Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Rays Party has moved!

We have moved The Rays Party over to MVN. Keep reading at our new location.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Someone was noticing

The Rays signed two more players to minor league contracts including one I wrote about in my "Get These Guys" Series. Jason Bowers signed and is going to compete for utility infielder in the minor leagues. This the first post I can gloat about because someone used my idea, or copied, and put it into good use. 

First Post Back

This is what a post will look like for a little while, very casual.

Watching a replay of the August eighth game this year which was very enjoyable watching it live on TV. The Rays also had their weirdest lineup with Jason Bartlett Dhing and without either Crawford or Upton playing.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This might not be the end

The last post was kind of an overstatement, I do like to write about, but not in it's current format. The new format might come around the start of spring training. If anybody wants to write anything here or have ideas for a new format, feel free to email me at the or comment in this post.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Rays front office creates a stockpile in the bullpen

Just when you think they had enough pitchers, the Rays claim RHP Dewon Day off waivers from Boston. Day has been pitching for the Blue Jays and White Sox organizations for six years after being drafted by the Jays in 2002. He got his ''cup of coffee'' with the White Sox pitching 13 games in 2007, but was lit up with a 11.23 ERA. Draysbay does mention his great strikeout and groundball rate making him an pitcher with potential.

The Rays front office are trying to acquire as many arms as possible, maybe in preparation of Troy Percival missing some time, a pitcher being moved for salary reasons(Chad Bradford), a poor performance, or a simple injury would cause the Rays to use this stockpile of pitchers. Here is a list of the stockpiled pitchers.

Dewon Day Needs more time in Triple-A until he gets a look.
Dale Thayer Also needs a little more time, but is very close to being ready
Juan Salas May not be with the Rays long staying in Durham
Jae Kuk Ryu Has no options left
Derek Rodriguez A rule 5 pick, has the best chance to make the club because of his ability and is options
Julio DePaula A better Dewon Day acquisition, minor league FA
Randy Choate The lone lefty in the bunch, is competing to be the second lefty in the pen. minor league FA
Jason Childers Career minor leaguer, lowest chance to make it, minor league FA
Mitch Talbot A long reliever, will be used as a starter in Durham

That's all till Monday, Happy Football watching!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Rays 25-man Roster Projection

This one I added Pat Burrell and changed the reserves to what I see might be best on Opening Day.

Red Sox try to match Rays, Get a bat and improve rotation

The Red Sox made two free agent signings to add depth to their outfield and starting rotation. The Red Sox added Rocco Baldelli really cheap for an reemerging bat and a decent fielder when able to play. The other move is more of package with newly signed John Smoltz and Brad Penny to have at least one of these guys healthy one point in the year. The problem is that both are coming of injuries and have never played on an A.L. team which is harder for pitchers to adjust when moving from the N.L. Otherwise, the Red Sox have a dominant rotation headlined by Josh Beckett. The Baldelli signing is an attempt to match the Pat Burrell signing, though not on the same level, and the Rays young rotation which has great depth.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Get these guys- The Outfielders

The Rays have already added two more outfielders to minor league contracts but they still one or two more to that duo. There are a few guys still left that have major league experience and are capable of being a fourth or fifth(NL team) outfielder. The Rays are packed with guys able to come up as a backup outfielder. This just helps with the competition and if an injury occurs a reliable backup.

Moises Alou- Yes he is old, coming of multiple injuries, and decreased production, but he could prove useful if he is willing to join on a minor league contract. Alou may opt for retirement than play in the minors, so it is worth a shot to discuss a comeback.

Scott Podsednik- Maddon will like his speed, Podsednik doesn't have an high OBP to used as a good bat off the bench, he can pinch run for the Burrell or Aybar. If the Rays want a speedy backup, they might go with Fernando Perez who is younger and has better upside.

Chris Snelling- The Rays could give Snelling a second chance, he has a high OBP and plays above average defense. But like Podsednik, the Rays may prefer Perez of Snelling.

Chris Aguila- Has some pop in his bat hitting 29 homers at Triple-A New Orleans last season. He also hits lefties pretty well with over a thousand OPS last year. Aguila does have major league experience and has the ability to play all three outfield positions.   

