Results tagged ‘ Joel Peralta ’

2011 is Almost in the Books, but What a Season to Remember.

Usually around this time of the year Tampa Bay Rays blogs begin to countdown their top moments of the season. It was a historic season by many aspects. The team posted their third trip in four seasons to the October party, but also we saw so many of the Rays post their own moments of wonder and amazement it has to have all of us giddy with emotion knowing there are less than 100 days before the fun all begins again for 2012.

We saw the emergence of “the Legend”( Sam Fuld), the formulation of the “Magic of Kotch” (Casey Kotchman) movement, and also saw the further maturation of the Rays top tier players David Price and Evan Longoria. We saw Sean Rodriguez move across the diamond to the 6-hole and show why he has always been a prized reward of the Scott Kazmir trade. Desmond Jennings came up and proved once and for all he is not a “Crawford”-clone, but has his own power, style and base-stealing magic.

Matt Joyce proved he had the stuff to hit left-handers, and Ben Zobrist again show the “Zorilla” style traits we all fell in love with during the 2008-2009 campaigns. From starters to Bullpen the Rays hurlers showed promise, unexpected magical moments and the durability of the staff graybeard as James Shields merited Cy Young consideration.

2011 was suppose to be a rebuilding season, but the only rebuilding the Rays did was on their reputation and solidarity to fixate on that post-season goal and drive towards it with vigor and vitality. This season will not go down in Rays history as the most productive on paper, but the 91 wins posted by this squad were 1 better than their rivals the Boston Red Sox and produced another champagne moment within Tropicana Field.

Rays Manager Joe Maddon instilled a “Find Another Way” mantra on his troops early this Spring and several players in the Rays fold responded by showing their abilities are on par with this league even if their MLB service clocks show minimal numbers. Jennings might have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt in 2011 he should be the heir apparent to the Rays lead-off hitter the Rays for 2012. Joyce finally got the at bats to prove he can be the Rays everyday right-fielder and run producer.

All five members of the Rays 2011 posted over 10+ victories with Shields leading the field with a 16-12 record. Not only did Shields lead his young Rays comrades in “W’s”, he also topped the squad in innings pitched (249.1 innings), strikeouts (225) and ERA (2.82 ). Filling in gaps within the season the Rays saw the promise of brilliance of Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and the late season relief pitching of Alex Torres.

Pitching definitely defined so many of these great Rays moments, but the bats did not remain silent during the carnage. We saw new closer Kyle Farnsworth struggle but post a career high with 25 saves, but we also saw the season toll takes it effect on one of the most intimidating players in the game. But the Rays Bullpen which featured 3 lefties for most of the season closed down offenses with RP Joel Peralta providing his own brand of set-up brilliance as well as posting 6 saves. From inning 1 to 9 this Rays team’s pitching tried to set the tone and bring home a win on a nightly basis.

Who will forget that Home Run hit by Longo to seal the Rays post-season against the Yankees on the season’s last day in extra frames about the same time ex-Rays LF Carl Crawford missed a dying quail in Baltimore to propel the Rays into the October party.

With that singled out win on the last day of the 2011 campaign, the Rays ended up posting their only winning September ever with a 16-10 record. It also secured the squad’s third straight 90+ win season, How pale does that starting 1-8 record look now in retrospect as corks exploded within the Trop’s confines and players and fans celebrated together.

Rookies earned their Rays letters this season at an alarming rate as Moore, Brandon Gomes,Torres, Jake McGee and Jeremy Hellickson combined to bring home 8 of those 16 September victories among them, further showing the promise and prosperity that should bring about more moments of celebration and excitement in 2012 for this talented 5-some. Each of these 5 hurlers definitely earned their Rays letterman’s sweaters complete with a shaving cream pie.

But even with the emergence of the rookies, some of the Rays players saw their season as constant reminders of the ever-changing MLB environment. Pitchers J P Howell and Andy Sonnanstine began the 2012 Spring Training with high expectations and a want to show their abilities for this team. Sonny ended up in Triple-A Durham for most of the season, and Howell who came on later in the season never seemed to find the right groove or positive upward momentum. But that is the joy of the New Year, resolutions can be made, and the past is just that…past.

