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.
–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.
–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.
—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.
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.
The Rays ended the month of June with a really nice win against a team they HAVE to beat if they want to be in the running for a playoff spot, the Boston Red Sox.
Their 9-4 thumping of the Sawx Wednesday night was pretty darn impressive, as the run output from Boston was augmented with some meaningless runs late in the game.
Matt Garza did just what the Rays needed him to do: shut down the opposition. He gave up only 6 hits in his 7 innings and looked in command throughout. He ran out of gas in the 8th inning, but it didn’t really matter at that point because the Rays had a commanding lead.
I had thought that the Rays would be able to beat down Daisuke Matsusaka, but it didn’t really go that way. He was far from impressive, but he was also far from dominated by the Rays offense. It was the Sox ‘pen that fall apart, namely Manny Delcarmen.
And, let’s face it, you can’t win if your bullpen stinks on any given night. Luckily, the Rays’ hitters were able to take advantage of Delcarmen’s lack of control.
What really helped to force the Sox pitchers hands was what has helped the Rays to beat Boston 5 out of 9 games thus far this season:
The Rays were able to run on Sox catcher Jason Varitek fairly easily, stealing on 2 of 3 base attempts. That might not sound like alot, but when NONE of the stolen bases were taken by guys with last names of Upton, Crawford, or Bartlett, then you are talking about some really good base running. (Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist were the thieves in the game)
If you are a Rays fan, you are not only happy with the result of the game but also with the fact that Tampa Bay sits just 1 game behind the Sox for second place in the AL East and only 2 games behind the Yanks for the division lead.
Unfortunately, if they aren’t careful during this tough 4-game series in Minnesota, they might give up all the ground they gained last night.
It will be up to Jeff Nieman and the Rays hitters to start July off the same way they finished June: with a win.
Major League Baseball will put on its draft tonight as every team around the league looks to improve its club
And if all goes well, these teams will see the fruits of their collective labor in, oh, say, about 3 or 4 years.
Yeah, come on, you know how it goes. This ain’t the NFL or NBA. These guys who hear their seemingly anonymous names called tonight won’t really find themselves on major league rosters for some time now.
Despite this, teams will be taking very seriously the goings-on that will occur at 7 pm Eastern Time.
A good draft tonight can turn a team like the 2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays into, say, the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.
That 2008 squad became potent with the development of one great draft pick, Evan Longoria, and the shining of another, BJ Upton. In fact, the Rays’ success can be attributed quite squarely on the fact that they have drafted well during the Stuart Sternberg era as 10 of the 25 guys on the roster are homegrown.
Manager Joe Maddon and General Manager Andrew Friedman have said this week that they will be looking at the middle of the field as the focus of their draft. We can take that to mean, I assume, catcher, second base, shortstop, and center field.
I am not an expert on amateur baseball players, so I won’t pretend to give a list of great college and high school players who can have an impact on the Rays in the near future. However, I will say that a guy like Zach Cox, a guy who can play 3B and 2B, would fit well with what Maddon and Friedman would like to see on the roster in the future.
The Rays have the 17th overall pick in the draft, and the rumor is that they have targeted a catcher who, at one time, was Stephen Strasburg‘s battery mate–just like every other team in the draft. So, we can’t expect Bryce Harper to don a Rays uni any time soon.
However, a move for a catcher such as this would make sense considering the fall of Dioner Navarro, the question marks surrounding Kelly Shoppach, and the high hopes–yet unrealized potential–that plague John Jaso.
You would think that the Rays would be pretty satiated at the middle infield positions. They have Jason Bartlett firmly ensconced at short. At second base they have multiple options: Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez, and Reid Brignac. In the minors, the Rays have Eliot Johnson and Tim Beckham, though the latter 20-year-old seems to be a few years away as he is toiling at Single-A Charlotte.
Center field is a place that seems to be in question. BJ Upton mans the spot right now, but soon his arbitration clock will run out and he will become an unrestricted free agent. Then the Rays will have to decide whether or not to pay him what he thinks he is worth. Desmond Jennings has center field skills, but he might already be in left field after the Rays (potentially) lose Carl Crawford. Cuban defector Leslie Anderson was just promoted to AA Montgomery and could be with the big club in the next year or so if his fast rise continues.
Whichever way the Rays decide to go, I think we can rest assured that it will be the right way. They have not accrued what Baseball America has deemed the #1 ranked minor league system by accident. And with 6 picks in the first 98 of this year’s draft, the probability is high that the Rays will put together yet another successful group of recruits.
The Rays are coming up at pick 17.
The rumor is that they might choose a P/OF Bryce Brentz. Who knows what position he might play as a pro. Bryce Harper was supposed to be a catcher, yet the Nats have already made it clear he will be an outfielder.