Rocco becomes a Red Sox

According to ESPN's Peter Gammons, Rocco Baldelli is close to a deal with his hometown team the Boston Red Sox. The deal is suppose to be announced Thursday night at baseball writers dinner where Rocco Baldelli is receiving the Tony Conigliaro award. There were reports today that the Reds and Pirates were very interested in Baldelli, but the Red Sox came back after the free agent market started to dwindle. The Red Sox would be the team other than the Rays more likely to sign Baldelli.

Unfortunately, Rocco is leaving to play with rival Red Sox but it is a big career move for Rocco going back to his hometown team which has followed since childhood. I rather the Rays re-sign him not only because he is a fan favorite, but for his bat and talent. We can only wish him the best and see him when we play this season.

Here is his World Series home run, his best of his career.

Farewell Rocco!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Assorted Rays news

It is now official, Dan Johnson had his rights sold to the Yokohama Bay Stars of the Japanese Central League. The original post when the word first broke out.

Cliff Floyd wants to return to Rays in a recent report. The Rays shouldn't bring him back as a player because of his recent shoulder injury and the fact he can't play the outfield. Rather the Rays sign Rocco Baldelli because he can actually play the outfield if needed.

Day after Philles pitcher J.C. Romero was suspended 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance right in the middle of the playoff race. The site Rays Index is very ticked about it and has accused the Philles of cheating. Also another angry blogger at DRaysBay expresses the same anger. This needs to be review by Major League Baseball as players can't be given a choice of when to be suspended, especially concerning playoff implications. If MLB wants to keep baseball clean they need to make the moves necessary actions to do so. Players should be suspended as soon as possible when tested positive. NO EXCEPTIONS!  

Ben Zobrist: Infielder or Outfielder?

Ask a Rays fan two years ago what position Ben Zobrist plays, the answer should be shortstop and an average one. Ask that question this time and the answer would be a utility player mainly in the infield and sometimes in the outfield. But on the official Tampa Bay Rays site, their profile of Ben Zobrist lists him as an outfielder which is written by who-knows who. Zobrist only played 113.1 innings in the outfield last year, mainly in left, and 293.1 innings at shortstop. He also logged 41 innings at second and 4.2 innings in one game at third. Clearly Zobrist isn't an outfielder yet statistically or in actuality. But the question is raised, what is Zobrist's best position and is he really meant for the outfield?

Using FanGraphs and UZR, we can see how well Zobrist played at the Major League level at each position.

Year Position UZR UZR/150
2006 SS -1.3 -3.8
2007 SS -2.6 -18.7
2008 SS -2.8 -15.0
2008 2B 1.9 94.5
2008 3B 0.0 -2.2
2008 LF 1.0 14.2
2008 CF -0.7 -27.2
2008 RF 0.0 0.0
2008 OF 0.3 3.0

The UZR/150 is pretty hard to use if they played very few games, but it is a good barometer to see how well a player's UZR. At shortstop, Zobrist isn't actually guy with a whole lot of range as compared to his play at second which is UZR/150 skyrockets to 94.5 which is probably impossible to accomplish with even 50 games played. Can't judge third base too much but he won't see much time there with Longoria and Aybar playing excellent defense on the hot corner. Then we move to the outfield where I thought he played pretty well factoring in that he probably hasn't played there since freshmen year of high school. Keep in mind that Zobrist is 6'3'', which isn't seen too much in middle infielders, and that it seems his best range is in the outfield with his longer strides. He also got a couple of pretty quick jumps on some line drives in the World Series, and these line drives weren't right at him, they were sinking down about 20 feet away. Here is a link to his video page which includes those nice catches(go to tags and click Ben Zobrist). Expect him to get much better at jumps on the ball as he works on multiple positions in spring training this year.

I think this season we will know which is best position is since he will likely stay on the Rays the whole season. The position that suits him the best is the corner outfield and second base. I'm always wondering why the Rays don't try Zobrist at first. He is tall and has a long limbs and he seems to be pretty flexible, and he has played it in spring training last year(see picture below) ,but he is again behind to other great first basemen in Pena and Aybar.

Octopus Man!

Yanks and O's try to match Rays now

With the Rays off a memorable season which was supported by a cast of young rising stars and well-placed veterans. Now the rest of the AL East is playing catch-up and have to improve their team to out perform the Rays for the next several years. The biggest moves were done by the biggest team, the New York Yankees.