The 2011 season has long been put into the record books, but 2011 is slowing winding down towards it’s last tick of the clock and should be remembered as a season of true fortitude, ever-present resilience and a combined team-wide confidence stemming from the veterans to rookies that this team could win on any given night.

But still if I had to pick a moment of clarity for the Rays, a scene that showed the drive, commitment and determination of this squad it was on the 180th day of the season, in the 12th inning Longoria proved once and for all he is the man to follow on this squad even before his 31st Home Run made human contact in the right field stands. So as we begin to enter the 15th season for the Rays, Sonny has found a new home with the Cubs, Maddon has darkened his hair a few shades.

Changes are still in store for this team before they cross the Port Charlotte, Florida threshold this Spring. Some players have solidified their spots on the roster while others have the Rays scouting and Coaching staff wearing out the erasers on their pencils trying to mesh and mold this squad to take that next step. Can’t wait for that crystal ball to fall in NYC soon because that will symbolize that 2012 is squarely upon us, and the memories of 2011 are just that…fond and precious memories.

Pondering the Rays Pending Tender Decisions

This is one of those times that Major League Baseball players who are within the salary arbitration process either dread or look forward to with glee. It is the time that their clubs either shower them with confidence and acknowledgment Spring. The Tampa Bay Rays are no different, they will have to decide within the next 24 hour period who is worthy, and who has put on a Rays jersey for the last time.

You might think the process is easy, but with 6 players et to enter the arbitration pressure cooker in this 2011 off-season, I truly think only half of this group which includes LHP David Price, CF B J Upton, RP Joel Peralta, RP/SP Andy Sonnanstine, SP Jeff Niemann and former closer J P Howell can rest easy.

Two of this group could be non-tendered on Monday, while a third could possibly be tendered with a quick resolve to trade them before the arbitration process unfolds this Spring. Only Peralta seems on completely sturdy ground with an impressive 2011 campaign, and an estimated $ 2 million arbitration salary. A great set-up man like Peralta would easily set the Rays back possibly double what Peralta could get in arbitration, and that makes him a safe bet to be with the team this Spring.

Instantly members of the Rays Republic will be scratching their heads wondering if I had taken a hallucinogenic or have lost my friggin’ mind because I did not include the Rays ace, Price in this category. I would think the team is already in closed-door discussions with Price and his agent possibly trying ti iron out an extension, or possibly a viable financial situation that would keep both Price and the Rays smiling beyond his arbitration years.

Price has always been a “team-oriented” player, and if he and the Rays can come together on an extension, then we could see Price blossom in a Rays jersey for a long time. If not, some team would unload their farm system for a guy who is still evolving and is a left-hander. With an estimated $ 7.8 million salary for casted via arbitration for Price, without some sort of unilateral agreement between himself and the Rays, his future will become cloudy within the next 2 seasons, which would be a shame for both sides.

B J Upton is another guy who could easily vault past the $ 7.5 million hurdle with estimates ranging from $7.4-7.6 million for the Rays versatile CF. Upton is one of two players currently in the Rays arbitration process who could see himself being offered arbitration, and possibly be dealt before the team reports to Spring Training in Port Charlotte, Florida in mid-February. Still, Upton has the unique distinction of being “affordable” by Center fielder’s price points, but with several emerging candidates, including Sam Fuld or Desmond Jennings already bursting through on the MLB level, Upton has to feel he is not on stable footing.

The other player who could have pulled on a Rays uniform for the last time is RHP Jeff Niemann. Even though Niemann could only cost an affordable $ 3.1 million through arbitration, the Rays have a budding stable of pitching ponies behind the Tall Texan, and his health concerns and in juries over the past two seasons could make him an instant trade candidate and the least likely player to still be with the team this Spring.

Even though the other “silent assassin”, Wade David is also being mentioned in trades chatter, Davis has an extended contract with the Rays already in hand and that makes his situation more stable compared to Niemann. The Rays could still offer arbitration to Niemann knowing they will also explore trade situations and possibly use his salary arbitration as a key point in their trade talks, maybe even including a minor league prospect or money to another team to take Niemann.

