Results tagged ‘ Cesar Ramos ’

More Answers than Questions (Thank Goodness) This Rays Offseason


At the precise moment on Friday night as the St. Louis Cardinal’s barrage of champagne corks began their ascent towards the heavens, 29 other Major League Baseball franchises heard only the undeniable audible signal that announced the beginning of their own rebuilding and tweaking process. These MLB clubs did not watch in awe and admiration as Cardinal fans and players took their ceremonial baths in bubbly, that precise moment beckoned each and every club to begin to unveil and move towards their own dreams of celebrating in November, 2012.

As the city’s faithful began their dancing beneath that mighty arch, baseball vistas from Seattle to Miami began their own quests to become the club’s to do that same celebratory display in November, 2012. With the first cork came the realization that the 2011 MLB season is in the books, and 2012 is there for the taking.

This morning as the Sunburns off last night’s celebration haze, the Cardinal faithful are rushing to outlets throughout their city for their World Series title mementos while the rest of the MLB is sprinting to possibly gain a sizable lead in retaining, replacing or reconstructing their squads to have the same experience in 2012. The off season folder have been plucked from their secretive hiding places and already things are in the works both behind the scenes and in plain view. The off season for everyone in Major League Baseball has officially begun.

Here in Tampa Bay, the Rays should have an pretty abbreviated laundry list compared to their 2011 off season “wish list”. Still a few additional key components have to be found, possibly tweaked or invited to re-sign with the young club to give the Rays that same competitive fire and drive that send them from bystanders to Wild Card darlings. Key decisions have to be made about certain rotation members tenures with the team. Certain arbitration-eligible players may find themselves without a team, and a few unexpected free agents might get an Spring Training invite to become a part of the Rays 2012 nucleus.

Already there is both optimism and pessimistic waves and valleys growing within the Rays Republic. Should the Rays offer another contract to DH Johnny Damon with possibly a $7 guaranteed payday plus the same attendance bonuses? Or should the club enlist the outside help of another high priced bat-slinger to bring a bit of intimidation and power to the Rays universe?

Will a few slots open up in the Rays rotation, or will pitchers like Matt Moore and the “Alex” duo of Cobb and Torres be shipped back to the minor until mid-May to stammer their arbitration clocks? The Rays scouting system and front office is bound to have to endure more than a handful of stressful and thought provoking skull sessions to decide if the Tall Texan (Jeff Neimann) or WD-40 (Wade Davis) have better talent and potential than the pitching trifecta punching their way through the thin glass ceiling between Triple-A Durham and the St. Petersburg clubhouse.

Will the Rays catching corps rebound with authority both at the plate and behind it with John Jaso possibly showing the same power and ability that made him a Rays darling in 2010, or will a bevy of Rays farm hand backstops like Jose Lobaton, Robinson “Honeynut” Chirinos, Nevin Ashley or the powerful bat of Stephen Vogt make Jaso possibly a Rays “dead man walking?

The glass ceiling between Triple-A Durham and the clubhouse in St. Petersburg could be broken by several players of these players and more this coming Spring. Could veteran C Kelly Shoppach’s September and post season heroics gain him another shot behind the plate with the Rays, or will the Rays decline his 2012 club option? I have a feeling one of these catchers will not be with the Rays come the mid-February report date.

Then there will be an endless bevy of flowcharts and statistical evaluations and scouting critiques to decide if Reid Brignac is the heir apparent at shortstop, or if infield journeyman Sean Rodriguez will be given a chance to unseat Brignac who was the Rays 2011 Opening Day SS. Some have said S-Rod gives the team more power and a consistent bat in the line-up whereas Brignac might have the deeper range and potential coming into Spring Training 2012. With a hot Rays SS prospect like Hak-Ju Lee and INF Tim Beckham still pushing their way up the Rays farm ladder, the current shaky foundation of Brignac will open discussions towards possibly having Rodriguez get more time in the 6-slot with the future only a phone call away in Durham come late season.