The Yankees signed three free agents to extraordinary sums of money this offseason, to make-up a snapped streak of consecutive playoff appearances. The addition of Nick Swisher by trade and signing Mark Teixeira gives the Yankees a stacked lineup of veteran hitters that can hit for power and making opposing pitchers work. Their rotation isn't too bad either now with the addition of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, they have three number one starters and a potential fourth one in Joba Chamberlain. The number five spot will be competition between some guys and veterans.

2009 Yankees Projected Starting Rotation
1. CC Sabathia
2. A.J. Burnett
3. Chien-Ming Wang
4. Joba Chamberlain
5. Phil Hughes

The Baltimore Orioles have inherited the bottom of the AL East from the Rays and have big holes to fill, especially in their rotation. An area of concern was shortstop, which became vacant after trading Miguel Tejada, and the Orioles signed free agent shortstop Cesar Izturis. A nice short term solution for the O's, their offense was actually their strongest aspect last year. What the O's need is good starting pitchers and relievers. Since Baltimore isn't a hot destination to go right now, the O's are able to get some veteran starters that might not help them compete for a playoff spot, but won't be blown out every game. Mark Hendrickson was signed to insure a 5.00 ERA and Koji Uehara a chance to get a number three starter that is straight from Japan and has no guarantee. Uehara will get paid over $5 million in two years depend if gets his incentives. It is a long hill battle for the Orioles to compete now, but they have to start adding young talent(like the Rays) and develop them to accompany some of their star players.    

Koji Uehara pitching in 2006 WBC

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rays sign six to minor league deal

A day after the Rays signed free agent Pat Burrell, the Rays officially sign six players to minor league contracts and an invitation to spring training. Although four of the players were already reported to be sign, the new guys are two relief pitchers: lefty Randy Choate and righty Julio DePaula. Draysbay has found the scouting reports on these pitchers and they look promising. Choate will compete for a bullpen spot as a lefty specialist and has an excellent groundball rate, probably because he throws sidearm. Choate hasn't been as good in the majors lately as he is in the minors and I would have preferred a Ray King acquisition. The other pitcher DePaula is a reliever that throws in the low nineties with an average slider and changeup. Don't see him making to the bigs this spring unless he impresses and dominates in Spring Training. I would like to see someone like Thayer or Talbot make the squad then older pitcher.

The other four position players include two who played with the Rays last year: outfielder Jon Weber and catcher Michel Hernandez. Ray Olmedo is an infielder, primarily a shortstop, that is competing for this years Major League shortstop insurance. His experience in the Majors with the Reds and Blue Jays is a plus. The last player is outfielder Ray Sadler, who is going into his 10th season of pro ball. Sadler is mainly a defensive player, playing all three outfield position, but has the ability to hit the longball with 50 home runs in the past two seasons in the minors.

The player of out this group most likely to make the Rays is Randy Choate, if he pitches well has a shot to join the bullpen as a left-handed specialist. But like I said, Olmedo(pictured below) is the MLSI(Major League shortstop insurance) and has a chance to join in the middle of the season if he stays. Take that LOOGY! 

Watch Out! The MLB Network has Harold Reynolds

I was watching clips from the newly formed MLB Network and they were a couple of clips about the Rays on their hot stove show. An interesting note that came up was the Rays could be a possible destination for free agent closer Trevor Hoffman. Joe Magrane thinks Hoffman has the stuff still to pitch but analyst Mitch Williams thinks it will be to hard for Hoffman to switch leagues this late in his career. It seems impossible for the Rays to actually sign him because they already have an aging, injury prone closer in Troy Percival.   

Their discussion was fine until Harold Reynolds started to talk and everything he said was from the perspective of a casual baseball fan. After the Joe Magrane was stating that the Rays have a young nucleus that could get better. Right after that Reynolds blurts out confidently:"A lot of career years for guys(Rays players)!"

This was the most false statement I have heard from these "analysts on TV." The Rays had only one maybe two career years on offense, Dioner Navarro and maybe Ben Zobrist(unless he gets more playing time). On the pitching side, J.P. Howell and Grant Balfour had their career years last season, but still should pitch at a high level. Reynolds was thinking that the only way the Rays got as far as they did was through the luck of having multiple career years, which is completely not true. That was one thing that irked me last year was that most Rays hitters and a few pitchers were under performing, yet they still made it to the World Series. Magrane later stated that this was the perfect storm for the Rays last year which came because of timely hitting, great pitching, and much improved defense. 

Link to the video.

