Some around the Rays Republic have already thrown up their hands in disbelief and bewilderment at the current state of the Rays roster without thinking of the overall picture or possible scenarios that could hinge based on this one trade recently of Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Garza, outfielder Fernando Perez and minor league prospect Zack Rosscup.
Individually they all might not seem related, but as a whole they turn into a gold mine of future potential and possible long term roster additions for the future of this Rays franchise.
No one has even minutely dug into the possible second vein of gold that is awaiting the Rays when the 2011 MLB First Year Players Draft is held and the Rays hold key positions in a relatively deep draft. The team could eventually through this Summer’s draft picks, plus the key addition of several top Cubs prospects could be in position to be sitting pretty both in personnel and fiscal contracts well into their next purge into playoff contention.
And do not forget just because of the mass exodus of some from the Rays fold, do not under estimate the power of a well turned draft and a few cunningly calculated trade pieces that could sparkle bright for many years with the right moves.
For some odd reason, every time the Rays have made such a trade move since Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations has been given the keys to drive the Rays team bus, I always seem to visualize Friedman putting together one of those intricate 500-1,000 piece photo-based puzzles.
That has become the basic nuance of Rays trades in recent years that the team has to find some sort of innate value over the long haul of the deal for it to get past just the chatter stage. Friedman has become a bit of a puppet master over his last few deals in wheeling and dealing until he gets just the right mesh of talent and potential that will satisfy his fiscal and physical demands. In this trade, the upside seems to favor the Cubs, but under the surface, the Rays might have struck a hidden vein of golden future potentials.
The Rays acquired the Cubs top pitching prospect (Christopher Archer),their top catching prospect who was thought to be in the mix for a possible Cubs back-up spot (Robinson Chirinos), two outfielders ( Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer), plus a possible future Rays shortstop option ( Hak-Ju Lee). If you look at 3 years down the road, then the Rays definitely got the better end of the deal.
But it is a two-way conversation, and based on potential now and of value to the Cubs chances of regaining a post season nod, then the Garza trade favors the present day Cubs, but might hurt them in their farm system in the long run. And this might trouble some within the Rays Republic who can not look beyond the puzzle’s photo and into the intricate jigsaw pieces and future combinations that could turn into another chance for the Rays to contend.
Intricate pieces of this trade puzzle come in the form of RHP Archer who could possibly be sent to Double-A Montgomery to start the year, then with a great start and a maturation process, could be another potential Rays rotation piece knocking at the door by 2012. Archer’s has a tremendous slider and has huge potential upside for the Rays farm system staffs as he rises through the Rays system. Having another well-tooled pitching weapon in the Rays system is never a bad thing.
The addition of the infielder turned catcher Chirinos to the Rays catching corps could make current Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach into trade bait this July with an impressive minor league season. He will join an a Rays farm system catching corps that is quickly becoming a firm asset of the Rays system.
If Chirinos hits his marked potential during this minor league season, the Rays could see an extremely young catching duo of John Jaso and Chirinos as early as August 2011. Possibly earlier if an injury besets Shoppach.
I still feel firmly that the addition of 20-year old infield prospect Lee to the mix just gives the Rays another option of SS prospect Tim Beckham doesn’t begin to develop as the next Rays SS prospect. Bringing Lee in might just jump start Beckham’s competitive juices and finally get him to retain his First Round Pick potential. If not, the young Lee, who was considered the Cub’s fourth best prospect could be the steal of the deal.
The last hidden piece of this trade puzzle might be Guyer who could start the year at Triple-A, but after being selected as the Cub minor league player of the Year in 2010 with a .344 average with 13 Home Runs, 58 RBIs, 30 stolen bases and a .588 OPS. Over his first 4 years of professional ball, Guyer has a .292 average with 92 steals. Instantly you think this might be the guy the Rays wanted in the deal as a future player to replace a certain current Centerfielder who’s game has not lived up to the hype recently.
A quick comparison shows that B J Upton had a .234 batting average with 18 HRs, 62 RBIs, 42 stolen bases and a .322 OPS. A quick gander shows that if Upton gets into a sudden hitting funk, or doesn’t live up to a $ 5 million dollar salary, we could also see a exit visa punched for Upton to possibly finish 2011 in another team’s colors.
The Sam Fuld/ Fernando Perez swap just looks like a solid wash with the Cubs getting a speedy option as a outfielder or pinchrunner and the Rays getting some potential outfield depth in Durham or on the Rays bench. This is a minor deal churning within the bigger idea, but both will compliment thier new teams this Spring.
