Results tagged ‘ Jeff Ridgeway ’
It is only a matter of time before Dioner Navarro is again celebrating. But this time it will be for a arbitration hearing settlement against his team, the Tampa Bay Rays. But he might not be alone that night celebrating as utility player Willy Aybar is also scheduled to go to arbitration with the Rays in 2009. Since Andrew Friedman took over the player contract reigns 3 seasons ago, he has only been to two hearing for the team. What is surprising is the fact that both of those hearing were for former Rays catcher Josh Paul, and the Rays won both hearings. So for the next 2 days, lets dig into the background and the career numbers for the Rays still arbitration eligible players. Both Navarro and Aybar are seeking substantial raises in 2009, and will go before an arbitrator for the first time to secure their 2009 contracts with the Rays.
But this year will be different for the Rays. Navarro, who is also a catcher posted personal bests in several offensive and defensive categories, and when compared to recent catchers in the MLB, is considered a bargain even at 2 plus million dollars a year. Navarro also went to his first All-Star game in 2008, and that just might be a nice piece of hardware to push him over that $ 2 million dollar plateau with ease.. The Rays started the off season with 6 members eligible for arbitration, but 2 were eliminated by trades, and 2 signed a contract with the team before the team’s 12 p.m. deadline on January 20, 2009.
Former Rays starter Edwin Jackson was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Matt Joyce and finally agreed to a $ 2.2 million dollar contract wit the Tigers, with a chance to earn an additional $200,000 dollars through innings pitched incentives. The Rays were not as kind to emotional and energetic cheerleader Jonny Gomes as the team cut ties with the fan favorite and he eventually decided on a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds for $ 600,000, with production incentives of $ 200,000 possible in the deal. Gomes also will have a chance during spring training to secure a left field spot in the Red’s outfield.
Rays 2008 Team MVP Jason Bartlett signed a contract with the Rays at 10:50 a.m. on January 20th, to just get under the wire of the Rays set deadline to discuss contracts with arbitration eligible players. Bartlett signed for $ 1,981,250 dollars on a 1-year deal, but the Rays control him until 2011. Rays platoon right fielder Gabe Gross avoided arbitration by signing a 1.255 million dollar contract on January 14, 2008 for a1 year deal. Gross will compete with Joyce and Rays new comer Gabe Kapler for playing time in 2009.
So that leaves the Rays with 2 very important members of their 2008 American League Pennant winning squad still on the outside without a contract. Both Navarro and Aybar can take a huge amount of credit for the surge of the Rays in 2008 based on their newly set career bests. Aybar can also put on a tag of “always ready” on his resume by coming in and taking charge several times in 2008 due to injuries of star players Bartlett, and Evan Longoria. So let’s begin with the Rays utility man, who played above and beyond his expectations in 2008.
Willy Aybar came to the Rays in a trade with the Atlanta Braves prior to the 2008 season. He had been a handful for the braves in both injuries and personal situations that almost got him a bad label in the league. Aybar had been obtained in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006 and went straight into the Braves minor league system. When the Rays considered Aybar for a trade prior to the beginning of the 2008 spring training season, they had a lot of information and problems to sift through before finally completing the deal.
After consulting with their scouts and members of their new Dominican Republic complex staff, Tampa Bay began to really talk with the Atlanta Braves about a trade involving 24-year-old infielder. Aybar’s off-the-field issues, most notably a stint in a substance-abuse rehabilitation program that wiped out most of his 2007 season, could be an impediment.
The Braves had suspended Aybar indefinitely in April 2007 after he left the team without permission. He was supposed to report for treatment on a sore wrist that had him on the disabled list to open the season but instead drove from Atlanta to Boston to see his older brother for help dealing with drinking and drug issues. Aybar finally completed his rehab program in August 2007, but a broken hamate bone in his right hand kept him from making it back to the majors.
He underwent season-ending surgery and didn’t take the field again until October, when he began the winter-ball season playing for Licey in the Dominican Republic. He has had a strong season in his home country,hitting .339 and posting a .415 on-base percentage in 15 games during Licey’s run to first place in the league’s January semifinal series. So the Rays decided that Triple-A pitcher Jeff Ridgeway would be good enough bait to obtain the troubled infielder. But the Rays could not have anticipated the trouble in the off season prior to reporting for the Rays.