So far on the arbitration forefront we have seen a “sure thing” and another arbitration eligible player who can be included in that category, but who might become expensive in the next 2 years. Also we have explored 2 players who might be on the top shelf of trade chatter, and who could even with salary arbitration attached to them be dealt even before their Spring hearings. Also to consider either of these 2 players could also be involved in a sign and trade situation giving their new squad a bit of financial relief, Niemann seems to be the one definite player on the cusp, but he has value on the trade front, so arbitration might be in the cards on Monday for Niemann.

There are still two player who might have pulled on their Rays uniforms for the last time, and it hurts me that both are baseball friends of mine. Both of these guys have sweat bullets for the team and been “company men” for the Rays enduring heartaches, surgeries and even unexpected trips away from the Rays that might have secured their destiny.

Andy Sonnanstine has done everything ever asked of him by the Rays, but with most of the 2011 season in “arbitration purgatory” with the Triple-A Durham Bulls, Sonny might be an easy candidate for the Rays to non-tender. This is a guy who has been comical, serious and multi-dimensional his entire Rays career, but with the current young guns pushing the ceiling for a shot in the majors, Sonny might be expendable. Even his affordable $1.1 million arbitration estimate might be more than the Rays would be willing to fork over for middle-of-the-road starter/reliever with the huge surplus of young talent on the cusp of being MLB ready.

This pains me, but LHP J P Howell took a huge step backwards in 2011, and that could cost him more than money. Sure he was trying to get back into the seasonal flow coming back into the Rays Bullpen towards the middle of the season, but his numbers and velocity took a tumble even with his mechanics at times plaguing his performance. His favor is an affordable $ 1.4 million estimate for his arbitration, and that could possibly push him over the hump and get an arbitration offer from the team.

But you have to consider Howell has stiff competition this Spring with fellow southpaws’ Jake McGee and Cesar Ramos again manning the hill for the Rays. It might come down to the intangibles like leadership, potential and if Howell can regain his velocity and trickery in 2012. You have to think an entire off-season to prep and regain his command and composure would benefit Howell, but could it be too late to impress the Rays brass that he will come back stronger in 2012.

I would love to see all 6 eligible players get a chance to go through the arbitration process for the Rays this Spring, but the numbers might not support such a move. With an early estimated $ 52.1 million payroll for 2012 with arbitration eligible figures included, that poses a 27 percent raise in the Rays payroll projections, and possibly 11 players topping the $1 million salary mark for 2012, any of these 6 arbitration eligible players could be gone to further lower the projected payroll before a single free agent to signed.

This is a critical year for the Rays with the Boston Red Sox’s recent contemplation of staying under the luxury tax threshold in 2012, and the possible addition of a second American League Wild Card spot anticipated, and all financial decisions on Monday could play into the Rays final position come the end of September. The arbitration process has a way of being cruel or kind depending on your position at the end of the day, but it is a viable way for teams to keep themselves solvent and reduce personnel during the off-season.

Peralta, Price and Upton should be on terra firma on Monday while Sonnanstine and Howell might be chin-deep in a puddle of quicksand without any rope or long branches to save them. Still, the one player who might be in the most vicarious position might be the 6′ 9” Niemann. He has the ability but not the sustained health for the Rays to confidently say without a hint of remorse he should get an arbitration hearing. Niemann will certainly get a hearing, but it might be a precursor to his eventual trade from the Rays.

No matter what happens on Monday, these 6 players have brought instances of joy and memorable events to all of us in the Rays Republic and I hope not matter what the outcome they know they will always be Rays in our eyes. Thank goodness the Rays do not have upwards of 10+ arbitration decisions that teams like the San Francisco Giants (13), Oakland Athletics (10),  San Diego Padres (11) and Red Sox (10) on Monday. Those arbitration decisions could dissect half of their roster in one day. Talk about a stressful day.

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!



I Have Great Empathy for Relievers

I want everyone in the Rays Republic to think about something for a moment, then decide for yourself if you could handle this same zany job description day in, and day out.

You start off by sitting and watching a baseball game unfold in front of you while sitting in one of the best seats in the house, down in the Tampa Bay Rays Bullpen. You are not stretched out at all, possibly having thrown the night before and have a bit of a soreness to your body. Suddenly the Bullpen phone rings.

Someone points to you and the mound and you suddenly have to escalate your velocity from an initial soft, loosing throw to full bore heat in less than 20-25 pitches before you are whisked into the emotional swirling dervish of the game, possibly thrust head-first into an inferno hoping initially in your mind you do not get burned.

