November 2012

Time is Right For Anderson to Assume a MLB Role

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Back in March 2010 the Tampa Bay Rays signed a former Cuban National Team member who I truly felt might be the heir apparent to the Rays 1-bag spot. When Rays Executive VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman inked 1B/OF Leslie Anderson to a 4-year, $ 3.75 million dollar deal, I truly thought the Rays had found an International baseball candidate who had the pedigree to one day man the First Base bag for the Rays. The signing of Anderson came out of nowhere as most people thought the Rays were focused on signing Anderson’s Cuban National team member Jose Julio Ruiz.

Leslie+Anderson+Tampa+Bay+Rays+Photo+Day+FctjOPAjOm_lSure back in the Spring of 2011, Anderson came into the Rays farm system fold possibly needing some primping and adjustment to the speed and pace of the American version of baseball with both the minor and major league game, having unique nuances and idiosyncracies. And with the Rays huge and gaping hole at First Base this off-season, I thought we might at least hear Anderson’s name as a possible option, but there has been only silence concerning Anderson.

With Carlos Pena slipping in and out of his slumps in 2012, I thought the Rays would at least entertain a “Anderson sighting” this past September, but instead he finished out his season at the Rays Triple-A team, the Durham Bulls and was done for the season. I’m curious if Anderson is still in the good graces of the Rays, or if for some reason there is another reason for him not even getting a head-nod when the Rays had their opening at First Base this off-season.

I automatically had to tilt my head a bit and wonder if there might be an offensive problem with Anderson that would merit the Rays possibly keeping his name firmly in the darkness. Instead I found Anderson currently sporting a .306 average with Navegantes del Magallanes of the Liga Venezuelian Beisbol Profesional this Winter. Add to this the fact Anderson was selected as an All-Star twice in 2012 while at Durham, both as a mid-season selection and a post-season All-star.

JbvLztpBSure you can say this was 2 seasons after MiLB.com selected Anderson as an Organization All-Star as he spent time with Double-A Montgomery and Durham, but he was also selected as a Arizona Fall League Rising Star back in November 2010. I then had to really scratch my noggin a bit after seeing that Anderson hit .309 during the Bulls 2012 season and showed power (14 HR) and netted 200 bases during the season in 116 while manning the First Base bag for the Bulls.

1305859621-img_4419indySeems almost anyone else showing a bit of power along with a nice average above the .300 mark might have at least gotten a longer look this past September possibly manning the 1B bag as Pena was trying to find his groove again. I mean all Anderson did was finished with the 3rd highest average in the International League along with placing 13th in OBP (.355), but 5 of the player ahead of him in this stat are former MLB players.

I had to think possibly Anderson might be a defensive liability since his bat seemed to have some steam on it, but again I was left wondering why this guy has not at least gotten an invite to the Rays MLB camp in any of his previous Springs to at least get a chance to see if he can groove a curveball or defend the line with clarity against a higher caliber of player. Looking at Anderson’s fielding stats for 2012 he had 276 chances in the field and only made ONE error, and that was during 1 of his 50 games playing in the Bull’s outfield.

c4s_leslie031210_111944conly spent 50 games at First Base in 2012 for the Bulls, having 184 chances to make an error and kept his record unblemished and also through in 12 assists and 15 double plays for good measures. I think a better example of his defense might be his 5 errors committed in 500 chances in 63 games at First Base in 2011 for the Bulls. Over his short stint in the Rays farm system Anderson has maintained a .989 Fielding Percentage with only 14 career errors, and 7 of those were committed the last 2 seasons.

Not sure what Anderson has to do to make the Rays think he is a logical choice or even a fill-in positional player who can man the First Base bag and possibly also play a corner outfield spot in the major leagues. I am truly hoping when the Rays officially announce their Spring Training Invites, Anderson finally get his chance to turn a few heads and show he could be the answer not only for the Rays 2013 First Base void, but also for 2014.

1TI7_leslieandersonI mean it is not like the Rays have to make some huge financial investment to give Anderson a chance, he is still under contract and even if the Rays did extend his contract a few seasons, he should be the primary in-house player to fill any void or injury.

I mean by his batting average, we know the guy can hit, and with his stellar defensive numbers maybe it is time for the Rays to give Anderson some rope and see if he can not only impress, but possibly lasso himself a Rays roster spot this Spring. I think he has not only paid his minor league dues, but has shown he has the talent, ability and talents needed to man the First Base bag for this team. 

