I would give Kelvim Escobar a Rays chance

 


Comandantebeisbol@flickr.com

When the Tampa Bay Rays first showed their interest in checking out veteran reliever Kelvim Escobar who has been working out for a return to the Major League after a few seasons out of the game, I was mildly excited about the idea. He could be a great addition to the team as a veteran presence that is always  a plus for a young Bullpen like the Rays. But for some odd reason, I have this reoccurring unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach….. once again. 

You know the type of odd stomach ailment I am talking about here. You do not have heartburn, or even a slight case of indigestion, but it doesn’t feel completely right to you. There are concerns not only in your mind, but a quick jolt of anxious energy within you that is sometimes a precursor to a bad decision.

Well, I am getting that feeling in connection with the Rays and Escobar right now.  Maybe it is simply just a case of “Been there……Done that” in my mind that has been there before in decision concerning the Rays and veteran Bullpen help. The first time I had this stomach reaction was when the team announced they had signed Mr Gimp himself, Troy Percival two seasons ago.

I was mildly excited that we got an opportunity to have a potential Hall of Fame closer come to the Rays for a bargain basement price. And he came with the “Joe Maddon” seal of approval as a good fixture for the Rays Bullpen. But reality struck quick and hard in those two seasons as Percival received about $ 8.5 million from the team for about 4 months total worth of sweat.

And the Percival experience still gets me angry, so maybe I am a bit justified to have a moment of hesitation and feel leery to trust the old dogs right now. But I do remember some times of great judgment and positive results in the last few years when the team took a chance on a guy who had Major League potential, but had been hidden in the minor league system for several seasons.

The Rays took a huge chance signing the guy and he rose to the occasion to be one of the most productive members of the Rays over the last three seasons. He has also raised his level of play both on and off the field to receive Golden Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and his first All Star appearance in 2009. When the Rays first signed him, Rays Senior Director of Marketing Brian Killingsworth called me and I was excited about this signing from the get-go. Of course that player was Carlos Pena.

And again in the Spring of 2009, I was totally on board with the Rays taking a chance on Jason Isringhausen based on this same gut reaction I had with Pena that he still had some gasoline in his tank and fire in his belly to succeed at this level. And the added plus that Izzy could be the veteran leader that Percival never fully embraced with the Rays young Bullpen.


Brian Blanco /AP

But an injury to Izzy during a Rays home, in front of the Rays faithful sidelined his Rays career for the rest of the season. And even after his Tommy John’s surgery, Isringhausen came back into the Rays clubhouse several times before the end of 2009 to boost up teammates and show his support for the team. And if Isringhausen were to come back fully loaded and hunting again in 2010, I would still welcome the Rays opening their arms and taking him into the team again. Percival………..not unless he plays for free.

But could it be the honest fact that signing an rehabbing older reliever can be as predictable as rolling the dice? Heck, I am a gambler by nature, but I also know my limitations. The chance that Escobar would come in and be the perfect set-up guy for the Rays is totally within reason, but the fact he has not played  much in 2 seasons, Escobar still throws up a huge yellow caution light up into my line of vision.

 
But I have a good measure of faith in the Rays scouting department and maybe this could just be the perfect diamond in the rough scenario as the Pena signing. It is speculated that the next time Escobar throws in front of MLB scouts will be in front of live hitting, probably within the next few days in the Venezuelan Winter League. Venezuelan reporter Efrain Zavarce speculates the Escobar could throw as early as tonight in relief for a Venezuelan squad (As of 4:45 pm EST no teams has added him to their roster).

But again, this is a player who has again drawn the “Joe Maddon” seal of approval, and maybe that is what scares me the most. Not that Maddon is not a great judge of talent and can see the positives through his black rimmed glasses, but the Percival episode has given me caution when that seal is given out to players. Nothing personal Joe.


