But there is one big decision that won’t so easy.
Difficult decision: Toby Hall
There has been alot of chatter and speculation that the Tampa Bay Rays might be talking to former Yankee Jason Giambi about a possible Designated Hitters’ position with the club. I have always been a defender and distractor of the “Giambino” because his past behavior and his hitting prowness .
To say that the Rays would not listen to his agent would be obsurb. We will listen to anyone talk about their client or even tap dance on the top of the dugout, but the price has to be right for the Rays to bite on Giambi. He would have to be willing to give the team a “AL East” discount.
By this I mean he will have to give them a discount to be able to face his former team at least 17 times in 2009 and rub their noses in their refusal to even consider him for the team. He would be an upgrade to the DH position without a doubt, but he will also have to come with the stipulation that fater BP he throws his gloves into his locker and doesn’t look at them again until the next day.
To say he would be a defensive downgrade would be a joke. He has gone from being an ample first baseman, to being a liability with a glove. He no longer has the range or the motion to adequately play the position for an extended time. And considering the Rays have one of the best at the position in house, He will need to stow the gloves after BP.
For the Rays sake, that might have to be written into the contract. For intimidation factor, Giambi gets a “10″. I always say when I see him on the big screen that he has serial killer eyes. Those baby blues seem to stare right through you even from 50 yeards away. I can only imagine what they look like when he sees a hanging curveball or breaking pitch and is about to thrust it over the wall in one long swing.
Jermaine Dye is another guy who has been getting a lot of Rays trade talk in recent weeks. He is a powerful hitter who is also right-handed. that plays right into the Rays plans looking for a above average bat who can also play a great defensive outfield position.
But what might not play into the Chicago White Sox plans is the fact that the team is asking for a proven starter and a fielder player at the triple-A level for Dye. He is still under contract for the 2009 season, and will certainly be considered a prime free agent next season.
He has been pretty injury free and has taken his batting game up a notch the last 2 seasons. In the recent American League Divisional Series, the Rays got a lot of first hand looks at Dye as he hit and drove in runs for the White Sox in the series against the Rays.
What is also known around baseball is that White Sox GM, Ken Williams wants to lower his payroll a bit before filling his holes on his squad. He will have to start to make deal soon to be able to capitalize on the top tier players before the market goes thin and he will have to trade for his desired postions.
Also of consideration is if the Rays are on the list of 6 potential trade destinations that Dye will veto any trades. The Rays might have been on that list in 2007, but would Dye either void the list or are the Rays a desination that suits Dye………..We shall see in the coming weeks.
The New York Mets have been actively asking and looking for information on the Rays 4 and 5 starters this off-season. Edwin Jackson had early interest from the team, but based on his career numbers and his consistant pitching, they have moved onto inquiring about Andy Sonnanstine.
Sonnanstine has been a fierce competitor for a long time. He was not an orignal target of the Rays in the amatuer draft, but former owner Vince Namoli was interested in Sonnanstine after a win against his alma mater, the Norte Dame Fighting Irish. The Kent State pitcher had always fought the Irish hard and Namoli liked the young pitcher’s style.
So the team drafted him and Sonnanstine displayed this same knack for consistancy all the way through the minor leagues. When he got to the majors, he had already been selected as the Rays “minor League Pitcher of the Year” twice during his tour in the Rays farm system.
He came to the majors and set a presence of consitant pitching and low run and walks totals, which have kept him into games deep last year and this season for the Rays. He was the first pitcher to hit the 11 win plateau this season, but got mired at that number before finally posting his 12th win. He is one of those inning eater pitchers who can make a staff better by pitching his game and staying on top of the opposition.
I really do not think the Mets have the fair trade prospects in their farm system to make a ideal trade with the Rays. If they were to get Sonnanstine, it would have to be a 3-team deal that would bring in a few pieces that would be heading Tampa Bay’s way.
That is not say that the wheels are not already at work trying to locate pieces that would entice the Rays to give up their young pitcher. The Rays are still under control of Sonnanstine until 2010, when he will be up for his first taste of arbitration.
But there is one big decision that won’t so easy.
Difficult decision: Toby Hall
Why keep Hall?
The last three years have illustrated that getting a competent backup catcher isn’t as easy at it seems. Back-up catching prospects wander from the inexperienced rookies’ looking for a chance to succeed, to veterans on their last few years of organized ball before looking beyond the game for a job. Putting another year on the trusty backup catcher chart, Hall posted the best OPS for the position since 2005:
Compared to Chris Widger, Gustavo Molina, Sandy Alomar Jr. and one-armed Toby Hall, the two-armed version was a marked improvement, even if still below-average — especially considering he more than held up his end against lefties.
Hall hit southpaws to the tune of .377/.411/509 over 56 at-bats, with more homers (2) than strikeouts (1). Even while his overall numbers took a nosedive in the second half, he had seven hits in 21 at-bats when the match-up was in his favor.
He also saw significant improvements in his catcher’s ERA (3.68, compared to 6.12 in 2007) and his caught stealing rate (17 percent, up from 10), which isn’t awful.
The Sox don’t really have anybody else, as Cole Armstrong is still a season or so away at the very least. And even if you don’t like Hall, it’s hard to say he was much of a problem. The Sox went 22-14 when he started, a near reversal of his 2007 record. Perhaps they played better because his teammates were hoping for one of his delightful pies.
The case against Hall
A.J. Pierzynski is 31 years old and has a two-year extension ahead of him, and yet his plate appearances keep shooting up. He set a personal record for plate appearances while catching more than 130 games for the third consecutive year. Not surprisingly, he went into a major slump at the end of the year.
Hall isn’t helping lighten Pierzynski’s workload much, mainly because he’s so miserable against righties. He posted a .431 OPS in such situations, including a .321 OPS after the break (.133/188/.133 in 30 ABs). God forbid a foul tip ever catch Pierzynski the wrong way, because the Sox would likely receive zero production in his absence.
And one full year after his shoulder injury, he still had trouble generating extra-base power. Part of it was due to his inside-out swing that is built to dump singles to right field, but he lost out on a handful of doubles because he couldn’t outrun a glacier. Paul Konerko grows impatient watching him.
He’s part of the reason why the Sox struggle against the turf teams (Minnesota, Toronto, Tampa Bay). He can’t turn deep gappers into doubles easily, and he can’t throw runners out unless he gets a lot of help from the pitcher.
So what to do?
There’s actually an OK crop of backup catchers’ out there, with a few interesting buy-low candidates like Javier Valentin, Josh Bard and David Ross. But Bard is an offense-first catcher who stopped hitting (his rate against basestealers is worse than Hall’s, although Padres pitchers are more indifferent to runners than even Sox pitchers), and Valentin and Ross both lost their jobs on a bad Cincinnati ballclub.
Below them are guys like, well, Paul Phillips. That wouldn’t help, either.
Everybody else would cost more than Hall’s $2.25 million salary (especially adding the $150,000 it’d take to buy out Hall in the first place). So I see the Sox picking up his option, citing the way he handles the pitching staff and his antics as clown prince of the dugout.
Perhaps one more year off his shoulder injury coinciding with a contract year will show Sox fans they haven’t seen the best of him yet. Chances are he’ll make Pierzynski the most valuable member of the club for a third straight year, so hold your breath that he survives.