them.

Diamondbacks            It will be a surprise if these guys DO finish in the basement.  I like Dan Haren and their emerging catcher, Miguel Montero (he’s on my fantasy team!).  But I don’t see a lot to get excited about in the desert.

Playoff team:

 

Well, that was fun.  No doubt, some of my picks might be debatable. 

 

And, if they are debatable, feel free to tear me apart.

 

Let’s play some baseball!

 

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Rays Go Prospectin’ in the Ol’ West

    VS   

Fresh off of a “sweep” of the Boston Red Sox, and currently (as of this minute) 3 games out of the wildcard spot, the Tampa Bay Rays will board a plane for a good ol’ fashioned West Coast Trip.

Yikes.

The Rays will take on the Seattle Mariners and Los Anaheim of Angeles Angelic Baseball Players of California.

Sorry, the LA Angels of Anaheim.

I’ll be entertaining family for the next few days, but I wanted to drop in a few gold nuggets (get it?) of info about this extremely important series.

prospector.jpg image by file83

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Gotta Win

The Rays are in a rare position where no matter what they do in the next 3 days against Seattle they will reap some sort of benefit.  That is because the Yankees and Red Sox are duking it out in New York.

Should the Rays lose any of these games, they will lose ground to one of the aforementioned teams but not to both. 

However, should the Rays win any of these next three games, they will gain all important ground on one of the Yanks or BoSox.  That is key.

In a way, they can do no wrong.  But to lose any of these games to Seattle–a very strong team, despite the loss of Jarrod Washburn–will go down as a HUGE wasted opportunity at a time when opportunties are knocking less and less.

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Records We’d Rather Ignore

The Rays’ young men go west having fared poorly against the teams in that division.  They stand with a sub-.500 record against those teams (7-12).

They lost 2 of 3 to the M’s way back in April, but both teams have undergone a rejuvenation of sorts in the last month or so.  Even though the Mariners might be slowly falling out of the playoff picture, they have done alot of damage.  

We have to make sure they don’t do any more.

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Pitching Matchups

Friday, the Rays will send their default ace of the staff, Jeff Nieman (10-5, 3.62), to the mound against the true ace of the M’s staff, Felix Hernandez (12-4, 2.78). 

 Nieman has thrown well this season, and should find that his 12-6 hammer will have just as much movement in SafeCo Field’s pseudo-outdoor stadium as it does in the friendly confines of the Trop. 

 

King Felix is a bigtime strikeout pitcher and the Rays’ hitters will need to be disciplined if they want to have a chance.  However, as with one of my fave pitchers, “Big Z” Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs, Hernandez can be his own worst enemy–he often gets inside of his OWN head.

Let’s hope for a case of the “crazies” for Felix.

Saturday the Rays will pitch James Shields (6-8, 3.75) against the M’s Ian Snell (2-8, 5.19).

Shields is a guy who gets no respect.  Or maybe that’s runs.  Either way, he gets none of it.  The guy almost threw a no hitter his last time out and STILL got saddled with the loss!  Poor hitting behind him has been the bane of Shields pitching existance this year.  The Rays’ hitters owe him.

Ian Snell Picture

The recently acquired ex-Pirate Snell will be making an attempt at impressing the home crowd in his second start for the Mariners.  He did a nice job shutting down the Rangers his last time out, and will look to put the brakes on an equally impressive offense this time. 

I’m sure my friend at The Pittsburgh Peas, Matt, will be watching with great enthusiasm to see how his guy Snell fares. 

I’m hoping it’s poor, buddy.

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I’ll get back with everybody on Saturday to talk about a (hopefully) exciting and successful Rays series.  We really need these games. 

I hope the Rays bring their best out west.

We are sitting (now at the end of the creation of this post) just 2 1/2 games behind those Sox for the wildcard lead.  Oh my. 

Let’s strike gold!

(This guy has gold.  See?  Gold.)

Gradin’ the Tradin’: Part II

The first post I put out a few days ago was only to rate the trades that occurred on Friday, the trading deadline day. 

However, I got a few e-mails asking me why I left out one trade or the other.  They got me to thinking….why NOT go through the notable trades from the trading deadline and just before? 

