Archive for the ‘Free Agent’ Category

Cork Gaines of Rays Index visited Mike Silva for his blog talk radio show NY Baseball Digest. This q&a segment titled Outside the Apple Tampa Bay Rays brought up a lot of hot topics about the ball club. Below is a representation of what was discussed.  It is paraphrased  and not word for word:

On the Rays player movement this off season:

Cork : we knew this would happen for a long time . There is still alot of talent here in Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, Jeremy Hellickson, David Price and others.

On Manny Ramirez and what if it does not work out:

Cork:  hard to envision it could be any worse than the 9 million the Rays ate on Pat Burrell. It’s a no lose situation. Manny usually starts off good and its a 1 year deal, well worth 2 million.

On the Rays having to count on that Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to be good this year:

Cork:  The Rays need them to score runs. Without these additions there was not a lot of threats in the lineup. Now the Rays can put Manny 4th  or 5th,  with Damon at the top of the lineup. It slots slots everyone better. Matt Joyce  can be 7th hitter and it puts pressure off of him. It’s like getting a closer in the bullpen where it puts people in better places

On losing Pena:

Cork:  Pena will be missed for his tremendous glove, and without the addition of Manny, the Rays would of really missed his presence in the lineup. Pena was what kept pitchers honest. Pena made the infield defense a whole lot better. The Rays will miss Pena in the clubhouse. The fans gravitated towards  Pena. Now the Rays are going with Dan Johnson playing 1st base. Dan Johnson hits lefties well.  May be playing everyday he could be productive. However Maddon likes platoons so he won’t be out there every day.

On Joe Maddon as the manager:

Cork : The expectations have been raised with Maddon as the manager, an old scool type of baseball man, he is a polarizing  figure. The team has been productive with Maddon. Its either Friedman picking the right players or Maddon doing a good job with them. At times he over thinks things but overall he is a good manager.

On the Garza trade:

Cork: Rays said they wouldn’t do it unless they got blown away from an offer. Chris Archer, probably won’t see a whole lot of him this year,  maybe next year.  Chirnos was the key player in deal. As Jaso is not best defense catcher, but gets on base well and is a serviceable catcher. Chirnos was moved from the infield, Rays could move Shoppach and shave payroll.

On Hellickson and the pitching rotation:

Cork: Helickson might be skipped from time to time. Wade Davis and Niemmann are workhorse pitchers, Price is gonna be great, heavy load last year, maybe a tired arm. The key is James Shields, Rays need him to step up, get him back.

On the bullpen and is Farnsworth like putting kersosene on fire?
Cork: Farnsworth has been better the  past few yrs.  The bullpen is a hodge podge.  J.P. Howell will start on the DL and could be back  mid May or early June. Rays have 25 guys in camp which are relief pitchers. Rays need 1 or 2 to relief pitchers to step it up, but it won’t be lights out like last year. The bullpen will be ok, not great.

On Soriano in New York:

Cork: It will be intersting, for the most part ok, wonder if things turn sour, how will he react? He is the temperamental type, on edge and sometimes channels anger in wrong way. However, not looking forward to facing him.

On the Ken Rosenthal contraction/moving the team piece?

Cork:  contracting with less people as part of the game and less sales opportunities is a silly idea. The Tampa market is untapped for baseball, sports fans haven’t latched on, and building centrally located. It is equivalent  of Citi Field being located in the Hamptons. Since the Trop is surrounded by water to get to the games it usually ends up taking most people  1.5 hours to get to the game, its a problem. The Rays will never draw 3million on consistent basis. But, they don’t need to.  They can be an in the middle attendance team. It’s a good sports area. Rays don’t have history. Most  of the long time clubs all have a history that generatons of fans to build on. The Rays don’t have that. They are now experiencing a good run, 10 year from now it will be something look back on.

On Rays as a playoff team:
Cork: The early thoughts is that they can compete, still looking for bullpen help, Yankees will go out and get starting pitcher help. Rays are a 85-88 win team, break well they could win 92 games. If they get off to a bad start selling of pieces,  then a 75 win team.

From MLB comes the dream job for a baseball fanatic:

 
“Your new full-time gig will be to literally follow  baseball non-stop as you will be charged with watching every every single game of the 2011 season, blogging about your thoughts and opinions, and discussing the hottest topics in baseball.”

 

 

Who wants in?  The only catch is you have to live in the New York area.

In Major League baseball, there is no salary cap, nor is there a minimum salary a team must spend on their payroll. The contract the owners give out is all guaranteed money.  Now why do you think the big market teams are quite upset about having to pay the small market teams ?

