Results tagged ‘ Joel Guzman ’

Willy Aybar versus the Rays………..Arbitration 2009

 

 
 

 

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.
 
 

Rays Designate Guzman, Add 2 to 40-Man Roster

 

The Rays have just added the following players to their  40 man MLB roster, and have designated INF Joel Guzman for assignment.
 
 
 

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Michel Hernandez

Born:August 12, 1978
Height/Weight: 6-0/215
Hometown: Lutz, FL

Position: Catcher
Bats/Throws: R/R
Number: 36
2007 TEAM: Somerset/Durham

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2007 Season
 
 
Began the year with the independent Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League.
Batted .342 with three home runs and 16 runs batted in over 25 games before signing with Tampa Bay as a minor league free agent on June 9.
Had a four-hit game on June 30 against Toledo.
Owned the longest hitting streak by a Bull at 16 games (June 28 to July 25), going 26-61 (.426) over the span.
Got three hits in a game against Richmond August 22. Career Highlights
Spent the 2006 campaign with Triple-A Memphis in the PCL, his second consecutive year in the league.
Played the entire 2005 season with Triple-A Portland of the PCL
Had his first season outside of the Yankees organization in 2004 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Made his only major league appearance in 2003 in five games with the New York Yankees, where he got a hit in four at-bats.
Made his professional debut with Oneonta in the Yankees organization in 1998.
 
PERSONAL / MISC 
 
 
Starred as the backstop for the Havana Industriales in the Cuban National League, the same club that produced Orlando Hernandez, Vladamir Nunez and Rey Ordonez.
Fled Cuba in October 1996 after his Havana team traveled to Mexico for a series of games. He was joined by four teammates.
Signed as a non-drafted free agent with the New York Yankees on May 11, 1998.

 

 

Team Roster

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Dan Johnson

Born:August 10, 1979
Height/Weight: 6-2/220
Hometown: Chandler, AZ

Position: Infielder
Bats/Throws: L/R
Number: 46
2007 TEAM: Sacramento
/OAKLAND

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2007 SEASON
 
Set career-highs in games, at-bats, home runs, runs batted in, walks and strikeouts and matched his best in triples.
Made his only career trip to the disabled list with a torn labrum in his left hip, missing only the first 20 games of the season.
His 15-game hitting streak from April 28-May 15 was Oakland’s longest on the season and his career-best.
Became the first player in Oakland history with at least four runs, four hits, four RBI, two home runs and two walks in one game on 5/10 at Kansas City.
Was named the American League Co-Player of the Week for May 7-13, sharing the honor with teammate Jack Cust.
Ranked second in the American League in pitches taken (64.5 percent).
Committed four errors in his first 59 games at first base and then went on to finish the season on a 38-game errorless streak. Ended with a .996 fielding percentage, a career-best.
Singled in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning on 8/31 against Detroit, his second walk-off plate appearance of the season.
Had his second two-homer game of the season on 9/15 against Texas, the third of his career. He also matched an earlier 2007 performance with four RBI, a career-best.
 
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
 
Started 2006 as the A’s first baseman, tying a team record by starting the year 0-for-27.
Made his major league debut in 2005, ranking second among AL rookies in on-base percentage (.355), tied for second in walks, third in slugging percentage (.451), tied for third in home runs and fifth in batting and RBI.
Named the Most Valuable Player of the Pacific Coast League in 2004.
Named to the Texas League’s Postseason All-Star Team in 2003 after finishing third in all of Minor League Baseball with 114 RBI.
Finished third in the A’s farm system in home runs, fourth in RBI and eighth in batting with Single-A Modesto in 2002.
Earned consecutive player of the week honors for the weeks of July 23-29 and July 30-August 5 in his first professional season with Low-A Vancouver in 2001.
 
PERSONAL/MISC
 
Originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the seventh round of the 2001 Draft.
Was a Second-Team All-America selection by Baseball America as a senior at the University of Nebraska in 2001, batting .361 with 25 home runs and 86 RBI.

Rays Tidbits

 

The Trivia question for today is for my die hard Red Sox’s Nation fans.

Who’s spirit is said to haunt the stands and press box of Fenway Park?

 

Here is a hint, the current voice of the Sox, Carl Beane, is known to voice a few commonly used  lines from this deceased, and beloved announcer every game . The answer will be at the bottom of the blog.

 

It has just been reported to me from the Rays coconut telegraph that the Rays have inquired about a player from the Atlanta Braves. The player being discussed is third baseman Wily Aybar. Wily was acquired by the Braves in the Dany Baez trade a few years ago from the LA Dodgers’, and has had a few off- field situations for the organization.

Is this might be an insurance policy for the Rays concerning top prospect Evan Longoria. I thought the Rays were set with either Longoria manning the 5-hole or ultra 3b/1b power maven Joel Guzman helping to fill the power gap and base duties until Longoria hit the big time.

Guess the Rays think that they might need another project player who has had situations with the MLB substance abuse system and has left hot-lanta for help from relatives in Boston, without the Braves knowing this beforehand.  Guess we need to have a charitable situation on every roster to remind us why free agents do not flock here to the rain-less confines of the Trop.

 

Granted, Aybar has power and a great glove. He is young( 24), and has a huge upside. But unlike Matt Garza, his upside comes with some baggage that we just traded off to the Washington Nationals. Unlike Dukes, there is no ex-wife or court battles lingering in his future, past or present. Abyar  has tried to show that his wrist injury and situation are behind him.  In Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic, playing for top team Licey, he compiled a .339 average and a .415 OPS in 15 games. 15 games is not the rigors of Spring Training or a 162 game season, but it does give insight to his health and the condition he is in this off season.

