Results tagged ‘ Andrew Friedman ’

Loney Could be the Rays 2013 Hidden Gem

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I am hearing some pretty sweet music from friends who follow the Los Angeles Dodgers on the Tampa Bay Rays recent signing of veteran James Loney. Some have proclaimed Loney a shining MLB gem that gathered some unusual dust, rust and lost a bit of his luster in 2012, but easily could easily show up to Port Charlotte, Florida this February polished, glimmering and shining like a diamond in the rough for the Rays.

James_LoneyImmediately some will see the signing of Loney as a logistical offensive and defensive addition in the ever-changing Rays roster fabric. I mean the guy has maintained a career .282 average and is just 105 hits from the “1,000 hit” plateau, but this signing has as much to do with on-the-field Rays movements as it does up the tunnel and behind those double clubhouse white doors. Loney is a leader, and that should take some of the command burden off the shoulders of Evan Longoria, James Shields and David Price. I am one of those who firmly believes you can never have too many positive vibes flowing in a clubhouse

We all know without reservation that Loney brings with him a nifty glove (career .944 Fielding Percentage), an immediate improvement to the Rays anemic offense situation (108 hits in 2013 between Boston and LA), but his energetic aura will help most in filling the void left when certain members did not return to the Rays. With Carlos Pena and B J Upton gone, the team had a void in their team leadership, and Loney definitely fills that void to overflowing. I some might forget with all the changes over the last few years with Dodger personnel, Loney has appeared in 752 games since 2008 for the Dodgers which would in retrospect rank Loney in a solid 4th place All-Time for the Rays with Carl Crawford (1,235), BJ Upton (966)and Aubrey Huff (799).

 James-LoneyLoney does come into St. Petersburg with a lifetime batting average of .282, there is hesitation for me to strike up the bandwagon and greet him with open arms. Some will say Loney might finally be feeling his MLB age as he saw his batting average free fall from healthy .288 in 2011 with some power (12 HR) to an All-Time low in 2012 of .254 in 114 games with the Dodgers before his trade to the Boston Red Sox where Loney produced a .230 average with 2 HR and 8 RBI in the season’s final 30 games. Still, that average is way superior of Carlos Pena’s .197 batting average in 2012.

We have to remember the Rays did not sign the 2008-2010 version of Loney who averaged almost 90 RBI and 12 HR during that trifecta of seasons, this is an aging veteran who has the ability to make this team more cohesive and not be a negative addition to their roster. Loney never developed that huge power stroke most people forecasted in his early seasons, and in Tropicana Field he does find a friendly 322 foot mark down the Right field line that might spark a few extra HRs in 2013.

LLLLL Hidden deep below those compelling anemic 2012 stats is a few speckles of a glimmering gem that could help the Rays a lot in 2013. Loney hit for a .294/.351/.441 line against right-handed pitching while also grading out as one of MLB’s best defenders at first base over the last 3 seasons. Considering the Rays signed Loney to a 1-year $2 million dollar deal with a chance to amass another $1 million in incentive bonuses, the deal is not a financial killer to the Rays if Loney doesn’t become the needed weapon for the team.

James LoneySometimes MLB players have a “glitch” season during their MLB journey. Let’s hope 2012 was Loney’s only venture away from his usual productive bat and he again proves to have a vacuum cleaner glove down the Rays First Baseline. If Loney does find some of his past luster, the $3 million dollars the Rays invested into Loney could possibly once again produce a “Comeback Player of the Year”, and a few games more into the post season fun. Glimmer on Loney, Glimmer on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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! 

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…

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.

Could Price’s Success Turn into a Rays Windfall?

This is the time of year when every baseball fan within the Tampa Bay region is anxious. This is the moment when every single fan has the air of an expert, with plots, sidebars and commentary on the team’s direction, points of attack and their own pick list of potential new jersey names to be sewn upon the Rays Carolina Blue unis.

This is that unscripted and unabridged segment of the MLB merry-go-round adventure where even the most popular and productive of names can find themselves not only trade whispers, but packing for new horizons and opportunities. With a mire tick of the off-season clock anyone currently residing on the Rays roster or farm system can not be totally at ease or comfortable because when the bell tolls for the MLB GM Meetings, it is a loud and clear signal that the first round of touchie-feelie wheeling and dealing conversations will commence and someone Rays tenure can be vaporized with a single late night ringtone.