One wrong placement, one slight variance from the norm and you are standing there waiting for another ball from the Home Plate Umpire. That is the Topsy-turvy always unnerving world of relief pitching. I consider it one of the worst job in baseball. In no other sport can you go as quickly from hero-to-zero faster than being an Major League Baseball reliever. No other position on a baseball team mentally asks you to omit the previous day’s events and start a-fresh immediately with confidence and swagger.

Because relievers do not get extended outings, their ERA ‘s tend to balloon faster than Kobayashi’s stomach on the 4th of July. Their pitches are subject to Talk Radio fodder even if the previous pitcher left the bases loaded with no outs, it is that “reliever’s fault” someone hit a “Texas Leaguer” into the outfield. He inherits the trouble and his pitches are analyzed by everyone no matter if it brings a strike or a Home Run

Sitting on that Bullpen bench is the ultimate emotional and mental roller coaster which has to be re-programmed nightly, forgetting the previous game’s events and finding a new individual focal point for yourself, bringing a sense of renewed clarity and vigor for that next contest. No where else is Rays Manager Joe Maddon mantra of “thinking about a game for 30 minutes then forget it” have more intense daily mental rotational pull than the Bullpen.

Talk about stress. A reliever is usually not granted a 3 or even 5 run lead on most nights when he hit the pitching rubber. He is more apt to be glaring down a pair of runners in scoring position with a single out than have the luxury to pin-point three nice breaking balls, then take a comfy seat on the dugout bench.

People wonder why relievers have more meltdowns than field players, consider that a game usually hinges on their skills and when the bad things happen, they can not hide, they are bare to the catcalls and fodder of the fans as they walk to the dugout either after a pitching change or in the middle of an inning. It doesn’t carry the glamor or the prestige of being a starter, the reliever is the “housekeepers of baseball”, coming on to clean up a mess more than to accent a great pitching performance.

It almost seems like if you were an MLB reliever you would have a sports psychologist on your speed dial, possibly on-call 24/7 to vent, speak or exorcise the potential nightly hazards of a meltdown of epic proportions, or the annihilation of an opponent with a 9-pitch half inning. Relief pitching is where extreme opposites in game action tend attract. Every action has a reaction, even some that are not pleasant.

Think about this for a moment, as you walk, strut or sprint in from the Bullpen, every eye in the stadium is on you trying to dictate on an insane celestial plane if game day magic or horror awaits the masses during your performance. In one throw, one swing, one moment stamped in time, you can go from the penthouse to the basement, and then you have to throw another pitch.

Maybe that is why I never try and purposely throw relievers “under the bus” when something bad happens. Considering most of the time they are summoned because a bad thing is about to happen, how can you thrust all that guilt and judgment for an impending loss upon a pitcher who is just trying to produce an easy way out, get the perfect pitch to ruin a rally, who’s every pitch can potentially swing the momentum back and forth like a pendulum towards his squad and away from their adversary.

Relievers do seem to hold the balance of a game in the palm of their hand. One false move can change the course of a game,can provide a key moment of clarity for either side, and leave at least one person shaking their head in disbelief. Maybe that is why I vent, release but never blame or condemn a reliever.

Some have mocked this breed of pitcher for his zany actions, bi-polar like transformations from being so friendly and sweet before a game and then turn into a classic son-of-a-boitch when he needs to pull from his dark side on the mound. Acting like another person, possibly even cursing at the ball like former Rays RP Grant Balfour is his unique way to cope with the impending doom or glory.

For it is an extreme slippery slope from great outing to implosion, and as a reliever stands on that mound, he is alone. That is why I do not speak in anger ever to theses guys, not for fear of backlash, but because I know they do a job more difficult than hitting a round sphere going almost 100 mph. Take a special breed of player to let a game wash off their backs like a duck.

Maybe that is why I like relievers, maybe that is why I hold them in high esteem even when thing go terribly South for they are their own sculptors of the flotsam and jetsam surrounding this game. Without relievers this game would take on such a different dimension. That and they chew the best bubble gum. 

Will the Price Be Right?