Aybar was arrested in February 2008 for suspicion of Domestic Abuse in the Dominican Republic and was initially held without bond. Even though Aybar’s lawyers have told a local magistrate that Aybar’s wife is dropping all of the charges, the infielder was still incarcerated in the Dominican for several days. After finally getting the situation solved Aybar went about getting ready to report to the Rays Spring Training complex in St. Petersburg, Florida for the 2008 season.
Then on February 20th it is learned that Aybar, Joel Guzman and Juan Salas are still being detained in the Dominican Republic on visa issues. The Rays consulted MLB about providing help to get their three players out of the country in time for Spring Training. Aybar and Guzman were both finally granted their visas and reported to camp in late February. But that was not the end of the frustration for the young infielder. During Spring Training he suffered a pulled or strained hamstring and it put him under suspicion that he might not be ready for the regular season.
When camp finally broke in April, Aybar had been given a spot on the 25-man roster and a starting gig at third base as the Rays sent their budding superstar, Evan Longoria down for more seasoning in the minors. With a regular spot in the lineup it looked like it would be Aybar’s year to shine in the major leagues. But 10 games into the season, Aybar was put on the disabled list because of the same hamstring injury and lost his starting shot at third base for the Rays as they finally brought up Longoria to stay for the season.
During 2008, Aybar started 79 games for the Rays. 40 of those were at third base during the early season and Longoria’s stint on the disabled list after the Seattle series. On September 17, 2008, against Boston’s Tim Wakefield, Aybar and Fernando Perez set a record by both switch hitters hitting a home run off Wakefield from the right side of the plate. That was the first time since 1969 that two switch hitters hit a homer against the same pitcher in a division play.
But it was during his stint at third base after Longoria injured his wrist in Seattle that he showed his versatility and power to the Rays. Starting all 30 games while Longoria was out, Aybar hit .308, with 5 homers and 18 RBI’s. During that span he hit 14 extra base hits and also walked 11 times for the team. But it was as a third baseman that Aybar made his number for 2008. Playing those 40 games at third, he hit .297 , with 6 homers and 20 RBI’s for the year. Elsewhere in the field or at Designated Hitter, he only batted .206, with 4 homers and 12 RBI’s. He had made a statement that third base was home for him.
But Aybar also played shortstop on occasion during one of Jason Bartlett’s disabled list ventures and performed a great job in the middle for the Rays. But he did go through a streaky pattern at the plate in 2008, hitting .309 on June 9th, before going 22-188, or a .186 average from June 10th to August 6th. He dropped his average all the way to .222 before taking over for Longoria after his injury. In his first game at third after the Longoria injury, he hit a career best 2 homers in a game against the Mariners’ and had a career high 4 RBI’s on the day. His 10 homers in 2008 are 5 more than he has ever gotten in his career.
But on the dark side, he did miss a total of 45 games due to his hamstring injury, but later in the season did go without incident or injury for the rest of the year. So his 2008 average of .288 against left-handers was one of the best averages on the Rays against southpaws during the season. Buy Aybar did save his best for last in 2008 as he went 3 -4 against the Red Sox at home on September 17, 2008 to help the Rays defeat the Red Sox.
The unfortunate side of Aybar in 2008, is that 8 of his 10 homers were solo shots and did not help get extra runs for the Rays during the season. But Aybar was the middle hitter in the June 9th game against the Los Angeles Angels at Anahiem where Longoria, Aybar and Navarro all homer in sequence for the Rays. Aybar did have 13 game-tying or go-ahead runs in the year, and also had 3 infield hits for the Rays. He also put down 3 bunt singles for the team, and was picked 6 times for “Web Gems” by the Rays PR staff during the year for his defensive plays.
On defense, Aybar had a total of 118 total chances on defense in 2008, with 29 putouts and 84 chances. He however committed 5 errors on the season to put his fielding percentage at .958. that is pretty average for a guy trying to fight to get playing time every day. I do not have a total breakdown of if must of these errors came from other positions besides third base in 2008. That total would put him in the middle of the pack with respect to utility men in the league, most of which make over $ 1 million a year.