Well, the big market teams spend to compete because they are expected to do so with the  financial resources they have at their fingertips. However what is happening is the small market teams are going out to dinner on the big  market teams tab, and buying the cheapest item on the menu, and writing off the most expensive item on the menu to get reimbursed with. The Yankees owner Hank Sterinbrenner is clearly livid over this practice:

Steinbrenner revealed the team contributed about $130 million between revenue sharing and luxury tax, the most of any team in the league and the most, according to Steinbrenner that the team has ever had to contribute. A few days ago, Sox CEO Larry Lucchino indicated the team contributed $86 million. This is obviously a sore subject for the Yankees and Red Sox.

Now, one of the biggest complaints of the Rays bumbling previous owner Vince Namoli is that he walked around with a fat wallet. It seems the Sternberg ownership walks around with the same type of wallets. But, The intent of the collective bargaining process was allowing for home grown players contracts from getting prohibitive before reaching free agency. The players were to take reasonable pay bumps in accordance of improved performance on the diamond. Instead, what we witnessed this off season from Rays was taking a moderate valued contract in Matt Garza and selling it for future dollars.

I can see why teams do not want to pay to help the other teams in general.  We have seen this in the marketplace even where we want to pay for our own healthcare and not be subject to paying for your neighbors.  It’s obvious the owners had already gone to the commissioner  and slapped the Marlins on the wrist for not spending their revenue sharing dollars on payroll. The result was Dan Uggla spent one year extra in Florida before they deemed him too expensive.

It was a speed bump on the radar and eventually the big market teams will come in greater numbers and show they are serious. Selig can only stall them so long.

Rays future focus on 1st base

Posted: February 16, 2011 in Defense, Free Agent, Minors, Rays

Since Carlos Pena won’t be handling the throws that come aross the infield to first base in 2011, the Rays are going to have to find somehow to replace his production. By combining Manny Ramirez’s power, along with Casey Kotchman’s slick fielding you might have what Carlos Pena provided. This two headed monster certainly won’t have the presence as a leader in the clubhouse that we witnessed the past few years in Pena.

Let’s say this experiment fails, along with Dan Johnson showing us that he really is more of a backup.  Where do the Rays turn?

Is Leslie Anderson given the everyday job or do the Rays dig deeper in their organization for the next player in line?

I make my annual trip to Tampa at the end of this month. I will get to catch the Rays in some game action when they visit Bradenton to play the Pirates for the second spring game of the year.

Here are some bullet points as we head into the 2011 season:

Q1: What will Joe Maddon try to accomplish this spring training ?

In Joe Maddon‘s first year without Carl Crawford in the everyday lineup, the main thing he will try to do is integrate veterans Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon with the existing group of young players. The clubhouse dynamic over the course of the season will be a work in progress, and Maddon will sure hopes these  veteran players can be counted on for leadership.

Q2: What is the most compelling spring training competition?

The biggest competition going into camp is for the job of closer. It would appear  Kyle Farnsworth has the edge for the position. However, Jake McGee and Adam Russell will battle to state their claim on the role since their is no clearcut favorite.

Q3: What is the most likely Opening Day lineup?

left field; Johnny Damon, right field; Ben Zobrist, third base: Evan Longoria designated hitter; Manny Ramirez, first base; Dan Johnson, center fielder; B.J. Upton, second base; Sean Rodriguez, catcher; John Jaso, shortstop; Reid Brignac.

The Rays Spring Training roster as we know today:

Pos





C Jsao Shoppach R. Chirnos Lobaton Ashley Albernaz Vogt
1B D. Johnson Kotchman L. Anderson R. Cranzler
2B S. Rodriguez E. Johnson Mayora

SS Brignac F. Lopez Olmedo

3B Longoria
 




LF J. Damon Jennings


CF B.J. Upton Fuld Guyer


RF Zobrist C. Carter Ruggiano

DH M. Ramirez Joyce


SP D. Price  


A. Leary R. Orta
SP J. Shields
C. Figueora J. Bayliss
SP Niemann
Richar De los Santos B. Baker
SP W. Davis
Cobb

SP Hellickson
Dane De La Rosa

RP Farnsworth Eckstrom Torres

RP Russell B. Gomes Bush


RP Peralta Cabral
Suarez 



RP Delaney Archer R.J. Swindle

RP Sonnanstine Hayhurst

RP J. McGee Cruz



DL J.P. Howell Wade

I have  known of the name Jason Collette for many years now dating back to the Rays message boards, then later on DRAYS BAY. But, it wasn’t until the MLB blogpoll that we both contributed to, that I first linked up with him.  Jason is all over the webosphere these days.  As a fan of several podcasts these days, I just listened to the Baseball Digest podcast where Jason was a guest.