AngelBlue@Flickr.com


But if you look at Escobar’s past, a player who has won 101 games in his Major League career does have possibilities. And he did save 38 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2002, so he does have high pressure experience and could be a nice mentor to Rafael Soriano to talk to in the Rays Bullpen. But again, he missed the entire 2008 season after a right shoulder labrum tear, and only threw 5 innings for the Los Angeles Angels taking a loss in his only 2009 appearance.

But in 2007, Escobar did post a career high 18 wins with the Angels with 3 complete games. And in an odd note, he started his 200th career start against the Rays that season. maybe I will keep an open mind and wait for that games result before throwing the baby out with the bath water here. Escobar has  thrown in 1,507 innings in his career and has amassed 1,310 strikeouts, both impressive numbers showing his consistency and his durability. 

But the true fact that the Rays have gone 1-3 on their veteran projects in the last few years for the Rays Bullpen, with two straight swing and misses in regards to relievers. So if Escobar shows during his Venezuelan outings that he still possesses some wicked velocity and a consistent ball in the strike zone, then maybe he could take the Rays project record to the .500 mark. Because all I need to do is look towards the Rays First Base bag to see that sometimes taking a chance on a player is all the help he needs to again succeed in the Major Leagues.

 

20 Comments

Greg,
I am not upset on losing out on Bradley at all.
I wanted him in the Winter of 2008, but now I am at the cnclusion that we might have been missed by a big storm of controversy and were spared the agony of finding someone for him if he did the same act here in Tampa Bay.
The more I read on Escobar, the more I am thinking he could be a nice fit.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I think Escobar would be great for the Rays. He was so great for the Angels before he got hurt. Garza, Shields, Escobar, Niemann (probably a spelling error), and Price is a great rotation. Hopefully the Rays will get him and shock the Yanks and Sox like they did 08.

Well, perhaps you’ll get that opportunity with Escobar, since you missed out (strangely) on Milton Bradley. I don’t think he’d be quite the project that Bradley could have been…

RaysRenegade first off thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. As a Ranger fan I have followed Escobar’s career with great interest. I don’t wish ill on players, but I was relieved when he was hurt in 2008 and 2009. Something that small market teams like the Rangers and the Rays have to do is take chances on veterans who are not the studs they once were in baseball either due to injury or old age. I believe that adding Escobar would be great for the Rays if they go in with the knowledge that they are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. I don’t see him as a good starter or reliever at the moment, but I do believe that he has the potential to make a solid comeback in 2010 and then can build on that the following year. If the Rays go in with that mindset then I think they will be fine with acquiring him as a supplementary piece to the team and not as a main reliever or starter.
On Milton Bradley I’d just like to point out that he was a pain in the neck to watch in Texas. I liked what he did on the field, but the drama was painful to watch and deal with. Texas has had a good clubhouse the past few seasons under Washington and even then he had issues during the season. I feel that Bradley is a guy that you give a 1-2 yr deal with lots of incentives. He is a competitor, but he is also a great headache to watch day in and out. Notice how the Rangers weren’t pursuing him like they did during the 2007-2008 off-season. Good posting it was fun to read.

I would give Escobar a chance if I were the Rays. When he was healthy, he was a good pitcher for the Angels. I remember facing him and not liking it!

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Tomahawk,
I think if he came to the team it would be in a relief role only.Because he has been out for most of two seasons, the Rays would be prudent to bring him back slowly, then pounce him in the rotation if there was an injury….or stay in the Bullpen as a hard-throwing option.
Either way, if he is back, his signature on a Rays contract could be a very big thing for 2010
And if he wants to be a starter, then the Rays could always entertain a trade in late July to rebuild the farm system a bit.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Rant,
I am always out there checking out the new blogs and seeing what the future is going to offer on MLBlogs.com
Nice articles and a great sense of writing will take a blog far.
I agree that Escobar could be a great additon, but as a reliever.
Let him gain some arm strength in the Spring and build back to extended outings and maybe extra innings in the future as a surprise starter, or if an injury hits the Rays.
As for Bradley……..out of sight, out of mind now.until the M’s come to town.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jane,
I had forgotten how good a closer he was for the Jays back in 2002 before going to the Angels.
Just shows you that someone can fall off the radar for a few years and fall back into a teams lap.
He is not a “sure fire” signing for the Rays as a few teams, including NY are still kicking his tires and taking stats.
But the feeling in my belly gets better every day.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I would take a flier on Kelvim; remembering his days in Toronto, he pitched pretty well in whatever role was thrust upon him, be it closer or starter. Ultimately, he seemed a bit more effective as a starter (which I think is what he preferred) but I liked him as a closer. Those first 24 outs don’t mean a thing until you can get the last three, IMHO. Hopefully it works out in Tampa Bay.