Tampa Bay’s Favorite Scapegoat is Hot-lanta Bound

People in Tampa Bay are going to have to anoint a new scapegoat in the Trop. for 2013 because their old target, BJ Upton train is heading to Hotlanta. We already knew the odds of Upton returning to the Tampa Bay Rays were slimmer than his waist size, but now armed with a 5-year $75 million dollar lunch pail, Upton will be meandering along with his family up I-75 a tad to the N L east contender.

All that stands in the way of Upton securing his treasure is passing a Brave’s physical exam, but we all know that is a formality as Upton was in the best shape of his career at the end of 2012, and possibly knowing his payday was on the horizon, might have tweaked himself a bit to excite just such a ample and multi-year deal.

It is kind of sad that some will be left with the image of Upton possibly not being a team player, someone who might actually understand the word “lolly gagging”, and lastly that his concentration on game day has been mistaken for indifference. Ask anyone within the confines of the Rays clubhouse and they will tell you how much this guy has matured since the 2007 days when veteran Cliff Floyd mentored the oldest of the MLB Upton clan.

Even before he stepped foot again in the Trop. after his first venture into the majors at 17, people held Upton’s past and associations with others against him, even as far back as his DUI in North Carolina and as a member of the Terrible trio from Durham along with ex-Rays malcontents Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes. I seriously think that he had a black mark against him that so many would not/could not shake off him that he was doomed to be either loved or hated during his Rays tenure.

I do not want this to seem like a conspiracy theory, but it was almost like Upton didn’t have a chance with some fans in St. Pete even though he created “Upton’s Bunch” to help local south side St. Peterburg kids, or that he held his charity events to help organizations. Even after his positive on-field and off-field affirmations, Upton still heard the murmurs and cackles from the fan base about his long stride looking like he was moving at half speed.

Some even had the audacity to mock his Center field play as mediocre when considering Upton was projected as a speedy, well-tooled infielder and offered to test the CF waters as a challenge to his talents, in my opinion Upton nailed the transition, possibly transforming into one of the best Center fielder to ever grace a Rays uniform.

Upton’s game day demeanor also struck a chord with a segment of the Trop. crowd as he would become a bit quieter and sometimes over transfixed on game day that Upton made unthinkable mental errors both in the field and on the base paths with regularity erasing possible scoring opportunities because of him taking his eye off a slick pitcher or a catcher with a rocket arm. Suddenly he was badgered as being aloof on the field when in reality he was too concentrated on the small things and some major mistakes reared their ugly heads.

Upton even gave more fuel to the crowd’s smoldering embers when he would give long glares and a bit of sass to the home Plate Umpires, possibly branding himself with the guys in blue as someone you can get rattled with a borderline call or be caught wide-eyed with his bat on his shoulder with a hard breaking slider. Upton didn’t help himself with his batting swing mechanics and his prolific high strikeout totals every season.

Upton played in 966 Rays contests and leaves St. Petersburg with 8 seasons as a Rays that included 118 HR, 447 RBI, 232 stolen bases, a lifetime .255 average. But the stats so many will remember are his 69 times caught stealing, his 1,020 K’s and a total of 58 errors. Missing from even those facts was the shoulder pains, nagging hamstring and ankle injuries he played through for the sake of his squad. People have loved to downplay his outfield skill level, but out of his 71 career fielding errors, only 24 came when he was stationed in the outfield. Over the past 2 MLB seasons Upton has had back-to-back 3 error seasons proving his skill set has not only improved, but he is a capable Center fielder.

One of the things that personally rattled me coming from the fan base was the fact they all thought Upton was not “in-tune” or a leader in the Rays clubhouse. I guess they all have somehow forgotten Carl Crawford’s tussle with Pat Burrell in the Rays locker room when Burrell questioned Upton’s team commitment. For another player to want to physically as well as verbally stand up for you even in the clubhouse setting shows he had his team’s respect and confidence.

Personally I have known Upton since his first venture into the MLB a long time ago. He was a bit shorter, weighted maybe 160 pounds then soaking wet. Through his 8 seasons with the Rays I have seen him grow taller, confident and show the traits needed to not only be a leader, but also someone who can lead by example. I will miss Upton. Always made sure when I saw him to ask how his Dad and Mom were and he would cock a smile and a head nod.