Suddenly if you look at each piece of this Cubs/Rays puzzle, it all adds up to a huge potential for change as early as the 2010 Trade Deadline.
I bet even as I am sitting here pecking at these keys Friedman is sitting possibly online right now watching video or processing data looking for the next great Rays trade. Or maybe Friedman is just sitting at home right now sitting at the dining table staring at a pile of 500-1,000 individual puzzle pieces spread out in front of him trying to assemble a 3-D feasible puzzle of how to visually get the Rays back into contention.
500-1,000 individually crafted pieces that could systematically transform into another postseason puzzle with just the right combination of pieces. Or did he just acquire those pieces?
I am not a voting member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Nor do I profess or pretend to be the “almighty and all seeing” eyes of the game, but I can bet the farm easily today that there will be a controversy extended at 1 pm when the official Inductees are announced for this year’s class for Induction this Summer to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Some may say I am posting this at 11:49 am because I know something, but I do not. I am instead wondering just like the rest of you who will join former Philadelphia Phillies writer Bill Conlin who was announced in early December as the J G Taylor Spinks Award winner in the BBWAA first ballot of the year. And within the next hour or so countless other BBWAA members and media savvy folks will be typing away either giving you their 2011 ballot for discussion, or writing prose in defense of them not submitting a certain name or the reasons why they were left off their ballot.
This year there are 14 carry-overs from the potential HOF nominating class of 2010 including two former players who just missed the Hall threshold with less than 75% of the BBWAA votes in 2009. Former slugger and ex-Tampa Bay Rays Second Baseman Roberto Alomar just missed his election in his first year of eligibility after receiving 73.7 percent of the vote. He was joined in that “just missed by a hair” club for men with fellow nominee Bert Blyleven (74.2 %) who missed a 2009 HOF election by a paltry.8 percent of the vote.
Here is the entire list of eligible former MLB players who comprised the voting community that the BBWAA members had to choose from in 2010 (anyone receiving votes in 2009):
Carlos Baerga, Jeff Bagwell, Harold Baines (6.1%), Bert Blyleven (74.2%), Bret Boone, Kevin Brown, John Franco, Juan Gonzalez, Marquis Grissom, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Barry Larkin (51.6%), Al Leiter, Edgar Martinez (36.2%), Don Mattingly (16.1%), Mark McGuire (23.7%), Raul Mondesi, Jack Morris (52.3%), Dale Murphy (11.7%), John Olerud, Rafael Palmeiro, Dave Parker (15.2%), Tim Raines (30.4%), Kirk Rueter, Benito Santiago, Lee Smith (47.3%), B J Surhoff, Alan Trammel (22.4%) and Larry Walker.
Also under consideration are 4 former Tampa Bay Rays, which include 2 former nominees Roberto Alomar (73.7%) and Fred McGriff (21.5%). The other two are first time nominees this year former Rays First Baseman Tino Martinez and Catcher Charles Johnson.
The list is an impressive selection that includes 2 former AL MVPS, 2 former AL MVPs, 2 Rookie of the Year winners, plus the MLB All Time pinch hit leader and a member of the exclusive 3,000 hit and 500 Home Run fraternity. With these 19 names it was hard to even pick a possible 10 that I would list on my own BBWAA ballot if I ever got a lucky break, but there are also a few that I will never vote for, and maybe that list should be easier for me to compile here. But instead of dragging someone’s MLB career through the mud for my own dislike of them personally, maybe I will just list my 10 personal nominees.
1. Edgar Martinez. I always loved the way the former Mariner always seemed to take the game and molded it into his own style. He is the first HOF nominee who can be mostly classified as a Designated Hitter, and his tenure on this list before Induction might be a testament to the struggles other DH’s will have in the future. But he has been class from the get-go to me, and has a sure fire check next to his name from me.
2. Roberto Alomar. I might not like the way the former Ray left the team before the season, but I can not detest him enough to leave him off the list because of the way he controlled and provided more than a book load of awesome moments both at the plate and turning the pivot in his career. Some might say his exclusion in 2009 might have been a nudge for his spitting incident, but the former Jays/O’s player has more problems currently in Tampa Bay where his wife is claiming some outrageous behavior that makes his spitting seem tame. But based on his skill and grace on the field….He get a head nod and a “sure thing” check mark.
3. Bert Blyleven. Here is another head scratcher for me from the 2009 HOF results. I thought the Manager of the Netherlands WBC squad was more than deserving, but I think 2010 is the year the former Twin hurler gets to be greeted by his already inducted peers on the steps of Cooperstown. He is one of my two sure thing picks.