I enjoyed arguing with some of you through comments and e-mail about what you thought of some of the trades.  Good times…

This post might be more for me than anybody since I LOVE trades and how they affect teams.  I think they are something that is utilized by baseball better than any other sport and is part of the reason why this game is so grand.

Again, I’m primarily looking at the team that is the bigger part of the deal, though in some cases I grade both teams.

So without further adieu….here is part deux. 

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Deal:  Reds trade Edwin Encarcion et al to the Blue Jays for Scott Rolen

Analysis:  It seemed that Encarnacion never really got it going in Cincinnati.  He hit a load of dingers last year, but the average the last few years was never really what Dusty Baker wanted (.209 in 2009).  I don’t see him being the 3B of the future for the Jays, unfortunately.  However, from what I’ve read about the two young pitchers who were also sent to the Jays, the real value might be there.  These two pitchers might make an impact on Toronto this season, which would make the Jays winners here.  The Reds get an aging 3B who might be able to help out a little next year.  While the Reds play in a strong offensive park, the fact is that Rolen is 34 and has seen his best years pass him by.

Grade:  Reds–C+   Jays–B+

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Deal:  Jerry Hairston, Jr. to the Yankees for a Single-A catcher

Analysis:  This just doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.  Of course, the Rays are notorious for making the “not a big deal” trades that end up getting them a bunch of wins.  Maybe the Yankees have been taking notes.  They already went into the Rays’ playbook to make a deal for Eric Hinske earlier in the year, after all.  Hairston, Jr. has speed and versatility.  For those reasons he might be a nice guy to have on a team.  A National League team.  I don’t see him helping the Yanks out too much.  Then again, New York didn’t give up much, either.

Grade:  B-

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Deal:  Brewers deal to get Claudio Vargas from the Dodgers

Analysis:  The Brewers needed a starter.  A good starter.  They needed somebody to help them contend with the Cubs, Cardinals, and, suddenly, the Astros.  Instead they dealt for a bullpen guy in LA who they actually had not that long ago and dumped because of his ineffectiveness.  They didn’t give up much, but they didn’t get much, either.

Grade:  D-

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Deal:  Cubs get John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny from Pirates

Analysis:  This is a case where I think both teams won out.  The Pirates got a young hurler in Kevin Hart and a strong piece of the bullpen in Jose Ascanio.  The Cubs needed a starter in Gorzelanny (he’ll start this week) to fill in for Ted Lilly and they needed a strong lefty in the ‘pen in Grabow who will take the place of the Tommy John-bit Neal Cotts.  Grabow will complement Sean Marshall in the bullpen and add some stability to a shakey group.

Grade:  A for both teams (especially because of the mad kung fu skills of Gorzelanny)

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Deal:  Royals get Josh Anderson from the Tigers

Analysis:  This guy was got for cash.  That’s it.  Typically these deals are non-issues.  This one fits in with that characterization.  So why are we talking about it?

Grade:  Who cares?

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Deal:  The Giants get Freddy Sanchez from the Pirates

Analysis:  The Pirates are becoming to be old hat in these trade discussions.  With that said, the Bucs are doing the right thing.  Sanchez was scheduled to make $8 mill next year.  That’s too rich for a team with so many holes.  I was hoping that the Rays would get this guy–he’s one of my faves–so that they could move Ben Zobrist’s rocket arm and huge bat to right field.  Alas, not to be.  This move will probably lead to the Giants releasing Rich Aurelia and his salary.  Sanchez will help the Giants.  The Pirates got a pitcher in Tim Alderson who will help them–in the future.

Grade: B+

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Deal:  Phillies land Cliff Lee from Indians 

Analysis:  C’mon, do we have to talk about this one?  I was hoping the Rays might get active here, and they were, but not as active as the Series champs.  They got Lee, gave up some guys they’ll miss, and promptly saw him throw a complete game shutout.  ‘Nuff said.

Grade:  A

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Deal:  Mariners get Jack Wilson from Pirates for a bunch o’ guys

Analysis:  The M’s got the shortstop they had hoped they had in Yuniesky Betancourt.  When they realized Betancourt was a flop defensively, they shipped him to Kansas City–where he’s struggled.  Wilson is a solid piece of the future puzzle for the M’s and will get them some wins in the future.  The guys the Pirates got will be helpful, but not too helpful right away.  Ronny Cedeno is flopping right now and catcher Jeff Clement was not sparking the way the Mariners wanted.  I thought that the addition of Clement might lead to the Bucs moving Ryan Doumit–to the Rays.  Not so.  Oh well.