It has been fun watching Upton mature on the field and off the field as a dad himself. I can sometimes shrug off a player leaving by using and analogy “it is all part of the game”, but with Upton it is different. I think he was wise to refuse the Rays offer of $13.3 million to stay another year. Even though some will say his new vista is just an 8-hour drive up I-75 from his old Trop. home, Upton needed a change of scenery, to re-energize his career and himself. Upton needed to go away to finally be missed…… by all of us. 

Longo Plans to Be a Ray for the Long haul

I wasn’t surprised at the fact the Tampa Bay Rays wanted to get their perennial All-Star  candidate Evan Longoria signed for as long as humanly possible. Here is a player who openly wants to be in a Rays uniform until his possible retirement date. That and of itself makes me respect Longo more and more as the years pass.

And the Rays did not have to go about this evolution this season, they could of waited until the Winter of 2014 to possibly go about just this sort of extension, but in it Longoria has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt why he will be here longer than Jeremy Hellickson, Desmond Jennings and even David Price. Longoria is the face of the Rays. He has taken to that mantel since 2008, and every season either you love him or want him to stay longer.

It is kind of amazing that this exceptional Rays financial commitment was made by both parties in an era where your Rays tenure is vastly connected to your upcoming or predicted fiscal numbers. Old # 3 has shown again he can be the defensive master possibly now robbing himself of a few million, but having the solidarity and stability of a possible entire career in one MLB jersey. Sure the timing of this move could have been more towards a future date, but this action fully vests both parties interest in securing a top tier player who is becoming an MLB icon and will be the face of Tampa Bay for many more seasons.

It might seem a bit weird that Longo, who already had a hugely attractive team friendly contract extension he signed not 2 years ago would make such a solid career movement at least until the Rays Club Options were on the horizon. The extension firmly shows where Long’s heart is, and where he wants to play out his career. Even though today’s extension could/will net Longo $136 million through the 2022 MLB slate, this was a personal show by Longoria that he is behind the “Rays Way” and wants to be a keystone of this team yearly battles for the American League East title.

Mixing together the previous extension that still owes Longo about $36 million through 2016, the current contract will net him $100 million from 2017-2022. This deal also negates the Rays Club Options originally on the books for 2014-2016 and might end up being one of the best bargains in baseball if Longoria stays healthy and sees his game mature both on the field and at the plate.

Considering Longoria inked his first Rays extension just 6 contests into his rookie season, the Rays solid defensive and offensive weapon will not see his salary hit the 8-figure mark until 2015 when he will make $11 million and $11.5 million for 2016. The Rays also tagged on a nice Club Option for 2023 just in case Longoria still has his feet underneath him, possibly as a Rays DH at that point in his career. When Longo hit the $11 million mark in 2016, when he will turn 31 on October 7th, about the time of the year the Rays would be trying to get back to the World Series (fingers crossed).

You have to think by that 2022 MLB season Longoria will have secured all or most of the Rays defensive and offensive records, along with the “Graybeard” title that is bestowed upon the longest tenured player in club history. By 2023, Longoria will be around 38 years of age. On paper the contract looks like a no-brainer complete with a signed,sealed and delivered commitment by one of the Rays flagship players. Everyone seems to win in this deal from the Rays front office, to the Rays charity, the Rays Baseball Foundation to kids who are beginning to idolize Longoria for his play and community involvement. This contract looks like a sure fire “win-win” barring anything or anything derailing Longoria.

If all goes according to his plan, Longoria just might get that elusive gift of playing for one team in his entire career. I wish him luck, health and most of all longevity to fulfill that dream. And making some primo bank during the stretch does hurt either. Way to go Longo! 

Remembering Some of the Fabric that Made the Rays 2012 Quilt

I sometimes think of the Rays unique ability to find players n the hidden recesses as a seamstress taking a piece of unused material and finding the right spot to be sewn it into their quilt pattern that will show promise to the overall Tampa Bay Rays team fabric. Sure there have been many patterns sewn and then discarded by Rays, but each addition had their purpose and conception in the Rays ever-changing roster design. From their inaugural line-up to their 2012 final game in October the Rays front office has found bits and pieces that have either been compliments or mute points in their want to again be a top the American League East.