Do not want to douse even a smidgen of the fires that have blazed brightly recently within the Rays Republic as the the growing enthusiasm and enlightenment after Tampa Bay Rays southpaw starter David Price’s recent flame throwing display against the Toronto Blue Jays. But I would be guilty of deception if I didn’t remind the Rays Republic, this same action is going cost us.

It really doesn’t seem possible that Price has been going to the Rays hill every 5 days for almost 3 full Major League Baseball seasons. It still seems like just yesterday he thrust his arms and glove into the Trop’s air celebrating a ALCS Game 7 victory over the troublesome Boston Red Sox. Has time, and Price’s abilities really flown by us that fast, and vaulted that high into the stratosphere?

Considering Price just pulled a proverbial late Dog Days of Summer juicy rabbit out of his Rays cap during his uniform inspired 14 strikeout matinée performance, all Price’s agent and Rays front office could visualize on Sunday was a plethora of giant “$’s” piling up instead of the classic “K’s” around Tampa Bay.

Believe me, I am not trying to downsize or minimized the importance of this feat of establishing a new Rays single game K mark, it just come at a bit of a….price.

Most of us around the Rays Republic possibly have dug a deep hole in our subconscious to hide the fact that Price will wander into virgin territory this off season becoming first arbitration eligible for the first time This Winter Price could easily double his current $ 1 million dollar 2011 salary. Some “guesstimates” have his starting figure at $ 1.8 million and growing with each impressive outing.

You could realistically say that Price is pitching his way right now towards either a lucrative possible multi-year situation with Rays management somewhat like the Rays payroll team friendly contract guidelines that fellow Rays starter and graybeard James Shields signed a few years ago.

Even if Price were to command a larger starting point to a multi-seasonal, possibly $ 2 for 2012 then escalating, it would be more payroll friendly than awaiting yearly arbitration figures to be exchanged and possibly going to a hearing and having the Rays come out on the losing end. I know we all collectively hope the writing will be on the wall soon to shadow a possible long-term Price love fest.

Maybe the Rays are secretly whispering sweet nothings, or sliding little Fourth Floor Conference Room Post-It notes already with respectable dollar figures to Price’s representation as we speak. I can see the Rays wanting to adamantly keep Price’s mind and talent between that 60 feet 6 inch tunnel until the season is completed, with no interruption, and no tangled webs.

You have to believe that the ever tightening purse strings of the Rays bankroll from here on out this Winter will be stretched so far Ben Franklin will be screaming from the pain. With the likes of Price, B J Upton, Andy Sonnantine, J P Howell and Joel Peralta all hitting arbitration this Winter, money allocated might be tighter than 2011, possibly even reduced a bag or two of Franklin’s.

But Price is the big fuzzy prize that needs to be either compensated with a nice salary escalation, or his escalating arbitration amount could possibly transform into a yearly bloody dagger thrust deeply into the Rays payroll’s heart.

Of the 5 names above, Price is the one that will possibly get the lion’s share of the arbitration prize, with Upton all but assured publicly being granted his walking papers this Winter by so many outside Rays prognosticators.

Even with so many hurlers knocking on the Rays doors to get a Major League chance from the Rays Triple-A Durham Bulls corral, Price is still the Rays King of the Hill, their Ace par excellent, The Rays promotional focal point for many years. Price is here to stay, and that will come with… a price.

Believe me, I am one of those who think that the Los Angeles Dodgers discussions with their own ace Clayton Kershaw will have a direct correlation with what happens with Price this Winter. Kershaw’s “secret covert” contract extension could set the early bar as to what extent or how wide the Rays will have to open their own pocketbook. The Dodger Blue have been spoiled this season by the emergence of Kershaw, and his pay day is also coming this Winter.

In the end, Price deserves to be rewarded. He has been a valuable and valiant member of this Rays rotation and has plenty of more years and feat still hidden within the cells of that magical left arm. With every feat however his salary balloons, the Rays chances of retaining Price when he finally hits that top plateau increases.

Price is magical both on and off the field. Be it community events, signings or even a small chat by the walls before a Sunday contest. Price is proving every 5 days his ascending worth and value to this Rays franchise. Soon it will be the Rays time to show Price a balance sheet to illustrate their own projections of his worth through their own eyes. Hopefully they will not see the “$’s”, but will see his heart bleeds Rays Carolina blue and reward him for his sweat, tears and occasional sunflower seed showers.