State of the 40-man roster

With the addition of Pat Burrell, the Rays now have only one spot available on the 40-man roster. With 21 pitchers and 18 position players, it doesn't seem likely the Rays are going to add another player on a major league deal and keep one spot open in case they need to bring another player for an injury. The players likely to be removed off the 40-man eventually are Jason Hammel and Jae Kuk Ryu, as both of these guys are out of options. Expect the Rays to keep looking for more bullpen, possibly moving Chad Bradford and acquiring a young reliever. But I would prefer the Rays try out the young guys in the bullpen: Mitch Talbot, Dale Thayer, Derek Rodriguez, Jeff Niemann, and maybe even James Houser.

Tampa Bay Rays 40-man roster

Get these guys-The Middle Infielders

Continuing our look at the available players that the Rays could sign as minor league free agents, today the middle infield.

Don Kelly- A tall shortstop that hits more like Jason Bartlett, Kelly has played 8 seasons in the minors and a stint with the Pirates in 07. Kelly is a contact hitter who can also walk more than he strikes out. His primary position is at shortstop but is used as a utility player in the minors, playing all four infield positions, playing decent at each position. Another player to compete for the Rays minor league utility position.

Bobby Scales- Another minor league veteran, Scales(pictured below) primary position is second base but has played in the outfield in as many games as second. Scales is a switch hitter and hits about the same on both sides, slightly better as a right handed hitter. He has started to hit for more power recently but has increased his strikeout rate in addition. Not too good but adequate filler at Durham.

Erick Almonte- The best option for a shortstop injury backup in AAA, Almonte has had two stints in the Majors including starting 29 games at short for the Yankees in 2003. Improved his plate discipline, power numbers, and his defense in the past several seasons. He probably won't fit with the Rays because they got Brignac at short but he is worth a look.

The Rays don't have much need for too many middle infielder, just one that can play shortstop in case of injury(it is hard to find good backup shortstop).

Monday, January 5, 2009

Full Reaction: Rays best free agent signing that involved lots of money

The Rays have a made a move that hasn't been made since the "Hit Show". The Rays have signed free agent outfielder Pat Burrell to a two-year deal worth $16 million to become the primary DH. Burrell had least amount of risk of any big bat free agent because of his consistency over the past 9 seasons. Burrell is a leftfielder, which is currently occupied by the best LF Carl Crawford, so Burrell will primarily play at rightfield when not DHing.

An interesting note made by Marc Topkin is that this may open up to a re-signing of free agent Rocco Baldelli to be the fourth outfielder and to DH. If the Rays do get Burrell and Baldelli, this may be a sign from the front office that they prefer not have any sort of platoon this season. This makes it easier for them to know they have a regular starter at DH and rightfield and have no need to look for an upgrade all the time. The Rays may have to get rid of Gross as soon as they believe Matt Joyce is ready. Joyce would then start in right and Burrell will DH with Rocco as the backup to both positions.

This deal is money well spent, Burrell in his prime now will hit behind speedsters Crawford and Upton and up and coming power hitters in Longoria and Pena. Expect Burrell to drive in over 110 runs and provide much needed offense against left handed pitching. This lineup is now stacked with great hitters and may be the Rays best lineup for a long time.

An updated 25-man roster projection later on this week.  

Rays close to getting Pat Burrell

Reports say the Rays may get Pat Burrell on a two year $16 million contract. The best option for the Rays because he was the most consistent big bat free agent on the market, the Rays got him cheaper than I thought but he close to my prediction (see post here). Marc Topkin made a point that Rays may still sign Rocco Baldelli and use both at rightfield and DH. The conflict of interest would they both are right handed and have the same number.

I will have a full reaction when it becomes official or not.

Get these guys- The Corner Infielders

I am going to split up the infield to the corner infield (1B,3B) and the middle infield(2B,SS). Any player who can play multiple positions will be listed at their primary position, but I will mention what other position they can play.

Richie Sexson- Sexson is not the same player he was when played for the Brewers, but he still has power ability and no major injuries recently. His numbers started to turn south in 2007 as his production went down. Although the Rays don't have space on the Major League for another first baseman, the Rays are weak in that position in the minors. Sexson is insurance if a Rays 1B/DH gets injured and he will be ready to come up. But the Rays shouldn't be too serious as a team in need of a backup first baseman with power.

