Rays Tantalizing Morsels

 


 

Gary Sheffield
 

It seems like some of the dominoes around Major League Baseball are beginning to fall as the Detroit Tigers took the first big step by releasing their old star Gary Sheffield today. What is more amazing about this release is the fact that the Tigers were willing to eat his $ 14 million dollar contract than to even use his services this year at all. Considering they do not even see him as a Designated hitter for then this year is a major departure from their 2008 scenario concerning Sheffield. What might also seem a bit odd is the fact that he is only 1 home run shy of 500 for his career. Usually a team would see that and use it for the promotional value it has for ticket sales. But I guess the Tigers are done with “Sheffy’s” antics and big white puffy Chef hats in the stands in Comerica Park.
 
 

You have to believe that the Tiger have already tried to shop Sheffield around the league, but with his huge salary on the book for the 2009 season, it makes him a bit unattractive to teams right now. By releasing him, the team will eat his contract and he will be available to all 30 teams in any capacity this season. I believe the only requirement to sign him would be that the team taking him on in 2009 will be responsible for paying the league minimum back to the tiger’s for his services. You might want to keep an eye on the Toronto Blue Jays, who might come a round and snatch the aging outfielder and DH to try and help their offense this year.

It is also known that Sheffield would love to play for his hometown Tampa Bay Rays. the only problem would be that he would have to demonstrate that he can play the outfield most of the time, but could be a bargain pick-up by the Rays. Considering they would only be on the hook for $ 400,000 of his $ 14 million contract this season, he could be a attractive alternative to one of the two Gabe’s currently manning the right field spot for the Rays. But this is purely speculation until he clears waivers later this week. But in an interview with the St Petersburg Times, Rays Manager Joe Maddon  did say that, ” That’s very complimentary that he would want to come play for us. I saw him during the off season, and he’s in great shape, he’s a strong person. And I like him.” To even consider this type of addition to the team, the Rays must think long and hard as to the advantages and disasterious situation concerning the future Hall of Famer.

Fitting him into the current Rays roster would be creative at best. But the team has never been shy about upgrades to their team and could possibly entertain the addition.  But the addition of Sheffield might be a defensive nightmare, and the Rays have been building a team stressing the fundamentals and advantages of defensive excellence the past two seasons.  Sheffield has been adamant that he “feels good” and can play the outfield for his next team.  Sheffield stated to reporters today, ” I have a lot left.  I know that.  If one person doesn’t think I can play in the field, that’s their opinion.  I know I can. No one else knows my body better than me.” Sheffield would be a offensive upgrade in right field for the Rays, but can that counter any possible defensive lapses or problems down the line. But  with only a $ 400,000 salary, could  the Rays actually entertain the idea of getting a former superstar, who is about to hit a monumental plateau of 500 home runs and just let him slip away without a second thought. After the star clears waivers he can be signed by any of the other 29 teams in the league. Who knows where “Sheffy” will land in 2009. But the odds are in his favor to find a team willing to take a chance on the aging star…… maybe even in his home town.


 

             

 
Jeff Niemann
 

In the last 24 hours the Tampa Bay Rays have been chatting with several teams about the possibilities of either, and maybe both Jason Hammel and Jeff Niemann leaving the squad for destination unknown at this time. The San Diego Post-Union has an article online about their seeking of pitching with a picture of Rays starter Niemann attached with the article.  The San Diego Padres got more into the talks for Niemann after they found out that pitcher Cha Seung Baek’s  upper forearm strain would set the number 3 starter down for at least a week, and maybe more.  The Rays seem to be asking for lower level prospects ( Double-A and below) and the current asking price is not within the Padre’s considerations.

 

Besides the Padres, it is possible that the Pittsburgh Pirates also have a keen eye on Niemann.  But as happens at this time of year, other teams have now poked their fingers towards the Rays to see just how interested they are in maybe moving the duo. In the past 24 hours the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians and the Washington Nationals have expressed some questions towards the Rays about the pair. It might also be possible that the Milwaukee Brewer’s might also be sniffing around considering their unhappiness with their starters this spring.  One name that will not come up again with Niemann is the L A Angels, who were high on the tall rightie last season, but seem to be uninterested at this time.