So is this enough for Aybar to get rewarded with an arbitration figure higher that the Rays suggested contract of $ 900,000 dollars for 2009. Aybar did counter with an offer of $ 1,050,000 for the season, a difference of only $ 150,000 dollars. The proof might actually be in Aybars’ post season numbers as he went 9 for 23 during the playoffs, posting a .417 average, with 2 home runs and 6 RBI’s in 10 games. the fact that he hit for 16 total bases and only struck out 4 times in the playoffs might be enough to get him that extra $ 150,000 dollars in arbitration money.
Aybar has been one of the American Leagues hidden gems in 2008. He can hit, play defense and is a great clutch player for the Rays. I was actually surprised not to hear his name mentioned throughout the off season as trade bait for a big time hitter or reliever. Who knows if Aybar will even make it past the trade deadline in 2009 with the team. His stock has been going up all throughout 2008, and 2009 might be the year he can finally break through that utility player mold and become a starter with someone else during the stretch run.
Time will tell, but I am thankful that we have Aybar as a reliable and constructive member of the Rays bench. With a new contract in hand, and a chance to retain his psot on the Rays 25-man roster for 2009, Aybar might just be the happiest guy to report to the new training complex in Port Charlotte. But then again, maybe Navarro will spring for dinner that first night.
Accolades are beginning to flow into the Tampa Bay Rays after their magical season. Tonight, during a dinner at the Major League Baseball General Managers’ meeting, TheTampa Bay Rays GM, Andrew Friedman was selected as The Sporting News Executive of the Year. This is a high honor for the young gun who has assembled a greatly improved ballclub in such a short time.
He started out the 2008 year by sending disgruntled outfielder Delmon Young, utility star Brendan Harris, and Minor league outfielder, Jason Pridie to the Minnesota Twins for shortstop Jason Bartlett, starter Matt Garza, and minor league reliever Eddie Morlan.
Jason Bartlett came to the Rays and immediately gave them a veteran and defensive presence at short. He eventually went on to win the local Tampa Bay press award as the teams’ 2008 Most Valuable Player for his defense and leadership to the team. Matt Garza grew by leaps and bounds this season, both in the public’s eye and in the clubhouse. He began the year with frustrations and an early injury, but in the second half of the season showed that he the stuff to be a top pitcher for many years in the American League.
His improvement accumulated with his Game 7 victory over the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS. It was one of his most impressive performances of 2008. Eddie Morlan is currently at the Double-AA Montgomery working on a variety of new weapons coming out of the Bullen for the Bsicuits.
These players are not the only positives trades or pickups for Frienman in 2008. He traded MLB-ready reliever Jeff Ridgeway to the Atlanta Braves for utility player Willy Aybar. This trade did not look like a positive until near the end of Spring Training where Aybar showed that his injury had healed and he was motivated and mentally prepared to play daily in the MLB. His output during the early part of the season, and when thrid baseman Evan Longoria went down have been a true asset to the Rays during the season and the playoffs.
Friedman also picked up Eric Hinske off the Free Agent market and made him the Rays rightfielder with power. Hinske, a former Rookie of the Year winner with the Toronto Blue Jays helped provide leadership by example early in the year for the Rays.
But not lost in the year was the free agent signing of Cliff Floyd as the team’s primary Designated Hitter this year. Floyd came to the Rays having been in the MLB playoffs the last several years with the Chicago Cubs, ansd the New York Mets. Added to that impressive resume was a World Series title with the Florida Marlins in 2003. He brought a calming and leadership role to the young team and took the challenge on head first with players like B J Upton and Evan Longoria.
The trades and the free agents signings in 2008, made the team a better squad by bringing in a catalyst of strong winning personalities and winning attitudes. These changes in the clubhouse mended and bonded the players into a “family” type unit that played as a whole and not as individuals in 2008.
Not lost in all of this is the fact that Friedman does have a baseball background. People forget he actually attended Tulane University in Louisianna on a baseball scholarship and palyed until and injury to his shoulder led him to more academic adventures. With the Hot Stove action beginning to simmer for the Tampa Bay Rays, do not be suprised if Friedman doesn’t steal another great player, or work out a free agent signing that will futher propel the Rays in 2009.