4. Fred McGriff. What can I say about the former Rays 1B and Special Advisor. When you get a moniker like “Crimedog”, you know he took a bite out of someone. In this case it was 200 Home Runs in each MLB League. But some say his struggle to get to 500 HR might be his downfall. But this character of great integrity and grace deserves a spot in the hallowed halls, even if he will not bear wearing a Rays capo.
5. Don Mattingly. This is the first time I have included “Donny Baseball” on my personal HOF wish list. More and more I have come to admire and respect the former pinstripe for what he did for his city, his team and the accolades he achieved. Now that he is finally getting the reins of a MLB team, hopefully this will be the first of two possible inductions, one as a player, and the second as a MLB Manager.
6. Tim Raines. I never got to see Raines stretch one out for extra bases or see him deliver a pinch hit that produced a walk-off win or moment. And maybe I am bitter about that. But in reality it is the type of player that Raines was, and the fear he instilled in his competition after a long career manning the outfields that should get his name called for Cooperstown. Hopefully he is not the last former Expos to get a chance to grace the Hall of Fame.
7. Dale Murphy. Here is a guy I got to see a lot in regional broadcasts of baseball games since the state of Florida got a lot of Braves games in his heydays. I respect the way he took this team on his back for so many years and lead by example and power to show some of us how the game should be played. The ATL would have been a totally different MLB town if not for the likes of Murphy stroking those long balls out of Turner Field. His HOF speech might be sponsored by TBS, which during his induction would mean, The Best Story”.
8. Jeff Bagwell. I do not know how this ballot could not include Bagwell. Has it really been 5 years since he last strapped on a pair of cleats? I still have that moment in my mind in the Astros dugout when my buddy Brandon Backe came off the mound during a 1-hit miracle in the World Series and “Bags” pumping Brandon up for the next inning with talks on the bench. He could make it on inspiration alone, but his talent will show he is Hall worthy (possibly 2011).
9. Mark McGuire. I am on the fence some days as to the effect that PED’s had on the game. But back in his era, Andro was not a condemned products until it was seen in a photo in McGuire’s locker and then investigated. For that I can not keep him off the HOF ballot, but his recent statements and also his willingness come back back and give of himself as a St. Louis Cardinals Coach speaks volume to the character underneath “Big Macs” now smaller pecs.
10. Shoeless Joe Jackson. I know this is just a personal statement, but Jackson ceased to be a “person” long ago and in it, his MLB restriction should have been lifted. How can the guy Babe Ruth copied his swing from not be HOF worthy. He was a Georgia farm boy who could not write with clarity and possibly buckled to the pressures of his White Sox teammates in the World Series scandal. Until the day I also cease to exist, I will bang the drum the Jackson deserves to be in the Hall of Fame as much as 50% of the guy already deserving of the bronze plague.
Only one guy is on my black list of not getting a vote ever on my HOF ballot. Rafael Palmiero to me boldfaced lied to our collective faces, and Congress, then got caught and suddenly was as silent as a clam. I personally have a problem with someone who put out a mighty persona only to have it crumble down like a house of cheap cards. If he had not produced a positive drug test, then he might have been one of my favorites on this ballot for consideration. But he has tarnished the game in my mind, and for that you get a thumbs down for eternity. If he ever does get inducted, I will gladly turn my back to the screen during you induction, but that is the Renegade way.
Hope you enjoyed reading my little muses on the Hall of Fame ballot I would have submitted if given the chance. Some days I wish there was a few fans votes included into the actual Hall of Fame voting academy, but then someone would be writing from field level instead of the high palace that is the press box.
From the Desk of Rays Renegade
January 4, 2011
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig,
I am writing you today to give you some of my MLB fan-based opinions. Hopefully with a few well placed facts and a emotional incentive to possibly charge forward in changing this distrubing “Third World” trend of actions.
I am sorry to say Mr. Commissioner, I am not writing about PED’s, tomorrow’s Baseball Hall of Fame announcement, or even the implimentation of the dreaded salary cap who’s thought might give you horrid nightmares.
I must address this non-democratic situation that I feel we, as a baseball loving Nation have failed our warm breezed cousins to the South. Maybe because I have lived in this country my entire life I am a bit naive to the complexity of the Hispanic community to the South of Florida. But I still think change is needed Mr. Commissioner.
