Rays Have a Few Pots Bubbling on the Stove

 

 

 

 

Leave BJ Alone

 

Okay, Okay let’s nip this in the bud before it gets a serious life of it’s own on the Internet. You can not have B J Upton. Unless you have a front of the rotation starter and an All-Star in the making to replace him, he is off limits. What does any team in baseball have that will compare to what Upton can bring to this team for the next 4 seasons. He has speed, agility, poise and above all mountains of potential still uncapped in 2008.

 

Sometimes his desire and motivation were questioned in 2008, but he is one of the reasons we went so far in the postseason. Why would you give up a talent like that even before it blossoms. I still think he could play any position on the field besides catcher, or first base. And the Rays control him for 4 more years……………..you better have the winning 6 Lotto number if you want a pry Upton from my dead cold hand.


Is he the future face of the Tampa Bay Rays’ franchise?…………well,  that depends on what you are looking for there. He will be featured in more promotions and advertising in 2009. Remember before 2008, you saw Jonny Gomes in almost every form of advertising in connection with the Rays. In 2008, he was only seen in the dugout  by the railings and in promo shots because of his highly emotional state during games.

 

 

Upton will have the chance in the next 2 years to make himself a “brand” in the major leagues. If he wants to be that popular or significant to the franchise, that might be his personal question right now. We know he has the unlimited talent  to be whatever he wants from today forward for the Rays.


I personally have known the guy since he came up as a 17-year old and have seen a huge amount of change in his lifestyle and his demeanor off and on the field. His stride has also become more refined and at times looks like he is loafing. In reality he does try and save energy at moments, but unfortunately in 2008, he made errors in judgements at the wrong moments. But he is the guy you want on your team based on his attitude and his commitment to winning. He is growing up in the majors, and sometimes you have to give a little to get alot out of a young player.


His shoulder kept him from extending his arms in 2008, but he is either going to have surgery or rehab the daylight out of it before Spring Training. It is similar to the injury that Cliff Floyd suffered during Game 2 of the World Series. Floyd has been told he would be ready by Feb. 2009 if he had the surgery in the off season.

 

To get rid of Upton would be the wrong signal by the Rays front office management. There is no need to extend effort or money to even consider the decision logical at all for the Rays. And there is not a desire by the player for a change of scenery, unlike the subtle demeanor and attitude of Delmon Young……..So leave B J  alone in center field, he is about to break out in 2009 and maybe become the first 30/30 guy for the Rays.

 

      

 

Did you know that the Rays Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations does not have a signed contract for 2009?  Isn’t that amazing that neither Andrew Friedman or Stu Sternberg are afraid of not having a contract in stone before Friedman headed off to the GM meetings in California this week.


Well it was not like he was going out there to interview for another job, but the reality is that Friedman knows he will be retained and will be helping the Rays for many years get back to the World Series. To predict a few years ago that he would be considered one of the best Executives in baseball would have been as far a cry as the Rays in the World Series.


Now that both have happened, Friedman is not going to worry about his future right now, but worry more about upgrading and re-loading this team for the hard fight in 2009. No longer is this team going to be able to sneak up on anyone in baseball. they will have to earn each win in 2009 as the team to beat for the first time in franchise history.


And to think that in the first years as a executive, Friedman looked nervous and not ready to pull the plug or push the buttons for trades and signings. But since that time he has looked smart and downright sinister on some of the deals he did under teams noses in 2007, and 2008.

 

 

Teams have been salivating over Ray’s starter Edwin Jackson for a few years based on the fact that this guy has improved every year since being converted from the outfield to the pitching mound. He has blazing speed on his fastball with limite movement, and has a nice breaking slider that will be an out pitch after the control is fine tuned on it.


That is worth more than a draft pick to most teams. Here is a guy who is improving daily in a position he was not drafted in, and he can either start or relieve for your squad. Last season, the Seattle Mariners’ and the New York Mets’ had a huge interest in Jackson. In 2009, both have expressed again their willingness to acquire the fastballer from the Rays.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of Jackson. I have posted numerous responses to people wanting his head, or doubting his ability. He tied for the team lead in wins, but people have called him the 5th best starter on the team. Granted he comes with a few control problems, but he is working them out at the major league level after being a ping pong ball both here and in the Dodgers organization.

 

 

He has been sent up and down in both organizations to the point he has no options left. Line that up with the fact he is up for a huge pay raise this off season, and the Rays have a nice bargaining chip for either a right fielder, or a DH via a trade. I personally do not think he will be reporting to Port Charlotte in Feb. for the Rays. But then again, he has been relieving late in the games for the Rays, and with his blazing speed, he could get a chance to close in 2009………….This might be interesting to keep your eyes on in the Hot Stove season.

 

                  

 

The Rays are in a very envious spot this off season. Not because they hit the big stage at the World Series, but because their minor league and major league level has a pitching surplus this season. Because of this, it is going to be a wild time this off season for Friedman.  There is a huge desire in the MLB for good starters this coming season. And if you have a few young arms with a few years of control, that is a plus, plus situation for any franchise. The Rays have a backlog of at least 3 good MLB ready pitchers in the Triple-A level, and have 3 guys on their 25-man MLB roster who could be changing uniforms before Feb.

Most people have Jackson heading out of Tampa Bay before the Spring, but I also think we have to give attention to Jason Hammel and Andy Sonnanstine. Both are great pitchers who are coming into their own on the mound. Hammel has not had the starts that Sonnanstine has this year. Because of that, most teams might still think Hammel is a project with potential. Whereas, Sonnanstine, you already have MLB scouting reports formed that show what he can do as a starter.

For the longest time, Sonnanstine was flirting with the team’s win total of 14 games. For at least his last 6 starts, he had a chance to also post at least 14 win in 2008. But he fell one short of that number, but considering the Rays had every one of their starters get at least 11 wins is a victory all in its own. Hammel has shown a lot of guts in the past season. His performance during the 9th inning in Fenway Park to protect the Rays lead and save the game put him in the spotlight of a few teams. But he is also up for a raise  in 2009,and out of minor league options, and might be used as a secondary piece of a trade. He has also gained the eyes of the Seattle organization, and might be flying west by Opening Day.

 

 

But with a basket load of pitchers sitting there waiting for their chance at Durham, you got to think one of them will be plucked in the off season. Jeff Niemann has been a bit of an enigma that last few years, but got a chance to start because of injury early in the year. He also got a September call-up and pitched well for the team. But his potential has not reached the point where teams consider him a front line guy, or even a 4th or 5th starter yet.

 

Injuries have put doubt in team’s minds about him, plus the fact this was the first season he has pitched without injury in his career. During the trade deadline, the Rays submitted Niemann’s name into trade talks and got only lukewarm responses.

 

Hopefully with his better pitching at Durham in August and up with the big club in September, his stock has risen. He needs to either be traded or used at the MLB level soon before he gets labeled as a “lifer” in the minors and is a label that can haunt him the rest of his career.

 

 

 

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