Some have worked brilliantly and brought intense value to the Rays fold while a few seemed to be just parcels the team needed to fill voids due to injury or even production and then they were cut back out of the Rays pattern and set free again. The Rays in 2012 took a lot of these player patchwork pieces and again some fit nicely while others just served a short-term purpose and were discarded into the wind. 

Players like Brandon Allen, Brooks Conrad, Hideki Matsui,Will Rhymes, Drew Sutton,and last but not least, Rich Thompson. all had moments in the Rays fabric that either played to the Sun or escalated into darker moments. From stem to stern, this group of add-ons were key components of the Rays quest to find a cohesive offensive unit that somehow seemed to tear a hole into the team’s fabric at the worst possible moments. Some were brought in as stop-gaps to keep the fabric whole while other player’s mended their injuries or to plug gaping holes in the Rays defensive alignment.

Each member had their Rays sunburst highlight moments with some being at the plate (Allen, Matsui), while others were remembered for action on the field. 2012 was not the first time the Rays searched the MLB waiver wire or brought in players from the scrap heap who found ways to produce. Some had small bursts in the sunlight like Allen, Matsui and Thompson, but even the magic produced by Sutton and Conrad at Third Base as Evan Longoria healed could not save their spot in the Rays 2012 blanket. Rhymes showed the consistency the Rays desired at Second Base, but the Trade Deadline acquisition of Ryan Roberts made him also obsolete to their future plans.

Each had their own colorful blend into the Rays 2012 quilt and each should still be considered huge parts of the Rays 2012 fabric. Each of these players has seen his bit of material taken out of the Rays fabric with some finding other vistas while other await someone else wanting to add their pattern to their MLB team’s own clothe. None of these players might ever again don a Rays uniform, but their brief tenure with the team will be remembered by the Rays Republic as interwoven and special parts that were instrumental to the Rays success in 2012.

 

Bergman Should Not be a Rays Option

This is one slugging Free Agent I had hoped the Tampa Bay Rays would avoid like a plaque. Not that his lifetime .296 average and 360 Home Runs do not make you salivate a bit, but Lance Bergman to me is “Pat Burrell Part 2” if the team did sign him. This is not to say Berkman could fill the gaping First Base hole and possibly the Designated Hitter slot in the Rays anemic line-up, but I truly feel he is just 1 injury away from tossing his glove into the bag for good. 

I would hate to see Bergman come here with the Rays Republic’s high expectation that he can make us forget the Burrell, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and Luke Scott DH fiasco’s from the past. Sure his defensive skills at first base might be light-years above anyone the Rays currently have in their system, but when a guy goes through 2 knee surgeries in a season (2012), you have to enter into any discussions with an air of caution. Seriously, hasn’t the Rays Medical staff had to tape, bandage and use ointments on enough players over the last 2 seasons to warrant someone coming in healthy this Spring and beyond. 

You also have to be a bit weary when Berkman tells the media in an interview he “wants to be paid like a 3-hole hitter”. That in itself might and should be the red flag the Rays need to turn their attentions towards another target. Can this team afford even thinking about a player who might want to command a 8 figure salary who also has shown bouts of injury time sprinkled into his great career numbers. Considering the St. Louis Cardinals paid Bergman $8 million for 2012 and he only played in around 32 game during that season and was out significantly early on in the Cards. This Rays franchise can not handle another “Burrell” moment with tight payroll that should again be near the $ 70-million dollar threshold. 

This is a guy who many teams are doing the old “kicking the tires” mode on Bergman right now, and hopefully the Rays are just being diligent and checking in on Bergman without any serious want for his services. Sure Bergman could be the Rays answer to a few holes in their field or line-up alignment, but not at a time when his health and season long durability has question marks all over them. I truly hope the Rays did just do the diligent thing and just check in on Bergman with no real want for him because even a 15-day Disabled List stint with no clear back-up plan in the mix could become a huge personnel thorn in the Rays side as this team again tires to establish some dominance in the American League East.

Some might take the notion I’m a bit shell-shocked still by the whole “Burrell Era”, and they might be right. I know this team can not have another player who goes down even short-term with nagging injuries like Burrell did in his Rays tenure. This team of course can not guarantee their player’s health will stay at an optimum at any time, but taking on a health risk like Bergman is not in the Rays best financial interest. Leave Bergman for someone else, this team can and will find better.