 
                                

Jason Hammel
 

As the second part of the Rays quest for s fifth starter this year, Jason Hammel seemed to have a leg up on the competition, but after a strong 6-inning shutout by Niemann yesterday, the duo might be closer than ever in the Rays eyes. By finding a suitor for either of them, the Rays would take the guesswork out of their decision and also benefit by obtaining some new blood into the m
inor league farm system. Hammel has been the most consistent this spring, but do the Rays really consider him a starter after his impressive displays in the Bullpen in 2008.

 
He also did start for the team during Scott Kazmir’s time on the D L early last spring,  and proved to be a great fill-in as Kazmir regained his strength and happily went to the Bullpen without incident in 2008.  During the year Hammel did have a few bumps in the road, the he seemed to have adjusted to life in the Bullpen for the team. Never considered a back-end alternative for the team, he did get his first MLB save in a late inning appearance in Boston by holding the Red Sox scoreless until  the Rays finally countered to win the game. Hammel’s name has come up in recent articles on Fanhouse.com as the Rockies are seeking a few upgrades to their current starting pitching rotation too.
 

Hanley Ramirez Wigging Out

 
I recently saw this article on Sun-Sentinel.com about Florida/Miami Marlin shortstop/superstar Hanley Ramirez getting upset over the new team hair and jewelery policy.  It was said that Ramirez had such a displeasure of the new rule that he actually walked through the locker room with a message across his chest in black sharpie.  It was said that he had ” I am sick of this S*** ” written on his chest for all to see in the clubhouse. It seems a bit odd that the team would try and alienate the one guy who they seems to value in their clubhouse for his abilities and talents.
 

You might not know this, but Ramirez has his hair in cornrow ala Manny ( no relation) Ramirez and had to cut his coiled locks to conform with the new team directive.  Rumors are running rampant on why the team front office has made these changes since they are the same front office that has been here for several seasons. Could the show of respectability and maybe clean-cut appearance be a precursor to the team getting their lion’s share of the local bonds to finally start construction on their retractable roof stadium?

 

 

Weirder things have happened in Miami than this.  But to be honest, not only Ramirez was effected by the new rules. Also trimming their locks were pitchers Josh Johnson, Lou Nunez and outfielder Cameron Maybin.  It is usually a rule like this that can bond a team over the season, but because of Ramirez’s response, could it actually drive a wedge into his mindset and effect his performance in 2009.  Also in the new rules is a no exposed jewelery mention, but no one on the team currently seems to dress out for games looking like Tony Montana at the disco, so there will be no sharpie incident on this point. Even though jewelery can glitter and cast a nice gleam off your skin in the Florida sun, it can also be considered an annoyance to hitters or even fielders at time in the high noon sun of South Florida.

 
 
Cromier and Izzy
 

Another duo that might bring the Rays a few sleepless nights is how they can posture to keep two members of their Bullpen without maybe losing them either by the waiver wire or by trade. Lance Cormier has been impressive this year for the Rays since signing on January 16, 2008.  He had produced a 1.23 ERA in 10 appearance so far this spring for the Rays with 10 strikeouts in 14.2 innings.  He is considered a huge upgrade to either of the Rays 2008 Bullpen mates Scott Dohmann and Gary Glover, who made the team’s 25-man roster out of Spring Training last year.
 
 

Another interesting piece to the Rays Bullpen is the great pitching of former Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen. Since his many physical and mental situation of 2008, Isringhausen has been the find of the 2009 Bullpen and could be valuable to the Rays in many situations. Considering he has 293 saves to his credit, he could be a valuable member of the late inning corp for the Rays. But even with the renewed vigor and vitality of current closer Troy Percival, it give the team another option, and even a solid 8th inning alternative to Dan Wheeler.

 
 

Both men could make the Rays 25-man roster coming out of Spring Training, but there is only one position at this time barring a trade of another member of the staff. Both are huge additions to the Bullpen and will be great additions to the improved look and fear factor of the 2009 possible Rays Bullpen. The team can not possibly get Cormier through waivers since he signed a $ 675 major league contract. They would have to find an alternative, or trade a member of their current pitching staff to keep him safely on their roster. Isringhausen could possibly be put on the DL for a short period to continue his workouts and eventually come back onto the Rays 25-man roster. But considering he has pitched effectively this spring, this kind of manuver might only stall their decision for a short period of time.