Then there is the biggest hot spot of them all, who will man the First Base bag for the Rays in 2012? Most might think current 1B Casey Kotchman will get a nice bump in pay from his $ 750,000 2011 salary to re-sign with the Rays, but that is pure speculation until the contract is sign, sealed and delivered. Even with First Base power behemoths like Pujols, Fielder and possibly Votto dangling on the lines, the Rays will not have a salary deviations to land a high priced acquisition, and Kotchman could be a bargain both in his defense and in his renewed vigor at the plate.

Possibly we will see the end of the “Sonny” era with the Rays. Andy Sonnanstine spent most of 2011 in Triple-A, and being arbitration-eligible again in 2012, might have worn the Rays colors for the last time. RP J P Howell also will enter the fray again, possibly also with the Rays on the fence to his ability to rebound from his surgery and again be the needed force in the Rays Bullpen. The Rays for once seem set at “leftie specialist” as both Jake McGee and Cesar Ramos should end any discussions of the Rays needing another hurler in that category.

Kyle Farnsworth seems destined to again shore up the back end of the Rays Bullpen with a $ 3.3 million 2012 club option on the books. But could the late season elbow stiffness possibly have the Rays a bit anxious of a possible Deja Vu circa 2008 “Percival” scenario? More Bullpen concern might be to see if Joel Peralta might like to remain a Ray, possibly with a extended 2-year deal.

From top to bottom, all 40 of the Rays current roster members will undergo a evaluation soon. With free agents making visits to the Rays complex, and some packing their gloves for other vistas, this Rays off season has begun. Fortunately there are more answers than questions this season, but that will not hinder Rays VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and his staff as they find ample offense and suitable replacements for a few departing Rays. The 2011 season is officially in the record books, now comes the real fun for Friedman and his staff to bring the brilliance.

If You Don’t Believe Now, Better Check Your Pulse



Words would just ruin the moment. Here is a photo essay of complied photos from the great AP photographers Mike Carlson / Chris O’Meara and Getty Images Photog  J. Meric  on the field and deep within the bowels of Tropicana Field  tonight. 




 

Last, but not least, the Home Run trot that began the celebration!



Intriguing Assortment of Rays Choices for Trade Deadline Shoppers

Always a great guessing game trying to decipher correctly the needs, wants and desire of any of the 29 other MLB squads for anyone on the Tampa Bay Rays roster. Sure there might be a few GM’s just coming by doing some future window shopping or prod and nudge a bit of the merchandise, but is there really any top shelf Rays that will exit before the end of the Trade Deadline?

Can’t be easy time span for a player either with a large contract or even a “ walk” season under their belt until the clock strikes midnight on August 1st. Sure even then deals can still be hashed out, but the large majority of the transactions will be at least attempted in the next few working days. But even the best deal can be stricken down by the might pen of the M L B Commissioner Bud Selig if it seems unfair or has too much cash considerations.

So who among the 25 currently rostered Rays players do you think will garner the most attention? Who do you feel will be showcased now for departure in the off season? There are plenty of options, including a few that could either make or break the Rays post season surge. Then again, if the Rays do go into a tailspin over the next few series( Kansas City/Oakland/Toronto), they could instead purge before the last moments in July?

Even the Great Kreskin would have a difficult time trying to summarize some of the gossip and whispers currently doing the rounds in the MLB circle. With the emergence of SP Alex Cobb and Rays Manager Joe Maddon staying with a 6-man rotation. Could this be a precursor to a starter leaving town?

James Shields has reconstructed his delivery and career to a point some teams are eager to get a guy who can push out innings and provide strikeouts. Shields might have de-valued himself a tad during his recent 4-game tailspin.  With a team friendly $ 7 million dollar salary for 2012, Shields is still affordable and could be in the plastic bubble until this time in 2012.

Do the Rays instead sell high on SP Jeff Niemann while he is on his own hot streak? The Tall Texan might not garner a top tier return, but a few teams do have veterans who might walk after this season, and if they fit into the Rays mold….Niemann could be on a flight by August 1st.