 

 

Pssst, MLB.com, I Would LOVE a Chance to Attend the 2012 Winter Meetings

I can hardly wait until November 26th. I mean I have as good as odds as anyone to possibly get a phone call from MLB.com to shadow a MLB.com writer during the 2012 Winter Meeting that will be held in Nashville, Tenn between December 3-6 2012. I mean Nashville is one of those town yearning for Baseball, and not just on the television series “Nashville”.

I’m not a “Winter Meeting” vet like so many other fans or MLBlogs.com participants, but I have strolled the halls of a past Winter Meeting held in the town that Mickey Mouse built (Orlando,Fl) and got to meet and greet a lot of the other fans, journalists and even a few General Managers and front office people I have gotten to know from my past “Rays days” as their Pepsi rep.

But it going to take at lead one ringy-dingy from someone within the offices of MLB.com to take this dream and adventure to the next level. I would fly strapped to the wing of the plane, but a Coach seat would be better on my overall traveling appearance so I do not show up looking like I got dumped out a wind tunnel and got a few dozen bird feather or bug remnants in my teeth.

Heck, MLB.com did not have to get me a quality room, the KOA would suit me just fine as long as the shower water is hot and the tent dry. But that is one of the special things about staying within striking distance of an event like this, you never know who you might take an elevator with, sit near at lunch, dinner or late night nibble. I mean in O-town I got to chat with Cal Ripken Jr in the elevator and shot the breeze with A J Pierzenski as he awaited his car. Those moments are still fresh in my mind, and I want more….

This kind of contest is made for someone like me, not because I write a MLB blog, but would give me the kind of access and experience that could possibly one day be pushed forward to me getting full media credentials instead of my current Photo creds to cover and write about the Rays Concert Series and special events like “Pitchers and Catcher’s Report Day. It would bring another drop of legitimate journalistic experience to type onto an MLB media request and could be just the turning point I have seeking for the last 5 years to cover my hometown Rays a bit deeper and with more clarity and substance.

Of course a $1,000 check waiting for me would be a pleasant surprise, with most of that booty turned around and popped into goodies and presents vis MLB.com’s Team Store. But there is also such more to these Winter Meetings that even that kind of money can’t buy. Players and their agents will also be in the halls, seating areas and all around the event and maybe I could get a few special seconds with one of the highly regarded Free Agents (maybe B J Upton) and do a clever, but respectful interview. The potential of winning this event and what could transpire are endless, almost to the point of infinity.

One of the best parts of winning something like this is the pure and special fact I will be able to be the shadow or fly-on-the-wall with one of MLB.com’s own. Of course I already have a current and long time MLB.com writer in mind to shadow during the Winter Meetings, and he already knows me from my photos and posts already with the Tampa Bay Rays.

That’s right, if I somehow answer my telephone when MLB.com calls, I would pick my hometown MLB.com writer and author Bill Chastain. I mean Chastain not only has a bevy and treasure trove of Rays information, he has also been the author of several baseball and non- roundball books and is well respected in the MLB.com offices and around the MLB…period.

Now all I have to do is cross everything on my body and possibly even my eyes hoping that even the slightest possible chance is within my grasp on that faithful November 26th day that the special administrator of the independent judging organization picked by MLB.com will somehow finds my 10-digit phone number in his eyesight.

But then again I was inducted in the Rays/Pepsi Fans Wall of Fame as “Mr. Lucky” so I got that little slice of karma on my side. Just got to remember to charge the phone that day and keep it close. You never know, weirder things have come true for me in my insane MLB life.

If you also want to take a chance and possibly get a call to visit Nashville, click this link and take a chance….What you got to lose…

Remembering the Cy Young Winners 2012 Face-to-Face Meeting

Does it really feel like it has only been just over 5 months since the Rays Republic got to witness something that doesn’t happen very often. Even more precious than a cycle, more compelling than a walk-off victory, on that June 13,2012 night all 18,496 of the Rays faithful and a huge television audience got to see the 2012 Cy Young winners do their stuff under the Teflon roof of Tropicana Field.

That’s right, in a Inter-League middle of a three-fer mid-week series Rays starter and now 2012 American League Cy Young winner David Price went up against New York Mets starter R A Dickey, the 2012 National League Cy Young winner. Who could have known history would again assemble their names together and my mind instantly goes to this past game with such fond memories. I remember it like it was just yesterday as Dickey brought a 9-1 record into the Trop while Price stood at 8-3 and wanted to check another notch in his “win” column.