 
 
 
 
 
Photo Credits:     1) www.sportsnet.ca
                           2) Associated Press ( Steve Senne )
                           3) www.Bradenton.com
                    &n
bsp;      4)
www.news.yahoo.com
                         

22 Comments

I’m a Marlins fan and recently read that story about Hanley. It was very interesting to say the least…He also was quoted as saying, “I want to be traded.” He then had an in-clubhouse meeting with David Samson and Larry Beinfest and the problem was resolved…With Hanley cutting his hair and taking off his jewelry, lol.

Enjoyed your post. Go Rays :)

http://loveebaseball02.mlblogs.com

Rays – I don’t get the whole “haircut issue” with the Marlins. First – Hanley’s hair didn’t seem all that long to begin with and usually changes like that are brought in with management/leadership changes. Why do they want to go about annoying their players when they should be concentrating on winning to justify the bonds doesn’t seem to make sense.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

I understand the policy, but to even bring it out of mothballs and act like it is the 1970’s again in a split second seemed a bit………well, odd to say the least.
But the star is now happy and everyone else seems to be along with the program too. Guess that might be all the drama in the Marlins camp until final roster announcements.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

A few of the thing out of the Marlins camp the last few years do not make sense.
They did not offer Arbitration to one of their better relievers in 2008.Joe Nelson, and the Rays now have him on their staff.
Then two years after the new manager comes on board, they institute this new policy ala the Yankees dress code.
Then they trade for catcher Ronny Paulino and really do not even let him know where he is going to fall into the system’s plans yet.
Sounds like they are just taking the tasks as they arise this year in South Florida.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Please, please take Sheffield! The Phils are talking to him and I don’t want him! UGH! The Rays can have ‘em :O) He’d be better off as a DH anyway. Ok, sorry, had to rant there :O)

Jenn
http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

Jenn,
You forget, we have a great DH named Pat Burrell.
And he is not going back into the field just yet. Well, the Rays have been working him out at first base this week. That might be an alternative to him playing in the field.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Gary Sheffield would be a nice acquisition for us, but he is past his prime and the Rays’ roster is full. I would like to see him hit his 500th home run somewhere, as long as its not with one of my favorite teams’ rivals.
The Rays should be trading either Hammel or Niemann for legitimate prospects. They might need a first or second baseman of the future. They should go out and get one.Brentonhttp://braverays.mlblogs.com

Brenton,
I think that the Rays have a talent in house who can play first base, and another that might change positions to play second as early as next year.
If you noticed Reid Brignac played a lot of games at second base this spring. I think that is an indication by the team that he is going to play more of that position in Triple-A, and might be the second baseman of the future.
I also think if the Rays can not keep Carlos Pena, I think Willy Aybar could be a productive alternative until a great bat comes to light for the Rays.
Just a few observations, not set in stone.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I didn’t realize Detroit was on the line for 14 mil. Good lord. I’m sure he has some bat left in him and somebody would be getting a good deal for only $400,000. It will be interesting to see who’s brave enough or desperate!
Tom
http://rockymountainway.mlblogs.com

Heya, first time reader on your blog. I facy Niemann to lock down the 5th spot in the rotation. I also read a useful update about the battle for the final spot in the rotation from Baseball HQ:Hammel has not adjusted to big-league hitters, with a steady downward trend in Cmd, xERA, and BPV over the last three seasons. His control deteriorated in 2007, then his dominance also worsened in 2008. The only silver lining was that he cut down on fly balls thrown last year, but an unfortunate 13% hr/f did him in there too. In the majors, Hammel sports an ugly 6.41 ERA as a starter, in contrast with a 4.87 ERA as a reliever. He once owned some skills, but they seem to be disappearing at the major league level.While it has taken Niemann longer to reach the majors, he has exhibited a consistently solid skill set. In 2007 he appeared to sacrifice some dominance for better control, but an aberrant hit rate spiked his ERA. Niemann also lowered his fly ball rate in 2008, only to fall victim to an unlucky 12% hr/f metric. Cheers,Ashhttp://ashleymarshall.mlblogs.com

Tommy,
I would theink there are 29 teams that think that $ 400,000 is not a huge amount of money for a future Hall of Fame guy for one season. He could be the difference in some team’s year. Even if he only hits 20 HRs and 75 RBI’s that is better than most guys making $ 450,000 a season.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Wow Ashley,
Thank you for all that statistical insight. I only know from watching them both less than 60 feet from my seat warming up the last two years the differences in their pitching.
I actually favor Neimann for the downhill aspect of him throwing in a game, but in the end, the Rays will make a business decision based on their risk factor indicators.
I would really love for someone to sit down with Andrew Friedman and ask to see what these risk reports actually show about certain pitchers in the organization.