Grade:  Mariners–B+    Pirates–B

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Deal:  White Sox get Mark Kotsay, Red Sox get Brian Anderson

 

Analysis:  No doubt, the White Sox won this trade–right now.  The White Stockings got a premiere pinch hitter who can play almost any corner position.  He is a veteran who can fit in immediately with is new team and pay dividends as they push for October.  The Red Stockings got a supreme underachiever in Anderson.  He might develop, though, into a guy who might be the utility outfielder Rocco Baldelli is supposed to be.  With JD Drew on his way out (c’mon, folks, he’s hurt, like, ALL THE TIME) this might be a good add–next year.

Grade:  White Sox–B+    Red Sox–B+ (potentially)

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Deal:  Giants get Ryan Garko for Single-A pitcher

Analysis:  Garko was a fan fave in Cleveland, but he was going to be up for big money in the off season.  So he was shipped.  He was taking playing time away from guys the Indians really wanted to see and they did not view him as a piece of the future.  He has a gift for being offensive–in a good way–and should help the Giants offense get going.  The guy Cleveland got will be good two years from now.  That’s something to be happy about in Clevelend–and there isn’t much these days.  However, the move will give more AB’s to superstar-in-the-making Matt LaPorta

Grade:  B

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Deal:  Matt Holliday goes to St. Louis

Analysis:  Waste of time to talk about.  He’s hitting .529!!! 

Grade: A+ (and it sickens me to say that)

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Sorry if the pics got a little weird there at times.  I’m as distracted by the strange moments of our favorite sport as anybody.

I think that runs down most of the more notable trades that have occurred the last few weeks (and a couple of not-so-notable trades). 

I think that this time of year is the most captivating of any sport out there.  Teams are fighting for division titles.  Others are scrambling for wildcard berths.  Franchises are deciding whether to buy or sell.  Squads are scouting for both this and next year–and with a do-or-die attitude.

It’s just great.

And the waiver-wire trades are going to get going soon too.  Teams have to make waiver deals before August 30th if they want that guy to be eligible for the post season.

And the countdown begins.

 

And if anybody asks me about the Julio Lugo deal……..

Gradin’ the Tradin’

Ah, well.  The Rays did not make any moves at the trade deadline.  Despite two glaring needs, the team was unable to do that trade that might have helped to shore up some weaknesses for the final playoff push.

I don’t know that moves HAD to be made.  This team stood pat last year and was able to utilize the huge talent it had to make it to October.  This year’s iteration of the Rays is not much different, and should be able to ride its talent–both here in the majors and in the minors–to a division crown or wildcard berth. 

It ain’t gonna be easy, though.

Even though I can’t look at any moves the Rays made, I wanted to take a look at the multitude of moves made yesterday and grade how each move should help each team.

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Deal: Red Sox trade for Victor Martinez

Analysis: Jason Varitek has not been what the Sox have needed this year.  Sure, he’s led the team as an old grizzled veteran should, but little more than that.  Add in the fact that Mike Lowell’s hip is not long for this season and you have a need at catcher and first base.  Well, the Red Sox filled those needs with the addition of Martinez.  One of the more coveted players available at the deadline, the versatile Martinez might just be the piece that complete the playoff puzzle for the Sox

Grade: A+

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Deal:  White Sox trade lots of young arms for Jake Peavy

Analysis:  Initially this looks like a great deal.  The White Sox were able to rekindle interest in moving Peavy late Friday (interest that waned early in the season) and finally consummated the deal.  Why Peavy would want to pitch in hitter-friendly US Cellular Field in a new league is beyond me, but he had his reasons to waive his no trade clause.  The Sox got a pitcher who is not ready to pitch now and might not be ready for several more weeks.  The Padres got a plethora of arms that should help them long term.