Each hurler got to toss over 100 pitches( Dickey 106, Price 109) in this contest, as each took the hill wanting a piece of this moment not knowing it would or even could turn into a historic event so many months later. As we now know, it pitted right-handed Cy (Dickey) versus Southpaw Cy (Price) with the Rays (35-27) and Mets (34-29) both sitting with about the same record at the time. On this night it was not the slicing fastball or shifty change-up of Price that glided a path for victory, but instead it was the fierce high velocity butterfly pitch from Dickey that made 12 Rays leave the Batter’s Box wondering how to get to Dickey’s dancing knuckler.

Only one Rays got to put solid wood upon a Dickey offering, with B J Upton finally stroking a soft ground ball to Third Baseman David Wright and beating the throw by no more than a gnat’s eyelash. Immediately whispers and shouts came out with different opinions from either side of the field. Rays fans cheering for Upton hustling down the line and beating the throw from a fellow North Virgina baseball teammate. Met’s faithful in the stands wanted a review, but the play did not call for one, and their moans and groans could be heard loud and clear all over the blue-hued Trop.

How could we have know that ticket stub would be a slice of awesome baseball history. A moment when 2 Cy Young players took to the hill threw their arms out and the visitor got the final cap nod and victory. Upton’s hit came in the Rays first chance in the bottom of the 1st inning against Dickey, but no other Rays hitter from that moment on seemed to have a viable way to beat Dickey. Even Rays INF Elliot Johnson turning around and hitting right-handed against Dickey did not produce a cure or show a hint of damage.

On the night Dickey set a new Met’s scoreless streak of 32 2/3 innings just pushing past former P Jerry Koosman’s old mark of 31 2/3rds innings did Dickey show a sign of mortality in the bottom of the 9th watching Johnson reach on a throwing error by Wright, then Dickey showed his human side by helping produce 2-straight pass balls that got Johnson to Third Base and finally on a ground out by Desmond Jennings the lone Rays run on the board.

So here we are Nov 14, 2012 and I’m about to hit MLB.com and pull up this contests again and watch these two artists paint their pitching portraits again on the big screen. Sure Price did not come out on the winning side that night, but this contest showed us the resolve and composure of the guy who would end up with his own piece of Cy Young hardware.

Congrats again to Dickey who fought long ans hard to perfect that knuckleball and to our own Astro’s Dad, Price on an Cy Young award that possibly began on that June 13th evening, under the Teflon roof of the Trop. This just goes to prove, special moments can and do happen in the Rays hamlet of St. Petersburg, Florida under that tilted cap we call Tropicana Field.

 A link if you might want to venture back to my original MLBlogs posts for June 13th when I had a special feeling about this contest, and my June 14th game result posting.

Could the Rays Hook Their Own Marlin Prize?

Just when you thought the Miami Marlins aka the MLB version of Save-a-Lot food stores might have exhausted their goodwill gesture to the rest of the MLB I have heard loud and clear that there might be another nice and tantalizing ballplayer the Tampa Bay Rays might want to kick the tires on and possibly bring into their fold for 2013.

Sure most of the potent 2012 version of the Marlins has vacated the South Beach region, but there is one unique player with some MLB credo that could be had for the right asking price. And an added bonus that should not only tweak but excite the Rays is the fact he is a young player who can play both an outfield corner position and First Base. If you asked the Marlins brass about this player you might be a mixed bag of opinions from him having an attitude problem to possibly not being “MLB material during the 2012 campaign, but this is the same franchise who sent him down a few times in 2012 and eagerly also promoted him as if neither of those situations had materialized.

This was the player chastised by the Marlins top tier who themselves are not even Double-A material after he did not attend a Miami Season Ticket event because he has done a previous event that same Sunday morning for the team and was told by his MLBPA Rep he did not have to make an appearance. He was then ripped inside out by the Marlins upper management then sent packing to Triple-A New Orleans, but seriously, if you are being disciplined doesn’t getting a ticket to the Big Easy seem more like a present than a punishment?

I found it kind if ironic Marlins owner Jeff Loria is more carpetbagger than baseball businessman called Morrison “an embarrassment” when what King Loria is currently doing to this South Florida franchise and their fan base is by itself humiliating and totally disrespectful. So if the Marlins top echelon really feels about Morrison like this, you would think a inter-state rival like the Rays could get Morrison for a song.