John Lindsey- A right handed first baseman who has played 14 seasons in the minors, Lindsey(image below) had only reach the AAA level in 2007. He almost quit baseball after the 2006 season, but went to the LA Dodgers spring training and has his best two seasons in is pro career. He has improved his ability to hit and his plate discipline as he got older. Lindsey is becoming a AAAA player and the Rays could get him with an invite to spring training. If Lindsey has the same production this season as he did the past two seasons, I expect him to be in a major league uniform in 2009 or 2010.

Jason Bowers- Another journeyman, Bowers was brought up as an shortstop and has moved around and may switch to third or second as his primary position. Not a great fielder, he his an average hitter but has improved his plate discipline the past few seasons. Bowers has the ability to steal a base as well, 16 a career high in 2007. Bowers may be a better minor league utility player option to Elliot Johnson, who strikes out too much and is a worse fielder than Bowers. Just minor league filler at best who has to compete with Johnson for that spot.   

Andrew Pinckney- Andrew Pinckney is a left-handed hitting third baseman who is still relatively young, 27 next season. A marginal prospect, Sox Prospects says he is a average fielder with a strong arm and is average hitter who can hit for power. Still needs time to develop some, but could compete for a spot at third or first for Durham if signed.  

The best pick out of this group would be John Lindsey, who has the best potential to play in the big leagues and play well.

New Year, New Stuff

If you were disappointed in the sports world, your football team lost/didn't make it, these past few weeks there is hope. The baseball hot stove has rekindled as big names have yet to find a home for the upcoming 2009 season. There are also the small names that will be signed to minor league deals and have a shot of making the big league team. Spring training starts in less than 40 days and this will include the World Baseball Classic, baseball's "World Cup".

The Rays have yet to address their need for slugger to hit as the DH. The names that are still linked with the Rays are Pat Burrell, Jason Giambi, Ken Griffey Jr., and Garret Anderson. The Rays also haven't sign too many minor league free agents yet but that should happen before players report to spring training. A post later on today.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Andruw Jones is on the market

A development that will help the Dodgers re-sign Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers agreed to trade or release bust centerfielder Andruw Jones. This unloads a lot if money for the Dodgers to re-sign Ramirez and another roster spot. Andruw Jones had a terrible year last season batting only .158 in 75 games in a year which he was on the disabled for the first time of his career. This was the first year of a two year $36.2 million contract, which turned out to be huge bust. Jones contract is going to be restructured by the Dodgers and save them about $12 million. It doesn't seem like anyone would trade for Jones and rather bid on signing him as a free agent.

The Rays are obviously looking at Andruw Jones, but he hasn't his best the past two seasons, and the Rays already have an emerging star in centerfield so Jones would move to rightfield or DH. Jones did have knee surgery so it is not out of the question to move him to right and he still has one of the best arms in the game. The cost would probably the same as any other free agent bat on the market the Rays would sign. The only problem is that Jones had two straight down years offensively so there is risk of signing him and getting poor production. Last year is strikeout rate ballooned from 24.1% to 36.4% and he is a low on-base guy during his career, Jones career high was .366 OBP which he did twice. I wouldn't mind the Rays signing Jones for a one-year deal for $5-7 million and move him in rightfield. He won't take away much defensively and can platoon in the DH spot with Willy Aybar.

Although, Jones isn't the best choice, his name has been added to the market and on the Rays radar.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Get these guys-The Catchers

Continuing our look at players that the Rays should get on a minor league contract and an invite to Spring Training.

Chris Heintz- A veteran catcher that can play at third and first at average to above average. A decent contact hitter, Heintz doesn't walk a lot, nor a free swinger. Not an excellent backup, more of a filler in triple-A.

J.D. Closser - Closser was a good power hitting prospect when he started hitting a career high 21 home runs in 2001 for high-A Lancaster (Arizona affiliate). Then came up to majors three years later for the Rockies and played three seasons as the backup catcher. He wasn't an excellent defensive catcher, gave up 53 SB and only 11 CS in 80 games in 2005, but had a .687 OPS in the majors and a .823 OPS in the minors. Just like Heintz, not great but good triple-A filler.(Image below)

Dayton Buller- An actual defensive catcher in this trio, drafted in 2001, has just gotten up to triple-A this year. Buller has been a backup his whole minor league career, he has a career .724 OPS and three out 18 of 43 runners this past season. He will be 28 next season, not necessarily young, but a guy that has potential to be a great backup catcher with the Rays organization for a few years.

Up next the infielders.