Here it is a few days from the Winter MLB meetings in Opry-ville and we made a few needed moves that will help define our current and future goals for our squad.
First off, let me get that off my chest right now. I am not a Delmon Young hater in anyway, but, from my seat in Right Field, I could read some of his body language and tell he was just buying time before the poisoned axe or his actions dictated a move to new Fieldturf pastures.
Have fun in the pillow-dome Delmon. You complained about not being able to clearly see balls at the Trop. Wait until you look up in that sea of lights and true white roof at the Metrodome………..you will wish for the grey white roof of the Trop. I do wish him alot of luck in his future and success with that “Young” brothers curse of having a small attitude adjustment problem. His brother seemed to have finally gotten his attitude to shine with the Nats, let’s hope it doesn’t take Delmon as long to fine the right basepath to being the great teammate. Delmon’s departure will come back to haunt us at times,…………..but only for 6 or 7 games a year.
Now the players we got for Delmon are quality guys. Matt Garza is a young player that can br dialed into this rotation for years and will be a positive and needed upgrade to our constantly inproving and maturing pitching staff. Garza has not even hit the stride in his career yet, so the sky is the limit right now with him.
By the way, in Garza’s last 2007 start in, he pitched 6.2 innings with 4 hits and 1 ER against the Royals and Lost the game. We will take 6.2 inning outting any day with only 1 ER…….with the offensive power we have on our roster right now, it should always be a “W” with the Rays.
The additon of Garza is great because this staff can grow into a huge AL East pitching monster. Scott “The K” Kazmir is just getting started. James Shields was perfecting a few of his pitches last year, and gaining a boatload of knowledge about American League hitters.
Those two will hold down the front of the rotation for a long time. Matt Garza is a great addition to help get those extra ( hopefully) 10-15 wins a year to get close to that hallowed 82-82 mark.
They only curious point to this trade is Jason Barlett,the second player involved in this trade. He is destined to be just a stop-gap fill-in until protege’ Reid Brignac is ready to man the 5 hole for years to come. Bartlett hit .265 last year, but only has 10 HR’s in his career and only 1,079 AB’s in his career. He has primarily been a utility man during his career in the bigs, and this is his first extended playing time in the shortstop position.
Now he knows the role he will play here in Tampa Bay, but who knows, someone could come to camp to even replace him ( maybe Ben Zobrist ). Worst things have happened to our team. Remember Danny Batista and Roberto Alomar retiring from our squad with only days to go in Spring Training. Losing these ex- All-Stars was viewed at the time as a failure by the team. It turned into the emmergance of Jorge Cantu and Jonny Gomes as “go-to” guys for the Rays for that year. So, sometimes a bad look can turn into a solid gold treasure when you only look at the surface of a situation. But that is why we play the games and do not award a trophy for roster potential, but game results.
With that in mind, let me wander a bit. and fantasize here.
Can you go back home again in baseball? Not to a home per se, but to an old team that left you unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, and you selected to a good NL team that did not even know if you could play an entire season because of health and personal concerns.
Josh, I have always wanted success for you and knew that you could and would pull yourself together and show the world what a ture 5-tool player looks like up here. You went on to prove you can play at the highest level and even make their opening day lineup in Right Field. the start of the season offensive expolsion you provided made everyone’s jaws dropped in awe. You finally had an entire country knowing you had it in you, and you proved it to everyone.
Hey Josh, I was there the day you came back after your off field problems that took you from baseball and the Rays. I was the Pepsi guy in the locker room talking to Tim M. right before you went out the door of the training complex and first met the media.
I knew then that you had it again. That your head and attitude felt right to me, and I wanted the sky for you. Can you forgive the powers from beyond the Trop’s D-rings and just listen to them if they want to trade and include you on our squad. I would cheer and enjoy watching you in Right Field again. And a huge plus that people forget, you can be the left-handed bat that Joe has been searching for in the lineup. Could be a sea of pluses for both the team, and yourself.