I can personally vouches for Morrison’s character having been around him for half a season doing some part-time gigs with the franchise. The guy was always accommodating, open to suggestion and fan friendly to a “T”. He would definitely not only fit into the Rays clubhouse, he could evolve and become a great addition with his zeal and gamesmanship.
LoMo” as some in the Miami zip code have come to call Morrison is actually an even-tempered, basically good ol’ boy who has some pop in his lumber posting 11 Home Runs and 36 RBI during his back-and-forth stints to Triple-A or the Disabled List in 2012. Morrison also could be another left-handed option for Maddon with Carlos Pena possibly not being in the financial cards for the team in 2013. And the Rays truly should look at LoMo’s 2012 numbers as a anomaly and instead look at his 2011 numbers that shows his true power (23 Hrs & 73 RBI) over a span of 123 games that season at the MLB level.

If the Marlins front office has such a distaste for the personality of Morrison, you would think their cross-state rival would not being asking for an arm or a leg, but possibly the Rays could offer them just that to secure Morrison. With the Rays having a bit of a logjam in pitching right now, possibly Rays Executive VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman could suggest a nicely packaged offer of a Rays MLB caliber like SP/RP Wade Davis or maybe even SP Jeff Neimann. But if the recent change are any suggestion, the Marlins might want someone more like SP Alex Cobb or maybe bring in some Miami homegrown talent like INF Sean Rodriguez and possibly LHP Alexander Torres to part with Morrison.

I would like to think the Rays will call the Marlins GM Larry Beinfest and find a mutual ground the evolve and transpire some dialog that could end up with Logan possibly wearing a Rays uniform this Spring. All it takes is a first bit of conversation, possibly suggest the package above or another well-suited present the Marlins would salivate over and LoMo might find his way North to Tampa Bay. This situation could solve 2 roster holes currently vacant and needing filled in the Rays 25-man roster. Morrison can either man First Base, play a corner outfield position or be a strong and willing hammer off the bench. I see it as a ++ opportunity for the team, but then again, I have met the guy and know the ruse from 2012 is totally baloney and full of Marlins cheese.

What Will be the Rays Respond to the Jays Checkmate?

With one swift and concise move on the Major League Baseball off-season Chess board the Toronto Blue Jays have professed they are not going to be cellar-dwellers in 2013. Doesn’t matter if the piece was a pawn, rook or even a Queen, the Jays front office not only threw down a gauntlet today with their out of Left field monster trade, they might have thrown down an entire 25-man roster load of armor and a few beer vendors in the process trying to awaken the usual somber pre-holiday trade environment.

How rare is it that a trade nets not one, but two aces (Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle) who can throw from both sides of the rubber, brings in a SS (Jose Reyes), an outfielder (Emilio Bonifacio) and the proverbial partridge-in-a-pear-tree (C John Buck). How fast do you think MLB and LEGO are going to work to re-package and re-submit these new Jays into the Toronto mainstream especially with the holidays buying season upon us and ticking away. Heck, the gaggle of ex-Marlins probably will look extremely better in the Baby Blue of the Jays that anywhere near their old CF eyesore.

With one swift move the Jays have gone from cellar-dwellers to a unique position of possibly being contenders even without a single contest played. Behind the scenes of course the Jays have 11 players out of minor league options, so their trades and bartering has not been concluded, even with this haul of ex-Marlins now primping up on their French and making sure their passports are in order.

We already know the other birds in our tight division, the Orioles are not going to be bottom dwellers, but with a move like this it not only put pressure on all the rest of the AL East rivals, it kind of makes it paramount that Tampa Bay Rays not only step up their own game right now, but move out of their comfort zone of waiting until the top tier of free agents are plucked before they begin to circle names on the “wish list”. Today’s trade put the heap of pre-holiday pressure squarely on the Rays brain trust to not only seal a deal, but possibly give up a little more than their usual frugal ways to get some stability on this leaning see-saw of power in the AL East.

This massive talent pick-up by the Jays should have more than a few fellow GM’s in the rest AL East accelerate their searches for personnel, possibly seeing one or two go from 0-60 in nano seconds just to try and even the playing field this. This revelation could have abruptly awakened the usually slow as molasses Rays acquisition machine to possibly dig faster and a bit deeper for a nice counter-measure to just stay on some level of par with the Jays movement today.