Even someone like Rays ace David Price who has just been announced as 1 of the 3 choices for the 2012 American League Cy Young award, but Price could just as quickly find his name penciled in on a deal worksheet or scribbled on a team’s “wish list”. This is not to say Price is going anywhere, but if the perfect deal with the right talent that could right the Rays sinking offensive ship were to materialize…. Rays Executive VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman might ponder it……for a moment.

Most would think it insane to even talk about Price going anywhere with his successes piling up during the last 4-odd seasons, but sometimes a player, even someone with mega-talent and rising potential can make another team so hungry to hitch their wagon to a player’s rising star they overpay and bring a bevy of goodness to someone anxiously wanting offense like the Rays.

Another odd factoid to remember is that Price has a limited and quickly evaporating fiscal shelf life as a Ray with his second arbitration salary a “gues-timate of around $ 7.5 million for 2013 which would escalate Price into the thin stratosphere of salaries for a player in his second walk down the arbitration process. That would put Price in the second slot in regards to salary only beaten by his fellow co-Ace James Shields who will bank $10.25 million for throwing the rock.

Immediately it comes to your mind the Rays would be insane to even consider trading one of their most popular and productive mainstays, but the MLB is a business and if someone is willing to part with an astronomical package…no one, not even Price is safe from at least a sitdown discussion. And we know all to well that the rest of his MLB peers have mad respect for the Rays southpaw bestowing upon Price the 2012 Player’s Choice award as the American Leagues “Outstanding Pitcher”. And these pieces of hardware that Price is amassing yearly only bring the cruel reality into the sunlight that one day Price will unfortunately price himself out of the Rays fold.

Price is only hitting the second of his 4 trips through the arbitration process and could command a salary above Shield’s $10.25 contract as early as the Spring of 2014 if he keeps moving onward and upwards fulfilling his potential. It’s a pity because Price has a chance to evolve into one of the greats, but this will not be realized wearing the Rays sunburst across his chest. Price’s Rays clock is ticking louder and louder every off-season towards the alarm finally chiming it is time for change.

I’m not forecasting, predicting or even remotely pondering Price’s departure, but the stark and undeniable truth is soon Price even with all his community upside and personality will make a trade decision a fiscal necessity. Maybe I’m being a bit too prudent, too calculated that possibly the Rays could turn Price now while his value is through the Trop’s Teflon roof and gain a top infield prospect, a few near the MLB caliber players that could fortify this Rays roster for the next 5 years with more offense, or maybe even a proven Bullpen arm to join forces with Fernando Rodney and Joel Peralta to form a tight 1-2-3 late inning punch.

Some times hard decision have to be mentioned, breached and put out into the open air even if they may be considered unwarranted or mis-guided by their timing. Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann and even Wade Davis will have their names thrown out into the wind this Winter as trade pieces, trade considerations or even sent packing for financial or offensive relief.

Bringing up Price’s name here brings out the reality of the off-season that no one, not even Matt Moore who has a team friendly contract can be considered “off limits” or beyond trade rumors and whispers. Price is probably completely safe right now in the eyes of Friedman and the Rays front office. But you have to wonder, when a player is at their highest career point with them teetering on the cusp of maximum possible return on value, can you ignore the sanity of the situation.

I do not envy Friedman’s job because I would hate to be remembered as the guy who traded Price, even if it did make sense.   

Did the Rays Gamble Heavy on Their Status Quo?

Wondering if the Tampa Bay Rays basically “ standing pat” will come back to either bite them in the hind quarters, or be a Godsend. So many factors were in play in the background today from medical reports on Evan Longoria’s rehab assignment, to equating if sending a piece of the franchise be it B J Upton or James Shields would stall their recent Wild Card forward momentum. I swear Rays Executive VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman will never have to hit Gamblers Anonymous because he only seems to bet on “ sure things”, or options that weigh heavily in the houses/ Rays favor.

I truly could not envision Friedman standing over a MLB gambling table surrounded by 29 of his peers holding the dice hard wishing for a 7 or 11. I imagine him more comfortable at the .25 cent slots bringing in a few dollars and making more sense of his money and movements. But still, it was good over the past week or so hearing the baited whispers and subtle glances towards Upton and Shields. Wonder how many of Friedman’s peers felt confident going into today that Friedman might part with the likes of Upton who is set to hit the Free Agent market this Winter. 