Okay, fantasy time is over……… Trade number two might not seem big on paper or even in reality, but it can be the jump start for each player. Elijah Dukes and Glen Gibson both needed a team that wanted them and believed in them. Now I do not think the Rays ever disliked or wanted harm for Elijah. His off-field and on-field distractions just took their toll on himself and the front office. Both parties knew that a change of scenery can work wonders for you, as a person and a player.
I wish you a cartload of homers in that new park Elijah. And we will not see you for about 6 years. It take a few years for the schedule to again list the Nats’ as a interleague opponent again.So this trade might be a hidden blessing for you.
Now Glen Gibson is daily becoming a more polished pitcher. Baseball America rated Gibson’s changeup and curve the best in the Nats’s farm system. Now we know he has inherited talent and a great barometer a phone call away from him. Not every guy has a father that pitched in the majors. That could end up being a hidden blessing for him and the Rays.
Fantasy time again…………this time Minor edition. The Rays’ top draft pick last year, David Price has set high expectations of himself and his progression in the Rays farm system this year. Now I will never argue with a Vandy grad, but I just want him to have a shot to know the systems and not rush his progress. When he gets called up to the Big club, he may get hit like a pinball for a few weeks, but being a Southeastern Conference pitcher is a bit of a farm system in its own right. The best have had a rough beginning until they adapt and conquer the unique strike zones and brutal power potential of a MLB batters’ box.
I love to hear bravado and throwing caution to the wind, but I think a year in triple-A and a call up down the line could be his best medicine. There are a great amount of talent in Double-A and Triple-A right now biting at the bit to get that Spring Reporting date here and start to show their stuff. Jeff Neimann, Jeff Ridgeway, JP Howell,Mitch Talbot, and ex-big club guys like Chad Orvella, Jae Kuk Ryu want another shot up here as well. And that does not include the future power pitchers scattered in the Montgomery, Columbus, and Vero Beach teams. The future looks really bright for this team in the pitching department.
Having a prospective rotation of………Scott Kazmir, James Shields,Matt Garza, and add any of these current teammates names,………Andy Sonnanstine, Jason Hammel and my favorite, Edwin Jackson to the mix, make for an exciting rotation problem that could win anytime they hit the rubber.
Back to reality. The addition of closer extrodinaire, Troy Percival only makes the 6th through 9th inning a more secure spot for the Rays.
What I am talking about is the fact that Gary Glover,Al Reyes, Dan Wheeler are proven MLB relievers who can make it a challenge for any team to try and score after the starter leaves the game. We have had great relievers before, but never in the middle roles.
I think Reyes showed a huge amount of class in knowing that what is right for the team is great for the future of this squad. I think that is why they picked up his option. There is no doubts or questions he is a plus everytime he hits the mound for us.
He might be the last guy to get the ball on most nights, but he is the first to know that this team has within reach lofty goals, and they are within reach most nights, even in Fenway Park.
Now I have heard a bushel basket of rumors about additons and subtractions to this team. I want to address my views on a few subtractions here.
Delmon might have been a player with a career that will bury his older brothers, but he also has the Young family cancer of that hidden danger and aggression that could ruin all that is good with……..a simple, casual walk to first. Rays’ fans know what I am talking about here. I enjoyed watching Aubrey Huff hit for years here, but when he started to jog down to first is when he got that dreaded “Ben Grieve” epidemic. Maybe it is in the aura of Right Field that our players get that attitude and begin to falter right in front of us.
Brendan Harris and Josh Wilson were the “blue collar” guys last year. Each guy experienced a banner year. they got to play ball almost every night and did it the right way. Both got rewarded in different ways.
Brendan got to play in another Dome, but has a great chance to be the everyday guy in the 5 hole up in Minn. Josh Wilson was put on the daily MLB waiver wire with the hopes he could pass through without a hitch. One big hitch, some people actually read those waiver wires daily. The Pirates took a gamble, and got another quality infielder for their rebuilding ballclub. We wish you a ton of success Josh……you did a great job for the short time you were a Rays. Just a reminder, we did get Josh on waivers from the Nationals last year. Karma? you never know.
The last two trades I want to discuss did not happen as of the writing of this blog. That does not mean that the teams are not on their cellphone right now mending the deal or twisting the pieces to fit both teams.