This is not to even venture into the realm that the Rays will make a trade just to make a trade, but if could open their logic a bit to possibly giving up a hint more in talent than usual to jump back into the fray with the pesky birds, even during the Winter months. This doesn’t mean the Rays have to make a trade in retaliation, but possibly one that is in the early stages could find itself being accelerated a tad right now.

Every Winter the Jays seem to go into their off-season with a rebuilding mentality. Seems like quickly this Winter the Jays are showing quickly they not only plan to be competitive in 2013, now it is up to teams like to Rays to decide if it is “Checkmate” and topple over their game piece or rise to the occasion with their own unforeseen magic and step the game to another level, even before the holidays.

Will It Take Some Budding SS Fruit to Acquire Justin Upton

So it seems the Tampa Bay Rays might have to slice off a bit of their future if they want even a remote chance at outfielder Justin Upton. It seems the Arizona D-Backs are adamant about getting a quality shortstop for their outfielder, plus possibly another piece or two running up the Rays farm chain. This doesn’t mean dangling a quality pitcher might not get the OF with the power stroke the Rays yearn for, but possibly tearing out a small slice of the Rays future infield might be a huge deciding factor for Arizona helping out their MLB Expansion kin.

Fortunately for the D-Backs, the Rays have a few of these lying around, with even a duo having Major League Baseball service time under their belts, but the Arizona front office has done their research and the targeted one is the guy the Rays most likely would not give away for now. You would hope the D-Backs would want to help solve the Rays current SS situation by taking one of their experienced infielders currently residing at the Triple-A level like Reid Brignac or Sean Rodriguez, but AZ is being smart here knowing each might have decent defensive skills, but their bats have a few gaping holes.

You also wish the D-Backs would take a longer look at SS prospect Tim Beckham and love what they see, but Beckhams 2012 brush with the MiBL drug police that cost him 50-games might put him firmly sitting in the Rays system. Unfortunately if the Rays want to swing this deal it might take a piece like top prospect Hak-Ju Lee who is currently listed by Baseball America as the Rays 3rd best prospect with Beckham all the way down at number 8.

You have to wonder if Brignac had prospered at Triple-A or made it back into the Rays fold at some time in 2012, he might be the top name whispered into Executive VP Andrew Friedman’s ear right now.

But Briggy Baseball’s fall from grace not only at the MLB level, but struggling for parts of the Triple-A season might have put him into a dark corner for now. And S-Rod did himself no special favors by punching a locker after a Durham Bulls contests putting himself further into an abyss possibly not seeing a Rays uniform until this Spring, if then.

Lee even seems to taken an unexpected step backwards in 2012 with a few injuries and plate struggles, but he is still the guy with the MLB spotlight upon him, and I truly think we will see more reps with him at the MLB camp this Spring. Problem here is Lee has been penciled in as a guy with a true Rays future and seems a bit more untouchable that the rest of the SS group. Seems odd that a prospect infielder could garner that “hands-off” mentality, but then again name me one Rays SS not named Bartlett who have made you swoon and cheer his play in the field and at the plate.

The SS slot for the Rays has always been a patchwork spot with free agent names taking priority. This duo of Beckham and Lee are the first Rays homegrown versions of the 6-spot, and because of that fact, they might be harder to pluck from the Rays hands. You have to ask yourself if getting a key bat now for a player who could play in the Rays fold for possibly 3-5 years is a gamble or a calculated risk worth taking.

That is the true tragedy here. It will take the Rays giving up a key component of their future 6-slot for them to even be mildly considered for the Upton sweepstakes. If Brignac, Rodriguez or even Beckham had mustered a huge late season surge, possibly their names would be on the lips of the Arizona front office right now. But that did not materialize, so the D-Backs brass are looking into a longer term team controlled option, and a player who can grow with their franchise.

We all know Ben Zobrist came up as a shortstop prospect, even was the Rays Opening Day starter at that position at one time, but he is putty into the gaping hole right now. He played brilliantly when called upon in 2012, but he is a stop-gap until possibly Lee or Beckham shows the promise and gets the confidence of the Rays staff that they can be the true SS hierapparents.

Problem is, one of them might be the key piece to any future discussions between the Rays and Diamondbacks in regards to the “other” Upton. I guess the Rays will have to seriously ask themselves if they pluck a piece of future fruit from their farm system vine now for Upton, will it taste sweet or bitter come September 2013.

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