Jonah
http://jonah77.mlblogs.com

*His 2007 season was superb… Escobar definently deserves a shot. 1300 career strikeouts can’t be a fluke!

http://jquist.mlblogs.com/

Jonah,
Got to admit, we are not the only once looking at him, but he has expressed a reliever;s role for now, which could be a bonus for the Rays.
But if the Yankees want him as a long reliever nutil he gets acclimated to game play, then they got the money to make it happen and he flys north after Spring Training.
Fingers and toes are crossed right now, but everything is in the infant stage of development until he throws some innings down in Venezuela.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

JQuist,
I remember him well as the Jays closer.
Always hated him then for those glasses and that high and tight fastball he threw right up almost against the top of the strikezone.
His 2007 numbers shows he has the ability to do whatever is asked of him, which is a huge plus to whoever gets his services.
But, I have seen the Rays blown away by tryouts and seen the players disappear quickly after signing.
Who remembers Japanese closer Shinji Mori who was signed by the Rays in 2006, subsequently busted his shoulder and never pitched in the MLB…..

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

For these reclamation projects I think you need a guy who can get through to them from the dugout… the only person I know who’s capable of such tantamount work would be Dave Duncan.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Jeff,
Guess there is no hope (lol).
We are stuck with Jim Hickey and his pitch-to-spots- system.
Could of been someone talented like Durham Bulls Triple-A Pitching Coach Xavier Hernandez (Rays system), but the Rays front office stuck with Hickey.
I agree with Duncan, Percival and Isringhausen pitched for him at one point.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Interesting. Kelvim Escobar is a good pitcher, and i guess he could fit with the Rays. He is still a fit for teh Yankees though

Vig
http://yankeeholics.mlblogs.com

Vig,
Both team’s out of the Big Apple still have cards to play in this situation, and they might be the teams that dictates which direction this situation goes in the next few days.
But with the market flooded with relievers and closer candidates, hopefully a few distractions might take the big two out of this equation.
It is basically a working progress as Escobar has not yet played in the Venezuelan Winter games as promised.
He was suppose to be added to a roster a few days ago, but has not yet been in a game situation with Liga.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cliff, would you humor me and answer a question I’ve had about your photos you’ve posted on your “About Me” spot? Are those photos from an archive you have, or from a Rays event, or both? I like how you rotate the photos out every once in a while, esp. those taken with diff. players (GEICO Caveman Dude seems (?) to have been an exception). Many of them, like your current one, show you in the same shirt, so I gather they are from a single event. Correct? Just curious! Thanks!
I hope you are having a blessed holiday season. Take care, Renegade.

Greg,
I actually have three poster size frames filled with pictures from the last 10 years.
From Wade Boggs down to the recent ones done with J P Howell before the last home game.
I rotate them a bit, and if I do a post that mentions a certain player, I usually try to pop that picutre up there.
The one with the Mickey Mouse golf shirt were from this season’s party at Gameworks.
Just trying to get thing s bit more exciting in the off season.
In 2010, I might even change them every week or so….you never know.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Im not so sure escobar has anything left. He did only pitch one game the last two seasons. What makes anyone think hes healthy?

Raysdude,
He threw for Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League on Sunday afternoon and looked okay. He did have a walk, strikeout and an error on a throw in the 1.0 inning of work. He is a work in progress.
Hey, we took a chance on Shouse, Choate and Cormier last season, and 2 out of 3 is back in 2010.
He could be a wild card find.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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