Grade:C+

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Deal:  Twins acquire Orlando Cabrera

Analysis:  I don’t like Cabrera.  Let’s get that out of the way.  I don’t like the way he tried to make some lame point in the playoffs last year against the Rays.  I am glad Grant Balfour struck him out, though.  Why do I say all this pointless blather?  Because this is a perfect move for the Twins.  And if I’m saying that with the way I feel, then you know it is good.  The Twinkies needed a strong shortstop, and they got it.  He will hit 2nd in the lineup ahead of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer and will help that offense really get going.  And his defense will be welcome in the Metrodome–especially if you saw the bumbling of Brendon Harris in last night’s game.

Grade:A

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Deal:  Tigers get Jarrod Washburn

Analysis:  Washburn was not going to be able to help the Mariners make the playoffs this year.  And he was going to ask for more money than the M’s would be willing to pay him after the end of this season.  For them, this is a great move.  For the Tigers, this move makes sense.  They will now have a solid 1-3 in the rotation.  Plus, the move enabled them to keep pace with the moves the Sox and Twins made within the division.  But can Washburn keep up his torrid pitching?  I don’t think so.

Grade:  B-

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Deal:  Braves and Red Sox exchange 1B: Adam Laroche and Casey Kotchman

    

Analysis:  The Braves have fallen out of love with the guy they acquired for Mark Teixeira not that long ago.  Why?  They want more home runs.  Kotchman has just 6 this year.  But the guy is hitting .283 and plays a decent 1B.  Laroche, on the other hand, struggles to hit .250 and only has 13 dingers this year.  Each guy has only around 40 RBIs.  This is kind of a non-deal–much like the Jeff Francoeur for Ryan Church deal earlier.  What are the Braves thinking?

Grade:  Braves–C             Red Sox–B

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Deal:  Marlins trade for the Nats’ Nick Johnson

Analysis:  Everybody seems to love Nick Johnson.  I don’t get it.  He’s a marginal hitter, and ok fielder, and he might actually be slower than our own Pat Burrell.  What’s the deal?  When the Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez was told of the trade, he reportedly pumped his fist and yelled “YES!”  Why?  This might help the Marlins shore up their infield by moving Jorge Cantu to 3B and allowing Johnson to man 1B, but that’s about it.  But, the Fish did not give up much for him so…

Grade:  B

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Deal:  Rockies get Joe Beimel from the Nats

Analysis:  Make fun of the Pirates all you want, at least it seems they are getting a direction in mind for the franchise.  The Nationals don’t have a clue.  They dumped a solid lefty bullpen guy in Beimel to get two youngsters–one of which, I read, is recovering from surgery.  Ugh.  This deal should help the Rox, but not that much.

Grade:  B

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Deal:  Dodgers send minor leaguer 3B Josh Bell to O’s for closer George Sherrill

Analysis:  I’m looking at both sides of the coin on this one.  The Dodgers acquire a solid closer who has been more and more consistent as the season has gone on.  Thus, right now the Dodgers have one of the more potent 8th- and 9th-inning guys out there.  The Orioles got a guy I hadn’t heard much about, but about whom I read is something special at 3B.  Melvin Mora won’t be long in an O’s uni, so getting Bell, who might get a callup sometime next year, plays out perfectly for Baltimore.  This team is going to be pretty exciting come next season. 

Grade:  D’s–B+        O’s–B

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As with any trade that went down in the last few days, we will have to wait and see how things go.  Of course, the Cardinals have gotten immediate returns on their move as Matt Holliday has TORN IT UP since his arrival in St. Louis.

Lots of the deals above included young minor leaguers.  Their value is not entirely quanitfiable just yet, but it may be sooner rather than later.

Either way, Friday was lots of fun.

Even if the Rays did do nothing.

Tradin’ Post: Rays Edition

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.

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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. 

BUT

If the Rays made a move I think that there are two guys who would fit VERY VERY well.

 

Ryan Doumit

 

 .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?

 

Kurt Suzuki

.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.

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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.

 

Rafael Soriano

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….

 

Mike Gonzalez

MikeGonzalez7.jpg Mike Gonzalez after getting his 39th consecutive save! image by klingreen

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.   

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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.

Brian Shouse

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.

 

Dioner Navarro.

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.

 

Grant Balfour

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.

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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!!!