But then again, I could see Friedman playing Texas Hold-Em with a vengeance, and with the Rays on a West Coast road venture Friedman held his cards close to his vest hoping no one would venture to guess his intentions or call into question any type of bluff or stall tactic.


I felt sure Friedman might possibly throw down at least a Wade Davis baseball card towards an NL peer that might need an up-grade or stop-gap style player either in their 4 or 5 slots or in long relief. But Friedman has the luxury of knowing Davis is only gaining value, possibly with Davis becoming a prime piece of off-season gold that will be look upon with more value this Winter than at this time.

There were even cards in motion within the Rays farm system that hinted at some sort of planning or adjustments as RP Cesar Ramos was being primed and getting reps as a possible starter at Triple-A Durham. You had to have a feeling Friedman wanted to hold a distinctive wild card in his hand knowing a possible trade scenario involving a valuable and flexible southpaw would be considered a luxury heading into August and September as younger arms reach their yearly pitch counts. 

I remember reading in Dirk Hayhurst’s “Bullpen Gospels” about Ramos in the lower Padres system as a starter, so the idea is not foreign to him at all. Since I’m glancing towards the Bullpen, I truly thought Friedman might hold in his hand the cards of possibly relief pitchers Joel Peralta or Kyle Farnsworth as late inning pieces to another squad’s puzzle, possible also in the National League. But the Rays Bullpen stayed intact, possibly the best thing to happen to the Rays since Fernando Rodney’s first arrow flew deep and high into the sky.

Could Friedman have possibly mastered the art of the bluff this week by rebuffing advancements and trading cards being thrown down in his direction, Could the Rays not sending or receiving any players before the time ran out on this non-waiver Trade Deadline show contentment that in-house options are superior to the cards visible on the table, especially since Longoria and SP Jeff Niemann could be back in the dugout sooner rather than later.

No matter if Friedman was playing the game with all intentions of going through the motions, or waiting for the perfect scenario to be placed upon the felt and then plucking it with a grin and a giggle. We might never know the true story, but I do feel there were some potential MLB players trading cards picked up off that green poker table’s felt I truly thought the Rays might contemplate a bit on, or at least bluff towards plucking them for this team. 

The first player I thought the Rays might make a gentleman’s wager on was Miami Marlins 1B Gaby Sanchez who ended up becoming another valuable piece to the playoff hungry Pittsburgh Pirates. I actually thought the Rays might go “in heavy” on Sanchez as a possible 2013 replacement/younger hitting upgrade for the Carlos Pena. I thought Sanchez met the Rays criteria since he can be team controlled until possibly 2016, with his first venture into arbitration coming this Winter. Lest we forget Sanchez was a NL Rookie of the Year candidate in 2010 (finished 4th).

I also thought the Rangers picking up Geovany Soto from the Chicago Cubs recently might be a trading card piece of an evolving Texas trade hand for Shields since the Rays could definitely erase their need for a catcher with someone of Soto’s experience, especially since Soto will only be making his second trip trough arbitration this Winter, Soto’s past All-Star clout and his 2012 salary of only $ 4.3 million, he would be viewed as a solid backstop investment considering the question marks becoming larger with Robinson Chirinos and his concussion setbacks and if Jose Lobaton is a # 1 catcher or a career back-up back stop for this squad.

All that the Rays Republic is left with his wonder and maybe a little hint of want. This team has shown signs of an upwards trend against teams currently that they will battle throughout the rest of this season for a coveted American League Wild Card slot, but you have to wonder if Friedman had set down at least 1 hand in trade if the stakes and odds would have falling more into their favor.

 The Trade Deadline is one of those definite “He said, She said” types of moments where a season can be hinged or be separated by actions of standing pat. Personally, I wanted to see some down and dirty dealing via Andrew Friedman and his band of merry mongrels, but in the end we got only silence.

 Some venture to say the lack of Friedman playing any cards by the final toll of the bell at the Trade Deadline set the tone loud and clear for the Rays venture towards securing one of those coveted post-season slots. In the past the Rays have stayed muted and firm in their belief of their club’s talent and abilities and have come out smelling like roses.

Still, I would have loved to have someone like Sanchez chomping at the bit for that First Base job, or even Soto behind the dish providing offense and quality defense. Friedman decided to fold his hand, pay the dealer for his time and walk away empty-handed as the last cards were dealt today. But maybe by not making a gamble or losing in the process Friedman is way a head of the MLB pack. Only time will tell if he will be considered a winner or loser for his action with the cards.

 

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