The First is the rumor of Edwin Jackson shipping off to Seattle for 1b/DH Ben Broussard. Now I am a huge “Action” Jackson fan, just ask him (lol). I liked Ben Broussard when he was an Indian, but I think his production has slowly seem a downward spiral. We could have done better even in a rumor than this one. Another rumor had the Mets again this year coveting Jackson. I do not know what the Mets’ still have left in their farm system. They have been active the last few years adding the missing pieces to their squad. But I am not sure their farm system is as strong as when we plucked Scott Kazmir from their clutches.
The second non trade is a two-parter.It is the “non” trading of Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli.
I know that Carl would love to be a part of the first winning team in this franchises’ short history. He should be a part of this celebration……front and center. Rocco I believe will come out of Spring Training in better shape, and better condition than any other time in his short Rays tenure.
I used to be out at the Rays complex delivering alot, and when Rocco was mending from his surgeries and bumps and bruises, he was always eagerly training and building himself up for his return. If you remember, Joe used to like to have Rocco in the dugout at home games and selected road series because of his great attitude and zest for success.
I think this time it is totally personal for Rocco. I feel he knows that the team took a gamble and signed him to a long term deal. He is a proud guy, and he is probably the most excited about reporting in Feb. 2008. Rocco stated in a news article he will relax this off season for a change. I believe that like I believe the “Clear” was a muscle relaxing ointment. FDA approved too………right? He is probably getting in the best condition both mentally and physically for this team.
Right Field has been a concern for the big wigs upstairs since Delmon hit the road for the Great White north. I think Jonny Gomes, Rocco, or even the tandem of Triple-A studs Fernando Perez or Jason Ruggiano can man it better than Cliff Floyd, Geoff Jenkins, or Darin Erstad. No disrespect to Darin, Luis Gonzalez, or Cliff. I even recently heard a rumor of my old baseball buddy Trot Nixon maybe being a good fit for us. He did hit great here against us, But remember fans,so did Jose Cruz Jr. when he was with the Jays and then got suddenly an average hitter at the Trop.
I think the Rays can have a perfect “wait and see” attitude here, unless Josh Hamilton is truly availiable….hint hint Andrew and Matt.
In conclusion, the non-tendered list of players will be announced in the coming weeks. This is a huge announcement that always has a few jaw dropping names on it. Things can change dramatically if a huge or unexpected name is released. There always seem to be a a few high dollar drops, or a player with health questions when these names hit a wire……………We shall see.
Kick the tires and look real close under the hoods there guys. This team is finally in a position to take quality over quantity in a players signing.
This team will have Carlos Pena back with a projected one year deal. Pena has two years until he is a Free Agent, but both sides are working towards a agreement in place before the Spring Training report date.
I think this might happen to both prove both sides points. His agent,Scott Boras says that “Carlos is just heating up”, and the Rays are hoping it was not just a fluke year offensively for Pena. Either way, Carlos will be a rich guy come Feb. 2008.
And we are a richer team both in knowing the talent is the best this team has fielded in its 11 years in the MLB. Sorry Fred McGriff, Wade Boggs and Jose Canseco. I wanted the “Hit Show” to be the thing that we measure our successes by, but that is not the case.
I will end this with a note about the hardest working Rays I have nkown in my years watching and following this team. Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi is always working with the pitchers and providing BP pitching and foul pole comments and analysis. I have known Scott for years and truly feel blessed to have ever met him. We have had a routine of him coming to give me some grief before every game down the Right field line after he tosses with the Rightfielders.
We have a habit of tipping our caps after the last out before he heads into the locker room for the night. Scott is a guy who has invited me out a few times when I have gone on road trips to celebrate with himself and a few people on the team. I have cherished these moments in Seattle and Cleveland. I look forward to 2008 for both the Rays sucesses, and seeing my baseball buddy again manning the Bullpen with Bobby Ramos. As always Scott, I tip my hat to you for what you do for the Rays, and our Section 138 fans group.
Only ( as of Dec 7th, 2008) 77 days until Pitchers’ and Catchers’ report ……..and I can’t wait until 8 am that day.