With that in mind, why not put SP/RP Andy Sonnanstine on the top shelf to see who wanders by for a long look. Sonny has all the qualities a good team needs with MLB experience, stability and is a solid “company man”. He can be used in a variety of ways, and his tenure with the Rays might be on unstable ground with the emergence of Cobb and others pushing hard to break through the Triple-A ceiling to the majors. Sonny, like Niemann will not collect a bevy of returns, but his shelf life with the Rays might be getting near its expiration point.

Cesar Ramos is a southpaw, and with the Rays currently having 3 in their Bullpen, excess might not be the keys to the Rays Bullpen success. He might bring in a better haul than Sonny, but knowing the Rays and their love of the crafty lefties, he might stick. Still, the Rays would not offer up fellow relievers Jake McGee or J P Howell unless the return was something they could not refuse.

That brings us to the Rays field players. A few names possibly jump out at you, but one that I truly think is “off limits” is First Baseman Casey Kotchman. The job he has done since he cemented himself at First has been incredible. With only 1 error this season, Kotchman might be tied to this Rays team soon for the next 3 years. I have heard a few whispers in the hallways.

In the infield, with the thoughts also swirling that SS Reid Brignac is taking backward steps, this effectively closes any possible discussions on Elliot Johnson or Sean Rodriguez. Their stability will be needed now more than ever, and cutting loose even one of the pair would be disastrous unless an infield MLB caliber upgrade is received.

With the recent injuries surrounding the catching position, it might be a hidden blessing for C Kelly Shoppach. Still, the Rays could deal the often offensively maligned backstop for prospects, or maybe even a little cash. The market is not seeking Shoppach with gusto, but a back-up with experience heading into the stressful last months of the season and beyond can be a blessing to a young team.

That leaves the outfield has one of the biggest question marks with at least 4 possible Rays players getting a few glances and maybe trade discussions. Still think Desmond Jennings is here to be looked at by not only the Rays, but by 29 other teams. I really think the Rays have a lot of questions about Jennings, and he could be traded for the right package.

You might have thought I would thrust B J Upton in the top spot for trade discussion, but I truly think the Rays will keep Upton until the end of the 2011 season, then listen intently to offers. Upton might not be the most attentive player on the bases, but he plays solid defense and has trimmed his swing a bit to be more productive. Who in their right mind thought he would get over 15 Hrs in 2011?

Still, with the Washington Nationals eager for Upton, and with names like INF Ian Desmond or RP Drew Storen being put on the end of the pole, the Rays could bite and fill a future hole in their team with young replacements who are starting to show their MLB potentials. Still it is a long shot these names are included with Upton’s’. Then again, Friedman can deliver brilliance with Bull-hockey pucks.

The guy who might garner the most outfield attention doesn’t actually play there on a daily basis. Johnny Damon could bring a nice haul in return from a team on the cusp of contention, or wanting to stay hard in the race until the end. But is he worth the gamble of leaving with the type of offense and ability to help charge up this team with a single swing?

You can’t buy that kind of massive production on and off the field this time of year. But if the Rays are truly in a mood to upgrade now, Damon might be the perfect carrot to dangle in front of the MLB herd. There is another player who has emerged to a point his status might be at its zenith, and a downward spiral is definitely in the cards.

I think the world of the abilities and freestyle aerial moves of Sam Fuld, but I also know MLB is treating him more like a novelty act right now than a budding star or long producing commodity. Here is another Rays player who might be at the peak of his trade value right now. Combine his on-field heroics with his solid base running and you get a nice threat either off the bench or in the field heading into the post season.

There is still the possibilities the Rays just bluff and stay with their current format, but the more realistic approach is someone will go, changes will be made. Upton should be planted in CF until the off season, Shields even though he turns 30 in December is a great anchor for this Rays rotation.