It seem that the actions of few corrupt entities within the Southern Hemisphere Hispanic power gird have impoverished so many young ballplayers in the Tropical belt of the Caribbean and South America that want to play professional baseball. It is a land where a single soul can command the intentions and the dreams of hundreds that love to play our national past time, and they just treat them as if they were hired help.
The fact that a single buscone or ” finder” can manipulate the potential fiscal rewards to a player and circumvent needed revenues to become instant millionaires by preying and praying on the sweat and blood of young boys yearning to fulfill their baseball dreams of becoming the “next” Roberto Clemente, or David Ortiz. How can the United States of America, one of the biggest and baddest countries on the face of this earth just simply stand back and let a stable of Third World bullies decree which players get a chance, and which are destined to a life of poverty.
Mr. Commissioner, you can become that one authority figure who can bring about change and finally remove the tyranny of the buscones or “finders” forever. You could make another footnote to your MLB legacy that you, Bud Selig as MLB Commissioners helped to first formulate rules, regulations and possibly even establish an outside the United States MLB First Years Player Draft system that would provide players outside the confines of the current system a chance to be recognized and rewarded for their years of hard work.
I am not asking for this in 2011, or even within the next 3 years. I know that you will need the backing of one of the most powerful men in baseball with you. That is why I am also sending a letter to Michael Weiner the current President of the Major League Baseball Players Association asking that both administrative branches of this great sports combine energies to promote, provide and institute future avenues for players outside this country to be treated the same as the North American born players we acquire via our current MLB First Year Player Draft system.
With both the MLB and MLBPA set to begin discussing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in the Winter of 2011, this could be a essential sidebar issue that can get more extended revenues within the MLB coffers, plus establish more jobs and positions within that region’s realm of the game. Could be a plus, plus for both side of the CBA coin.
I know that even a preliminary discussion will consuming hours of dialogue, mountains of correspondence, and endless phone calls, but isn’t the overall health and futurue history of our game worth that sweat and struggles?
The game has evolved so much on the field in the last 25 years, shouldn’t our focus now be on the souls left behind by this progress..Think about it Mr. Commissioner, you can be the savior of millions of future Hispanic baseball players that will be discovered in MLB-sanctioned Baseball Academys set up in the early 2000′s by our favorite MLB teams with the intent to discover new talent, and permanently plug ourselves into a new talent stream.
We saw the first two players from India signed two years ago, and a petite Japanese woman knuckleball pitcher signed to a minor league contracts just last season. Why not give future rising stars in this new World “hot bed of talent” a realistic chance to come on board with respected representation, and loose the stress of wondering if documentation, or even money has changed hands before a single signature is committe to paper.
Can you honestly say Commissioner Selig that you have not felt the disgust and embarrassment of the past few years when countless players are found to be illegally obtained by doctored birth certificates, name changes, or simple taking another person’s name for the sake of the game’s paychecks and prestige.
I know that sports agents have been called the leeches of the modern athlete, but they do not suck dry the blood of their clients the way some of these diabolical buscones or even “family” advisers do in parts of the unmanaged MLB world order. Every year more players come clean about the falsifications of their pasts, and we just slap their hands and let them fall back into line.
By expelling the human parasites that prey on these players and their families we are ridding society of a deceptive epidemic that needs to be exterminated, eradicated and made extinct. Mr. Commissioner, you can be the man that will be held up in the future as the “man who brought baseball and the world together through equality”.
That would be a humanitarian MLB legacy that would transcend anything else you have done as Commissioner of Baseball.
You could be remembered in the town of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic as the man who made fair and equal laws for everyone to play this great game. Major League Baseball has been diligent in the past trying to erase these evils and bring honesty back to these regions.
When MLB established a MLB-sanctioned home base in the Dominican to combat these false records and documentations, somehow players still funneled into the country and were exposed later. Underage players were found out and returned to their countries if they had not at least reached the age of 17. Can you imagine spending even a month in a country like the U S after living in lesser condition in your home country.
Commissioner Selig, you can be the man who can stand proud at the forefront of this revolution to show that we are through with the lies and deceptions, that truth should be the common language, and that players should be rewarded for their talents, not placed like meat in a glass showcase and sold to the highest dolla.
In closing Commissioner Selig, I ask of you that we finally end this tyranny of the few that prey on the weak and poor who only want to play baseball. By establishing at least a dialogue to begin constructing a World Amateur Draft, we can show the entire world that baseball can overcome more than just money and power, but can improve lives and establish fair play beyond just the baseball diamond.