Could “Well Rested” Be a Rays Bullpen Problem?

Cruz1.jpg

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.





Andrew Friedman: Reloading the Rays, Not Rebuilding.

 

TBO.com/Unknown Photog

I really do not know how Tampa Bay Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman keeps doing it. For a long span of this off season it was almost as if the Rays entire front office staff closed their doors until almost January.

It was if the Rays staff wanted to sit there lurking as the MLB Free Agent market set its ceilings and cellars for positional and pitching. Then like a top of the food chain predator, Friedman awoke from his Rip Van Winkle slumber and proceeded to hand pick his replacement fruit from the still bountiful MLB player trees.

Evan as other free agents started getting plucked with vigor from the tree by other teams in haste, Friedman acted more like a customer in the produce aisle thumping the exterior of players like a ripe melon. His first move of the off season Friedman went out and signed promising ex-Nationals right-hand reliever Joel Peralta on December 17,2010 to help fill the first piece of the Rays Bullpen overhaul.

In his now classic under a cloak of secrecy Rays style, Friedman was also concluding one trade deal with the San Diego Padres to ship one of his big ticket arbitration eligible Jason Bartlett on the same day as the Peralta singing. Still lurking in the darkness was a thunderous trade of Rays starter Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs on January 8, 2011. Friedman made out like a bandit on both trades bringing back a bountiful treasure trove of both MLB quality players, plus some high caliber prospects that will help reload the Rays farm system for the next Rays reload.

The trades of his two highest dollar arbitration eligible players helped Friedman free up just over $ 10 million to pursue some big fish for other Rays glaring holes in their Bullpen, plus a big bat to protect Evan Longoria in the Rays line-up. But the Tampa Bay sun was shining bright on Friedman as two of his other arbitration eligible players Centerfielder B J Upton and reliever Andy Sonnanstine both signed one year contracts freeing up Friedman from any possible arbitration hearing duty this Spring.

Just as you thought Friedman might take a deep breath and relax for a brief moment, Friedman went out and got his intimidating back-end of the Bullpen reliever in RHP Kyle Farnsworth on January 15. Friedman then possibly made a few decoy moves in signing complimentary pieces RHP Dirk Hayhurst and 2B Daniel Mayora to minor league deals with a Spring Training Invites.

Then in Friedman style, just when you thought that the MLB cupboard was starting to become mighty bare, Friedman signs Tampa Bay native and defensive First Baseman Casey Kotchman to a minor league deal. The Kotchman deal might have been another Friedman diversion as his next deal had some around the MLB wondering if the Rays were in fact rebuilding or just simply reloading.

One day after Kotchman signed, the Rays announce their biggest off season signing of the season, a duo signing of Lf/DH Manny Ramirez and LF/DH Johnny Damon to one year contracts that are very team friendly. Ramirez and Damon’s combined salaries will cost the Rays around $ 7.25 million (not including Damon’s attendance incentives), which still is only $ 1.75 million LESS than the Rays paid Pat Burrell for his services through mid-May 2010.

If you even include Farnsworth’s $ 3 million base salary (not including games finished incentives), the three signings will sneak just under the projected off season arbitration figures of traded players Bartlett and Garza ( $ 10.5 million). Only Friedman could trade away two important cogs of the Rays roster and get so much back in return, plus prospects who will help keep the Rays payroll in check for a long time.

TBT.com/unknown Photog

But that is the magic of Friedman. Somehow he can come into a do-or-die cost-cutting scenario with only a bale of wheat or hay and come out in the end spinning a strand of thin gold into a tight ball. You have to seriously wonder just how savvy and creative Friedman was as an investment banker if he can do all of this with a significantly reduced Rays payroll (proposed ceiling between $40-50 million).

Pull up the Rays 40-man roster going into Spring Training, including their under the radar Spring Training Invites. On February 15, 2011 when Rays pitchers and catchers begin their first 2011 workouts, it will be just over 60 days since Friedman’s first signing of Peralta. Just think about the level of talent already assembled, and we still have over 10 days for Friedman to still daze and confuse us before that first workout.