That being said, Sonny and Niemann could be on the “watch list” and be the two pitchers most likely to exit stage left. Shoppach could still be dealt even with the Rays catching corp down to their bare knuckles. This is one part of the Rays farm system that seems loaded for bear, and could endure a spell without remorse.

Jennings is the Rays top field prospect, and I have a sneaking feeling his up-coming promotion to “The Show” has a hidden agenda. Exposing Jennings to MLB caliber pitching with 10 days left could persuade someone to take a risk or gamble on a guy who might not be considered the best outfielder even on his Triple-A squad. But if the Rays do keep Jennings, Upton better look over his shoulder later in the season.

Fuld might be safe, but if his average goes South along with his “Legend”, his time and days will be numbered. Damon is the best Rays commodity right now and might be plucked. But Friedman will not trade him for a “rental” player or even a marginal player or prospects. When you have a guy who is putting up consistent numbers like Damon, the price tag has a few zeros in it, even for the short term.

This is the time of the year where guessing, predictions and even off-the-cuff remarks come with a glance from the baseball world. Teams want to chuck, acquire and sometimes streamline for different reasons. The only reasons any of these players might be plucked off the Rays roster is if this team truly thinks they have the horses for a playoff run.

Upgrading by trading would be the only reason right now the Rays would open their doors for change. 

Could “Well Rested” Be a Rays Bullpen Problem?

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Tonight’s
game kind of worries me a bit. The Rays have had two days now to rest
and relax within the confines of the Twin cities with a regularly
scheduled “day off” on Monday, and an early postponement of their
Tuesday clash due to rain and 38 degree weather in Minnesota.


The bottom of my worry stems from the
obvious fact that since their extra inning downfall on Friday night,
only Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth has seen any type of game action.
Even Farnsworth’s night was short, as he threw exactly 5 pitches to
seal his fifth save as a Ray.


The last time another Rays reliever was
on the hill was Friday night as 6 ‘ 8″ Adam Russell threw a
mis-guided pitch to Blue Jays jack-of-all-trades John McDonald that
he deposited 368 feet from the Home Plate dish into the Left Field
Rogers Centre stands for a walk-off victory.


That means it has been almost five
days, which is usually an entire run through the Rays rotation since
someone besides Farnsworth has taken the hill with positive results.
Sure you wanted Russell, Joel Peralta, Juan Cruz and Cesar Ramos to
just dwell on that performance for 30-minutes and follow the Maddon
mantra of depositing it in the trash.


But 5 days can make a bad performance
ferment, become a bit gamey and possibly get you thinking when you
should be just hurling the ball. I always go back to “Bull Durham
when “Crash Davis tells Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoose to “not
think, it only hurts the ballclub”.


Hopefully Rays Pitching Coach Jim
Hickey had a few uplifting positive conversations with his Friday
night foursome to get their mind clear, controlled and ready for
tonight. It is easy to get binded up in the obscure and negative when
you do not have ample time to just “throw out” that performance
by tossing a confident side session/Bullpen session.


Five days is a long time for anyone,
even a starter to sit on those pine benches and watch a game without
feeling like a vital piece of thew whole machine. That is the
roughest thing about being in the Bullpen, days on end without any
action, then all of a sudden you get jammed, tested and thrust into
tight situations.


The Rays and Twins have a scheduled
day/night doubleheader tomorrow that could come down to the arms
sitting down the Third Base line. Hopefully Farnsworth and his motley
crew down in the Bullpen can get some chances tonight to stretch out,
provide some positive momentum heading into that critical 2-game set.


Best case scenario for the Rays would
be Farnsworth getting a chance to duplicate former Rays closer Rafael
Soriano’s days/night experience from 2010 during a Rays/Red Sox
double-dipper by getting 2 save opportunities and providing another
chapter of positive results for this same unit that many doubted
would ever be competitive in 2011.