Let’s hope the Rays decide to gamble and let Longoria start at third this Spring Training without a upshot prospect looking over his back wanting his position. Let’s hope this team has finally taken the high road and can rely on it’s intuition more about it’s players and their potential. We have a great scouting system that has shown us we have a great knack for talent in our past and in the players coming through the system.

 

I have a few websites on my Bookmarks that show prospects and MLB trade rumors concerning  all baseballs current players. The one I like to visit every day is http://www.MLBTraderumors.com. I am thinking about asking them if they need a correspondent to do the upcoming season from a field-side aspect for the Rays. I have done this before for a newspaper, and during the year for a blob on MLB.com, but never on a daily basis with an emphasis on just one team or segment.

Another writer that has my interest is Eric SanInocencio from Rays Anatomy. He compels me more because he is based out of Birmingham ,Alabama and has a great sense of the Rays and their system. You got to remember that Birmingham is the town that gave you the Michael Jordan experience in the Minor Leagues, and is a hot bed for college and minor league baseball. He is very insightful and genuinely frank about our squad and the upcoming season. Please check it out, and if it is in your type of writing, and you like his style, bookmark him and check in daily, weekly or monthly if that is your thing.

 

I was hitting Rays Anatomy the other day, and saw a article about the Top 20 prospects in baseball. A few are already up in the MLB with short stints in September,2007 , like the Yankees’ Joba Chamberlain.

The Rays had 5 members in that Top 20 list. The second best prospect was, of course, Evan Longoria.  David Price was listed at number 4, but he has not pitched since the NCAA Regional last year and is predicted to make a fast upward move if his stuff is still there this spring. Price has the confidence and the gentle cockiness to know he can survive the MLB hitters and be a great starter for the Rays. I think this kid is the real thing and can be the hidden talent that James Shields showed us a few years ago. He has three pitches that are MLB quality right now.

 

 The thing is, he might need until July to get the rust out and get that command back where he is a threat every time he hits the rubber for the Rays. A lot of news organizations have the Rays contending in 2011 for a AL East crown. If that is the truth, the list of players mentioned in third blog will be the heart and soul of the rotation and lineup in that time period.

Reid Brignac is out future in the SS hole. I have no doubts about this guy after meeting him and seeing a short highlights film on him in the Minors last year. He as slick at the plate as he is in the field. Smooth, rhythmic and poised to be a power hitter in the bottom of the order for the Rays.  He is being nurtured slowly in the minors to develop fully before even hitting the Trop’s infield.

 

I will go on record as saying, that I was hoping B J Upton would get another shot here before Reid was brought up, but he is making a huge  improvement in the off season in Centerfield, and should be an All-Star in the near future with his speed and agility.

Wade Davis and Jacob McGee.

Well, to start, they were impressive at Gulf Coast League,Vero Beach last year before hitting the SW Michigan Rays squad, and have another productive year under their belts  They are currently pitching like a duo not seen since Greg Maddox and Tom Glavine. They have the tools and the abilities to be in the starting rotation in the coming years and be great supporting teammates to the guys they came up with in the Minors. They both have a great head on their collective shoulders and will be great influences in the system for a long time.

The last guy I am going to talk a bit about here is someone who is going to probably get a long look-at this Spring Training. I do not think he is going to be on the 25 man roster this spring, but he is coming up the Rays system fast, and will be pressing on the door this year, maybe as early as June or July.  John Jaso is a great draft pick who is doing everything asked of him the minors, and is going to get his deserved time this Spring.

 

Jaso is not even listed in the Top 10 prospects in the Rays system by some people because he has risen so fast behind the plate. He did something this past year that he has not done in prior Minor league seasons in the Rays system. He was healthy.

There are a few people who think that he will start just below the MLB level this year with the Triple-A Durham Bulls. With Dioner Navarro, and Mike De Felice manning the backstop this year, do not be surprised if Jaso get off to a great start, that he broad jumps a few catchers in the system and is sitting in the Bullpen at the Trop by September.

 

I like Navarro but he has not produced yet to show that high draft pick by the Yankees in the past. This is not to put a curse or hex on the guy. He is a great guy who grew up in the Tampa Bay area, and is a great feel good story for the organization. Dioner will have to keep that great batting streak going that he showed in the second half of the 2007 season to keep the talking to a whisper.

I hope this happens. I like the emotional firestorm that is Mike D, but he does come with some vocal disabilities behind the plate. Now, this is not to mean that he is shy or timid. The exact opposite is true here. Mike has been known to get tossed for his opinions and actions in the past. Just ask the Tigers about his rant a few years ago.  But to be totally frank here, it might be the attitude these young pitchers see from a catcher to give them that extra “umph” to push their game to the next level. An emotional catcher, and a vocal leader can fire up a situation faster than striking out the side.

We shall see.

 

Trivia answer:

It is said that former Red Sox announcer Sherm Feller visits the sox during the home stands and his presence has been felt at the park for a long time. The line that current announcer Carl Beane borrowed from Feller is to say the simple phrase of :”Thank You” after announcing the  teams coaches’. He sees it as a tribute to Feller because for many years, it was Feller’s style to conclude the lineups in that manor. He also does a opening nightly/daily greeting, “Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls, Welcome to Fenway Park”, just the way the Sherm Feller did all his years at Fenway Park. This adds a sense of history and continued elegance to this storied franchise.

 

 

With that, I am gone.  It is less than 28 days until Pitchers and Catcher report, and I am giddy as a school kid again.   I love the Spring.



 

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