However, should the Rays find INF Zach Cox still available at 17 (he is a top 10 projection), I think they will go with him. This guy is a left-handed hitting power hitter who has the defensive ability and range to play at the hot corner or at 2B.
Cubs are up. Rays coming up…
Cubbies took a pitcher. Rays have their pick (Brentz) and a top-tier infielder (Cox) available.
Rays took neither Cox nor Brentz. Instead they took Josh Sale, a guy that the MLB Net guys seem excited about. He is a college guy (Gonzaga) who plays the outfield. Apparently he will play a corner outfield spot who will hit for some decent power and has little speed. He sounds like a nice future RF, but it would be pointless to pontificate on where he will play as his major league debut is still several years away. However, as a college player (as David Price was) his future might arrive a little sooner than many might think.
Should this guy progress faster than most, then we might see a near-future outfield that could have Desmond Jennings, Leslie Anderson, BJ Upton, Ben Zobrist, and this kid in the mix. Not too shabby.
However, it should be noted that the Rays went neither middle infield NOR best available with this pick. Peter Gammons has guessed that this pick might be more motivated by $$ than anything else, which makes sense. Remember, the Rays were unable to sign two of their first three picks in their draft last year.
The Rays closed out their participation in the first round of the draft by taking a catcher with the 31st pick: Jason O’Conner. The experts said that this guy should be more versatile than a catcher has a right to be, which might mean that Maddon can see him playing middle infield or catcher. He is from the great state of Indiana, so he’s got that going for him.
So the Rays got (maybe) their catcher. That certainly was something that most Rays fans were looking for considering the current state, and franchise depth, of the position.
To say that was a great game would be an injustice.
It was an AMAZING game!
All the drama that came with the fact that it was Opening Day was overshadowed by the drama that came at the end of the game.
Sure, the smoke from all the pyro hung in the air all game long, but it was easy to see that this was a game to remember.
The guys were ready to play after the intros, and they sure played their hearts out.
(Alas, I was able to get pictures from most of the game before my camera’s battery died! Dang it! And pardon the HIGH view, I decided to downgrade on tickets to upgrade the thickness of my wallet)
You cannot complain about James Shields’ pitching performance. It was his first outing of 2010, he had a wife who was abou to give birth…yeah, I would say that what he did Tuesday night is just fine.
6 IP 3 R 9 H 2 BB
I know that the 1,83 WHIP and 4.50 ERA aren’t sexy, but he kept things from getting out of hand. He gave up 3 home runs–but they were all solo shots–the perfect type of home run to give up.
Kevin Millwood pitched well also, but he reached his 100-pitch limit much earlier than Shields did, going only 5 innings in his debut.
The Big Inning
Every game has an inning that affects the outcome.
I felt that the 9th inning was the inning that changed the course of this game. But it was NOT the bottom of the frame, but the top.
Rafael Soriano’s laconic performance nearly cost the Rays the game. He entered with the Rays trailing by 1 with the objective of keeping the deficit just that small.
It seemed he did all he could to fail at that objective.
If it were not for several great plays in the inning, the Rays certainly would not have been mobbing CC at home plate at the end of the game.
Soriano gave up a double to Garrett Atkins, a single to Cesar Izturis (was supposed to be a sacrifice bunt) and had a botched double play put runners at the corners with 1 out.
If Atkins scores, the game is probably over.
Instead, Evan Longoria saved the game with a great play to get Atkins at the plate.
With two outs and runners in scoring position, Soriano got Miguel Tejada to scorch one right into Carl Crawford’s outstretched arm.
And we want to trade this guy? No CC means the Rays sit at 0-1 instead of 1-0.
Longo Goes Long—OH!
(Ok, this pic is cool, isn’t it? It is like Longo is Lording over everybody at the Trop)
My goodness, did that ball land yet?
I’ll admit, from my perspective in the nosebleeds it was tough to get an idea of how far the ball was going. I knew it was gone, but how far it went was beyond me. I was too busy celebrating to watch the ball land, anyway.
Turns out, it was the third longest dinger in Tropicana Field history. It landed several rows up into the party deck!
I don’t want to belabor the amazing-ness that is Carl Crawford, but wow.
I thought it was incredible when he killed those Red Sox in 2003 with a line drive long ball in the bottom of the 9th to get an Opening Day win.
But this was just as great.
Following his great catch in the top half of the 9th and an almost-walk-off from Kelly Shoppach, Carl delivered a great line drive into right field that secured the game.
I almost fell down the 596 stairs I had to climb to get to my seat.
3 Keys to a W
3–The Rays Republic Must Represent. Nope Sorry Republic, I thought that the Trop was WAY too quiet all game long. Of course, I was sitting in the Swiss Alps, so I might have missed some of the cheering.