I know I am only one soul writing to you, but sometimes a single voice in the dark can lead you into the light. If we are to keep moving forward as a sport, we have to take other sports lead on the outside countries rights to fairness and equality.
The best way to show that is to point to the NBA, which drafts players from around the world. If you really want to leave this sport in a manner that future generations will remember your name, then by taking on the equality of the Tropics in regards to baseball related matters might be a giant step for your own immortality.
Thank you again Commissioner Selig for your time. I hope to again shake you hand at the Spring Training Grand Slam Dinner again at Tropicana Field in 2011. I am just someone who loves this sport, and only wants to see it grow into a world wide phenomenon.
cc: United States President Barack Obama, Matt Silverman, Presdient of the Tampa Bay Rays Baseball Club, Michael Weiner, Executive Director of the MLBPA.
Some of us at the end of the countdown professed to transform ourselves with hearty and healthy vows to lose weight, cut back on certain foods, or maybe eliminate a unhealthy or dangerous habit like smoking or texting while driving.
Or possibly you are one of those people who really got excited when the thought of ecology was mentioned in classes and looked beyond our own visionary limitations to evoke a personal challenge or make a mental proclamation to enhance some external segment of this World’s by cleaning up a creek or riverbed or possibly helping bond in our communities building safer playgrounds for our next generation.
Secondly,if you find the guy who stole your cap and give the Rays Republic his name….We will take care of him.
In addition, if you need a ghostwriter for a possible book on Pho eating establishments throughout the MLB cities…you know where I sit, and I work cheap (possibly for a steaming bowl of Pho).
Secondly I wish for your community/charity efforts to be fruitful. You are one of only a handful of Rays players who’s community interests (BJ’s Bunch) has opened to the Rays Republic another side of you that is sometimes hidden by game day bravado.
As a two-time Rays Roberto Clemente Award recipient, the continued success of the “Heart Gallery”. I hope more baseball fans around the country in 2011 learn about this photographic and audio exhibit that helps kids in foster care find great family environments.
Secondly, to provide inspiration to kids in Tampa Bay that an athlete can be book savvy and math friendly and still compete at the highest level of the sport. Most people outside of Tampa Bay do not know about your love of numbers and analytical equations.
Secondly, we have to find someone else, possibly Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos to teach you to dance. Doing the “Dougie” for the cameras during the Rays postseason celebration made most of us cringe and wish you did the “Carlton” instead.
Second resolution for you is to somehow eliminate your bad habit of licking your fingers after you grip the resin bag disappears. Resin doesn’t taste good, has no nutritional value, and has solidified that “spittin’ Cobra” moniker. Maybe Price can get you a pail of Double Bubble for 2011.
Secondly, that your charity “Discovery Your Path” which includes the “Healing Hearts Foundation” that helps children and youth facing difficult situations to find the mentoring and life path guidance needed to achieve a meaningful life.
Jake McGee: My resolution for McGee is that he takes the critical next big step in his Bullpen transformation. McGee will be in competition for a spot in the Rays Bullpen this Spring. He could make the Rays Opening Day roster with a solid Spring with an eye into taking a bigger role with the team by the end of the 2011. Every good outing is another notch on his belt to helping McGee possibly develop into the Rays future closer.
My second resolution for him is a double dose of the first one. He is one of the future linchpins for the Rays.
Desmond Jennings: My resolution for Jennings is for him to develop a thick skin for 2011. He will hear more than a few jeers about Carl Crawford. They key for Jennings might be to put an early exclamation point on his rookie season by showing the Rays outfield game will not take a step back this season. Playing his style of game without compromise will be the ultimate key for Jennings MLB survival in 2011.
Dan Johnson: My resolve for DJ is that he finally feels he belongs in Tampa Bay. Johnson hit one of the more memorable Home Runs in Rays history back in 2008, but has never gained the Rays fans all out support. Whether he is at the DH spot or manning the First Base bag, Johnson needs to announce his presence with authority. A big first month impression can do wonders in silencing the Pena critics.
Secondly, DJ, we have to get you a good MP3 file so we can pick you a better walk-up song than “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats. It is catchy, but it drives me simply insane trying to not stand up and do the dance mannerisms…Seriously!
My second resolution for Rodriguez is that someone teach him the “Stingray Shuffle” this Spring so that we do not have to worry about his Gulf of Mexico activities on Rays home off days.
Hope you enjoyed my small journey into some of my hopes and wants for the Rays in 2011. There is a link attached to each players charity if you would like to explore and learn more about their efforts outside of the ballpark to help those in and around our baseball world.