The aspect of a rain-out can sometimes
help a ballclub, to heal, provide more in-depth research and
development heading into a series, and sometimes it can expose a
problem you hope would heals itself. Very soon we will see if the
Rays Bullpen let the Friday night walk-off wash off its back like
water, or retained it like a bad memory. Got a feeling I worried
about nothing….hopefully.





Could a Ramos Injury be Delaying the Bartlett Deal?

 

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 Unknown Orioles photographer

So has Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett been unfortunately transported into some other dimension ? Is there such a locale as a Major League Baseball trade purgatory? We all have probably read the multiple Tweets, snippets and status of stagnant scent of limbo in regards to this recent trade between the Rays and San Diego Padres. But what is the dark secret keeping each party from either walking away or completing this trade? Curious minds want to know!

We have been lead to believe from sources within both MLB communities that the stalemate between the completion of this deal is a certain “injury” situation has been discovered on the Padres end of the trade. But you have to wonder just what kind of effect this will have as the two teams try to ease this trade towards its fruition. Or could the thawing ice under this deal finally melt in the hot California Sun and both parties have to again begin to rebuild this trade brick by brick.

Reports have surfaced that Jason Bartlett went through his physical with flying colors and is more than ready to join the roster of the San Diego franchise who initially drafted him during the 13th Round of the 2001 Major League Baseball Draft. But in this 13th hour, there has been cause for the Rays to put the brakes on this trade and leave both teams suspending the trade’s completion for the moment

With his trade in a state of limbo, Bartlett and his family must be in a state of utter amazement that they can not proceed on any present plans to possibly place their Fort Myers home on the market, or even proceed to journey back to Sothern California to look for another home in the San Diego area.

Bartlett’s prospective professional baseball life has now also put his off the field life into a proverbial holding pattern following a recent problem with one of the duo of prospects heading to Tampa Bay in exchange for the Rays 2010 starting shortstop. Bartlett must be welling up with the impending pressure and stress of this trade possibly falling part at the seams with a problem with either pitcher Adam Russell or Cesar Ramos.

I decided to dig a little deeper into the backgrounds of the two Padres set to becomes members of the Rays when this deal (hopefully) entered it final moments. I hoped to easily find a hidden physical aliment or a current injury that might not have been previously reported by the players and instantly sent up a bevy of red flags up to the Rays medical staff. What I found actually took a bit of time, but might just be the one aspect that is keeping this entire trade from finally being completed, or scraped.

You have to give both the Rays Front Office and their medical staff kudos for possibly finding a hidden situation or future health situation problem. Neither player probably has exhibited or previously established any pattern of injury concerns during the 2010 MLB or minor league seasons.

But recently Ramos was placed on the 7-day disabled list by his Winter League squad, the Naranjeros de Hermosillo ( Hermosillo Orange Pickers) of the Liga Mexicana del Pacifico. Considering Ramos did experience a previous problem with a left elbow strain. Back in 2006 suffered the injury and possibly the Rays are doing due diligence by possibly sending Ramos to their own doctors to examine the extent and possible effects of even a small scale injury to Ramos right now.

You can not fault the Rays for wanting to get a second opinion from their own battery of doctors before finally dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s” on the Bartlett trade.

But in the mean time it has been a cloaked veil of secrecy again from the Rays camp as to the extent or possible injury prognosis in regards to Ramos. I actually had to find a friend who speaks fluent Spanish to even find a hint of nay injury or problems in regards to either Padres player in this trade. But that is the Modus Operandi of the Rays organization to hold their cards close to their vest before I might have found a reason for the trade delay.

With the clock ticking on both the Rays and Padres side of this trade agreement, let’s hope that we can get a valid and feasible window finally established to either kill or proceed with this trade. Lives are being held up in the balance, and that is not fair when people are trying to formulate or adequately plan their upcoming Spring Training home sites.

But sometimes that is the nature of the trade beast where a single variable can sink the trade and send both teams scattering for a solution before exhausting all their options and calling it quits. Hopefully for all three players involved in this trade we can get a fast solution and lives put back into motion, both on and off the baseball diamond.

 
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