Not since that first Rays blunder under Friedman’s watch when the Rays tried to sneak Josh Hamilton through the Rule 5 Draft, has Friedman toughened up and taken a firm stand that he will never be surprised like that again. Deal for deal, salary for salary, I truly think Friedman might have gotten the most money back on his entire player investments since taking the Rays reins.

Besides the tarnish of the Burrell debacle, there is nothing but shine to Friedman’s trade and Free Agent moves. Since his emergence on the MLB scene, Friedman has been simply golden. Gifted with a crack Scouting Department, piles and piles of correlated data and visuals, plus an eye for talent, Friedman has made the Rays a role model for team competing on a shoestring budget.

But do not be surprised if in the next 10 days, before February 15th if Friedman doesn’t pull another off-the-cuff deal that seemed to come out of nowhere. But then again, that is okay, Friedman is not rebuilding the Rays, he is just helping them reload

Peralta Could Win the Closer Role this Spring

 

Kansas+City+Royals+v+Tampa+Bay+Rays+F-GlexHr9xQl.jpg

(Getty Images) Vs Rays 7/28/2008 @ Tropicana Field

 

With the Tampa Bay Rays Bullpen beginning to take some shape and form, the glaring question that is still out there shining bright is who might assume the closer’s role for 2011? Some have speculated recently that former Rays closer Rafael Soriano could possibly stroll back to the Rays for a one year contract, then embark again in the 2011 off season or at the Trade Deadline to another locale. If you believe that, I got a nice bit of land to sell you 30 miles deep in the Everglades.

Not that I wouldn’t love to see MFIKY (Mother Fudge(sic) I Kill You) back on the Rays mound to again promote some sort of stability to this Rays off season Bullpen purge. Soriano would give instant credibility to the Rays rebuilding process, but it would come at a astronomical gut shot (> $ 10 million) to their 2011 process of decreasing their payroll. Even if the Rays could promote an “out” into a Soriano 2011 contract that he could depart in late July before the Trade Deadline to a team poised for playoff chances, it might be a fantasy option. I still have that swamp land people? Are there any takers?

So with the idea of Soriano still floating up in the dream clouds of the optimistic few within the Rays Republic, let’s take a more realistic gander at a player who might have the solid credentials and moxey to simply scoot into the Rays closer spot right now for 2011.

Rays Manager Joe Maddon has pulled menagerie of a “closer-by-committee” approach before with the Rays, and if the season started today, I could honestly see him implementing it again until someone like Joel Peralta rises to the top. There is a formidable albatross hanging around the Rays Bullpen neck that Maddon will possibly go heavier into using his patented approach of using pitcher-to-hitter match-ups again.

When the Rays recently signed RHP Joel Peralta to a one year contract, it might have gone under the Rays Republic radar that he could be the eventual closer for this team in 2011. Peralta will be the oldest pitcher the Rays staff in 2011. His age will not be the defining factor to put him high on the list for consideration for the closer’s role. The right-hander signed after declining arbitration from the Washington Nationals, but the former Nats reliever did post some impressive numbers in a limited role for the Nats Bullpen in 2010.

Peralta has been recently compared as another “Dan Wheeler”-type pitcher for the Rays, but his 49 strikeouts in 39 relief appearances in 2010 begs to differ and shows he might have a better upside than Wheeler did for the Rays in 2010. And with his adjustments in 2010 while with the Nats, his plummeting ERA against left-handers (1.59) have given the Rays a reason to be optimistic in 2011.

Holding his opponents to a .170 batting average, Peralta only threw on the Major League level after the Nationals recalled him from Triple-A Syracuse on June 21,2010. Peralta only posted a 2-0 record with a 1.08 ERA to go along with a nifty 20-for-20 mark in the save department for Syracuse.

Peralta lowered his ERA to a paltry 0.64 in the late innings of close games in 2010 for the Nationals. In 12 late inning appearances, Peralta allowed only 4 hits and a solo run while striking out 20 batters. From the day of his 2010 debut (6/21) with the Nets, Peralta ranked 4th among National League relievers in innings pitched and second in on-base percentage( .214). His WHIP in those late inning appearances was a minute 0.50, all clear indicators that Peralta should be the front runner to the Rays closer spot.