Here are my notes on the interview:

Jason said the Rays organization went all in for 2010. An example he cited the team finding the money for Soriano, when there was no money left.  Jason noted that we knew the defections coming in 2011, but this offseason has been as good as possible with the 12 draft picks, freeing up 11.25 million in the Bartlett and Garza trades.

On the Manny and Damon package – Damon alone not worth it, the DH in Tampa Bay for a long time has been a sore spot. Manny in itself will be an upgrade over anything they have ever had at DH. Damon can work count. Jason stated that this is best offensive line up in history of Rays.

On losing Balfour and Soriano at closer and if it was a surprise:  Jason said not really. Benoit, Soriano, and Balfour had career years But, Benoit’s 3yrs/16mill contract with the Tigers skewed the market. There was a 50% chance Balfour could be back.

4 of the top 50 prospects from Tampa Bay. Now how does the Manny/Damon deal effect  Joyce/Jennnings –  help or hurt their progress ? He said punch his ticket to AAA, deleay his service time, have him for prime years, stretch out rentention.  Joyce has trouble handling left handed batting, but high ISO power vs rh pitching.

On Tampa ownership: Its like Fight Club, barely get access, tight lipped, very secretitive, data driven team.

Stadium: Will enough revenue streams so a CC wont happen again? timing wise after being in a world series it was a good time to attempt a new stadium,  but Tampa economy with a 13% unemployment, tv ratings top 6, many can’t afford to go, stadium under new ownership looks alot better. Jason would go before, but it was filthy, cleaner now, An unfortunate  geoography problem with stadium, east vs west.  St Pete doesnt want to give up rights.

On Baldelli retiring: It was a lost career just about.  He was athletic, power, could run. On having Rocco in the organization: Rays like to harvest those type of high character people, makeup is important. Hayhurst and Damon big character signings, with Damon a big clubhouse guy.

Can Rays compete?  Jason sees 5 teams going over .500 mark.  3 winning 90 games again, Rays and Blue Jays will be in mix.

The Bulls Have Players

Posted: January 26, 2011 in Free Agent, Spring Training

On what might be the first wave of minor league invites, the Rays have invited a few players to Spring Training.  Among the group is Tim Beckham, the first round selection from the “Buster Posey” draft.

The list of other free agent invites includes:

  • Rickey Orta – a former fourth round pick who the Rays picked up last year as  an  he began the battle back from Tommy John surgery.
  • Craig Albernaz – a catcher who was invited to spring training last season, and played for the Bulls in the AAA playoffs.
  • Stephen Vogt – a catcher who repeated at Charlotte last season, and won the FSL batting title
  • Brian Baker – An un-drafted pitcher that has been through the Rays system, last year pitching for the Bulls.

“From the Archives”, an article I wrote a few years back demonstrating some of the outstanding offensive numbers by Manny Ramirez.

Going into this off season, the Tampa Rays had a strategy on how they would overhaul the team. Sternberg said time after time last year that the organization would look quite differently in 2011.   It was clear that Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena’s  salaries would come off the books. However,  what was not initially evident for Rays, was that player after player would chose free agency over being part of what Andrew Friedman has built over the past three years. Obviously, the fan base did not get the memo as to what Stuart Sternberg  & Co. would do next to keep the organization competitive. The restructuring handed down up to this point was beginning to resemble the salary purge the Marlins pulled off following their World Series championship in 1997.

The Rays took a right angle turn by trading players that had value on the market place like Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza. The replaced them with an abundance of young players that could help fill holes in the organization for years to come.  In doing so, they reduced payroll which allowed them to grab some bargains for themselves in the market place.

Salary Subtractions for 2011

Grant Balfour 2 years, $8.1 million

Joaquin Benoit 3 years, $16.5 million

Carl Crawford 7 years, $142 million

Brad Hawpe 1 year, $3 million

Dioner Navarro 1 year deal, $1 million

Chad Qualls 1 year, $2.55 million

Carlos Pena 1 year, $10 million

Rafael Soriano 3 years, $35 million

Dan Wheeler 1 year, $3 million

Jason Bartlett 2 years, $11 million

Matt Garza 1 year, $6 million

Salary Additions

Kyle Farnsworth 1 year, $3.25 million

Manny Ramirez 1 year, $2 million

Johnny Damon 1 year, $5.25 million

We can understand the salary constraints the organization must work under. However, as the Rays previous regime had forever been known as a losing franchise, it hurts when you see what the owners have built up go on to other teams. It seems like the  the group up to 2010 had their window of opportunity ended prematurely.  But, ever since Stu came in they said they would operate like the Twins. You will have to accept in this small market model that you can never so much root for the name on the back of the jersey, as the Rays can bot keep them around long enough. They have to strike when there is a chance to keep the success for the long term continuing.