Gotta get at least 2 of the 3 Keys in order to get a W.
2 Keys Checked = Rays Win!
I’m looking forward to this season even more. The Rays were more than impressive Tuesday night, not only because of their offense and clutch hitting, but because of their resilience.
That resilient spirit was what helped the Rays take the AL East in 2008. Game after game was decided because the Rays refused to give up.
Can’t wait to see how Matty does tonight.
Through the first three games of the exhibition season the Rays saw many balls fly over the outfield fences. While most of them were hit by the team they played back to back, the Baltimore Orioles, three of the dingers came from one of the newer Rays on the roster:
Sean John Rodriguez.
This guy has a lot of pressure on him.
Think about it.
–He was brought to St. Pete in exchange for one of the most popular–and successful–Rays of all time, Scott Kazmir.
–He has been said to have the potential to knock 20 dingers per year.
–He can fill one of the Rays’ biggest holes in 2010–second base–now that Aki has been dealt and the Rays might want to see Ben Zobrist in right field.
No doubt, Rodriguez can be something of a godsend for the Rays in 2010. Should he be successful in Spring Training, the Rays will find themselves with the ability to wait on Matt Joyce to mature and give Reid Brignac a chance to play everyday at AAA.
But is it fair to look at Rodriguez’s three long balls and see him as on track to breaking camp with the big club?
The wind in Florida has been gusting. That is putting it mildly. Around town you see signs blown over and trash strewn about because just about everything is getting knocked around by the wind.
That includes fly balls.
Manager Joe Maddon has said that if the Rays had hit more fly balls they would have had many more home runs than they do now.
That reasoning would have to apply to the young second baseman’s three dingers so far in this spring.
So perhaps we should not read too much into the early success of Rodriguez’s big stick, but it can’t be too terrible to dream.
After all, if it were the regular season he’d be on pace for 162 home runs.
Not too shabby…
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.
First, I’d like to encourage you all to read my preview of tonight’s big/huge/incredibly exciting matchup against those Sox from Bawston. I am REALLY stoked about tonight’s game. I’m counting the minutes!!!
But I wanted to jump in quickly with a look at the latest addition to the Rays roster.
Meet Sean Rodriguez, the Rays’
“Second Baseman of the Future”
Ok, maybe I’m overstating. But I’m pretty enthused.
This is the guy the Rays and Angels were fighting over when the Scott Kazmir deal was on-again and off-again.
I can see why the Halos wouldn’t want to give him up.
This guy’s a stud!
IF you look at his Triple-A number, that is.
Quick Bio Junk
He is a 24-year old guy who, actually, I’ve followed for the last few years. I’ve read some stuff on him off an on in other blogs (Halos Heaven is great), in our paper when we played the Angels, and on the Angels’ website.
I’m not totally done being upset that we moved our 25-year-old pitcher, but we might have found a guy who can really fill the hole that will open up at 2B this winter.
And at 24, he could be there for the Rays for years and years to come.
Numbers, Numbers, Numbers
Ignore the MLB numbers. He’s 24, and in two stints with the Angels he is hitting just .203. Not good, buddy.
But his year this year at Triple-A has been stud-like.
He is batting a robust .299.
And his power numbers are incredible!
He’s knocked 23 dingers and driven 93 RBIs in ONLY 103 games.
We could certainly use that production from the 2B spot. Sure, Ben Zobrist helped alot at that position when Akinori Iwamura went down, and his power numbers are just as solid, if not moreso because they occurred at the MLB level.
But I’ve been saying forever that Zorilla needed to be our future RF.
Now Ben Z can go to right while S-Rod, as he is called in the Angels minors (not too creative), takes over at second.
I’ll take that.
What About Aki?
I love Aki. Next to Longo, he is my favorite player.
The Rays have already declined his option for next year, though. They could not take on the millions he was slated to make in an option year, not to mention their slight gamble on his knee being healthy for an entire 162-game season next year.
I don’t want him to go. Not at all.
I think that this acquisition, though, might spell the end for Aki.
Joe Maddon said that he was “excited” about the infamous Player To Be Named Later in the Kaz deal.
Angels websites (fan and professional) indicated that they were wary that player would be Rodriguez.
I don’t know if they are both right, or if their perception of a 24-yo kid who has barely played in the MLB level is way off.
We’ll have to see, of course.
But I think that this added player takes a little bit of the sting out of losing Kazmir during a playoff run.
This kid does strikeout alot, not too good for a team that has more Ks than K-mart (I mean the “K” in the sign–no good?). That could make him bat low in the order and miss some RBI opportunities.
But the Rays have been all about adding talent when they lost talent. And this kid is talent.
It’s amazing how much a team can change in so little time.
But change is good.