Thanks for all of that. I love to know more about our pitchers, and you gave me a lot of information today.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I can’t believe the Marlins would make that rule right now knowing how his style is. They should have talked to him first or something. I can’t believe Shef got released and they still have to pay him 14 Mil. They still could have used him. Makes you wonder what they are thinking. I don’t like how the Tigers do things. The way they released Dimtry Young a few years back too.

~ King of Cali
http://kingofcali.mlblogs.com/

RR,
Thanks for your kind comment, it really means a lot to me. I loved the opening line of this. It summed up this entire offseason really nicely–the reasons why people weren’t being signed, and why Sheff is an unattractive addition for some teams. It seems like kind of an odd move for the Tigers, but an offensively struggling team could really do well with him.

I don’t understand the new Marlins move. You dont want to upset your star player, that’s for sure.
Elizabeth
http://redsoxgirl46.mlblogs.com

Please just stick with Burrell! Let Sheff get cozy some place else.
The Marlins are just being weird. Why would they change the rules for no reason?
Canuck
http://watercooler.mlblogs.com

I was shocked to hear that the Tigers had released Sheffield, and of course, the Rays were immediately mentioned as the likely destination. I don’t condone his words in recent years, but he still has the talent. I agree with you, who knows where he’ll land, but I know that he’d love to be in the thick of things in the AL East and I know there’s no second chapter in NY, and the Red Sox aren’t interested. Fun times. It’s going to be a great year!

Scott
http://fotr.mlblogs.com

There’s a lot to talk about in baseball today.

First, I’ll just say that I would love to see Hammel or Niemann come to Pittsburgh, they would benefit us greatly.

Second, I’ll say that I’d love to see both Hammel AND Niemann moved somewhere, if not the Pirates, just somewhere, both of them, together. Then we could see David Price as the starter for almost the whole year. haha.

Second, I think the Marlins need to do everything they can to not get their best player angry. I don’t understand it, the guy is the face of your team and could soon be one of the best players in recent memory, and the Marlins are doing stuff like this?? Ridiculous.

http://eatsleepmlb.mlblogs.com

Cali,
It is not the first time that the Tigers have eaten a huge contract, and even Sheffield’s is not the biggest out of Motown. You might remember they let go of Damion Easley when he was owed like $ 14.3 million a while back.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

The wild part about all of this is that they said that Sheffield was not “versatile”.
The guy can play the outfield, DH, and even play first if you asked him to……
Let me see…….. in his past he was an All-star at third base, shortstop and the outfield. Nope no versatility there.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Ever since they got that stadium deal they seem to be in a world of their own right now.
I just hope they do not try and mess with Cody Ross now. It seems that everyone on that team has had a sense of drama this year but the little spark plug.
I actually would cheer for Sheffield for the Rays. I think if you use him and Matt Joyce in right and save the $ 2.1 million that is spent on the two Gabes’ as maybe incentives for Sheffield, you got a power right field combo in the house.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Nope, if he wants to play in the AL East, it might only be fore the Rays or Baltimore now. Earlier today the Toronto press got a quote basically saying they are not in the running at all.
For the price you can get him for, it is a steal of the season, and it has not even started yet.
He might not be a PR prize, but the guy is pure confidence and vinegar. You either mesh with him, or you fight. I kind of like that type of player. They make you stand up and take everything in stride with passion and guts.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

If both Hammel and Niemann were to be moved tonight…..the Rays would bring up Wade Davis to be the fifth starter right now.
He is the best candidate, and he is ready for the big leagues. David Price has only had 5 starts in Triple-A. He needs to adjust his command and control a bit, and his change-up will be better if he gets some game action with it away from guys who will sit on it waiting at the plate.
When Price gets here, it will force the Rays hands in 2010, because Davis will be ready then too.
But let’s wait until next spring for that discussion………….okay?

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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