In a sense, The Rays fans have been somewhat spoiled the past few years seeing Sternberg  pay out some long term contracts. You almost got the sense that the team wasn’t operating as a small market team. The list of high dollars paid out in recent acquisitions includes free agent Pat Burrell, Rafael Soriano, and trading for an expensive backup catcher in Kelly Shoppach.

This off season has given the Rays fans a bit of reality that what the Rays are. The fact that they have been able to compete in the American League East power house division has been remarkable. Bringing in big personality guys like Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon along their world series rings and playing for a small market team  is unprecedented.  They will not only help the fan base, but take a lot of pressure off Evan Longoria who really needs some bats to protect them in the middle of the batting order.

I believe you can take a great arm and convert them into a closer. The best example of this was Jason Isringhausen who went from a middle of the pack starting pitcher, to all-star closer.  Its seems Billy Beane is credited with this idea, and I sure thinks it makes sense especially for teams who need to get creative.

The Orioles have just signed reliever Kevin Gregg for 5 million a year. Yes, this is the failed closer of the Cubs, Marlins, Jays, and now most likely the Orioles. As bad as this signing sounds, the Yankees just did something worse than this. You see, whoever signs Rafael Soriano not only has to pay him a big contract, they have to surrender a high end draft pick to the Rays. Soriano did have a breakout season in 2011 with the Rays and is said to have been the best closer in the American league in 2010.  The Braves precisely got rid of Soriano not so much for his talent. There were concerns about his erratic ability to stay  healthy, along with how much money he would make in arbitration. They basically did a salary dump trade on the Rays who were willing to take a gamble on him. His great season priced him out of the Rays plans for 2011, and he was looking to cash in on his performance.

It just seems that there were limited options of where Soriano would be a fit. His choices seemed to be the Yankees, or the Yankees, or the Yankees.  Soriano and his agent were clearly looking for a payday, and it didn’t matter what role they would get with a new team. The Yankees GM initially stated that he would not give up a first round selection for anyone but a Cliff Lee. I started to think that was a wise decision on Cashman’s behalf.  It seems like something new Mets GM won’t be doing anytime soon.  However, this is New York and Yankees are more so going for buzz, much more than fit.

The Yankees seemed like they bid against themselves for Soriano’s services. He will be a set up man for the next three years at about 35 million. Jake Larsen made a good point in that MFIKY has never been healthy for three years in a row.  Well, you can do the math on your own, but it will be interesting seeing if Soriano can stay healthy in 2011.

On a side note, we know about the numerous draft picks the Rays are accumulating with these free agent signings.  I wonder how much cash will be handed out to the Rays free agents in total. You are talking about a boat load  of money!

Farnsy a Ray

Posted: January 13, 2011 in Free Agent, Rays

If you want to catch the realtime buzz, there is no better place to catch it than on twitter. Yesterday, right about lunchtime, twitter had Kyle Farnsworth to the Tampa Bay Rays.  Of course, it was geat seeing John Heyman, giving credit to the blogging community. As later in the day, several news outlets credited Buster Olney with the scoop.   The Rays had been targeting a few relievers such as Brian Funetes, John Rauch, and even Grant Balfour.

When I think back of key areas that have been part of the success the past few seasons with the Rays, the stellar bullpen has certainly been a key.  With the Rays losing their closer, and many of their bullpen arms, this was a major area of concern. The Rays are slowly pieceing a bullpen back into order. By adding Farnsy, this definately will be an important cog in the Rays 2011 pen. Kyle Farnsworth pitched over 60 innings in 2010 between the Sox and the Braves with a 1.14WHIP 3.34ERA . What I liked about his number in 2010 was a .202 BA vsRHP.

Farnsworth has spent a majority of his career as a Chicago Cub, so the ex-Cub factor is there. Despite his great stuff, Farnsworth has never spent a full season as closer, but could definately fill the role. He comes on the cheap only getting over 3million plus incentives. This is a good move for the Rays, and I look forward to his tough guy makeup being a good fit for the young clubhouse.