55229c_peralta12172010.jpg

News,bostonherald.com photo

 

The Dominican born Peralta is just finished his 2010 Winter season with the Dominican Winter League playing for the CIBA Giants in the Dominican Baseball League. Peralta did post a 0-1 record. But appeared in 15 games and produced a 1.17 ERA with 9 saves. In his 15.1 innings, Peralta surrendered one Home Run and two earned runs behind his .124 opponents batting average and 24 strikeouts.

After Peralta’s impressive Dominican Winter experience, it seems that Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman might have possibly found another “Benoit”-type Bullpen addition for the Rays this off season. But with the Rays Fan Fest date of Saturday, February 12, 2011 coming quickly, Peralta might just have the longest line for autographs even before the season begins.

Sure the line will be long to welcome and introduce him to the Rays Republic, but something tells me deep down that Peralta just might be that solid anchor and legitimate pitcher who might make all of us forget a little quicker the tremendous job done by Soriano in 2010. Peralta is not just one year wonder who is suddenly sprouted up out of the ground in 2010. He made it to the show as an outfielder with the Oakland A’s back in 1997, but was converted to a pitcher in 1999 by Joe Madden’s old club, the Los Angeles Angels.

Peralta then spent part time duty with the Angels (2005), Kansas City Royals ( 2006-2008) Colorado Rockies (2009) and then the Nationals. His overall career ERA of 4.22 might not speak “closer immediately to you,. Peralta’s time in the hitter friendly Coors Field while with the Rockies vaulted his ERA to the 6.02 mark, but has shown massive improvement after getting closer to sea level in Washington.

Right now (at least in my mind), Peralta has a solid chance to take the reins and be the reliever the Rays must have in the late innings. He has the MLB experience, the statistics to warrant a hard look, he is posting numbers this Winter to solidify a claim for the role this Spring.

The ball is now in Peralta’s hand to establish that his name is clearly written in ink at the end of the Rays Bullpen order instead of Madden possibly using a pencil to erase, or add Peralta’s name to that nights closer’s role using his old pitcher-to-hitter match-up system. Winners like Peralta want the ball. Hopefully Madden see this too and gives him the ball in the closing moments of games in 2011.

Tendering Some Love to the Players…….Tendered Players 2008

 

 

The Greatest thing a player can learn on a day like today is how much his club loves what he does on the field for them. But sometimes even that get a bit blurred and the images seems to fade a bit before the reality comes that you either have a new start somewhere else, or you contact your old team and see if they just wanted you at a cheaper price.

 

Every December 12th, the MLB goes through this  sadistic tactic of non-tendering and tendering contracts to the arbitration eligible players on their rosters. Some people are shoe-ins to get picked up because of talent or maybe even a low cost towards the next year budget. Others are looked at under a microscope and the decisions might come down to dollar signs and not talent or ability.

 

 

                  

 

 

That is the sad reality of this date. You could be an up and coming talent, or a veteran that just had an off year and you could be looking for a job in a heartbeat after midnight tonight.  Also, just because they decided to offer you a contract doesn’t mean that the wheels stop turning and you might still be dealt to another team and they will make the decision on your fate again, and maybe at a financial disadvantages.

 

So on and on tonight I will be adding to this blog until I have a final idea of who, what where, when and why might pop up and bite some unsuspecting player on the buttock. Seriously here, there will be some surprises tonight. Some players might be getting held ransom for a financial sacrifice, while other might be rewarded for unforeseen changes in their game or ability. Which ever come about, it is not the end of the world or a career with any of the players tonight.

 

 

                                     

 

Everyone will find a place to play in 2009, it might not be the town you are currently playing in, but it also might turn into the best decision of your life. Just because you came up with a certain club does not mean that there are not other staffs or coaches’ salivating that your name is on the list tonight. People always have choices in life. The path we take is not predestined as many believe, but they are earmarked with signs and signals we either adhere to or avoid.

 

The players on this list still have had the honor to play at a level that few people ever achieve in life, on or off the ball field. And with that in mind, you have to remember the sacrifices and the sweat and tears that got you to this level will be rewarded again.

 

So as we embark on this night when some believe a dream has ended, you have to remember that through every closed door there is another opportunity maybe even down the hall. Here is the list of the guys who got the love and admiration of their clubs tonight. This list will be in no certain order, but will be update throughout the night.

 

 

Tampa Bay Rays:

Gabe Gross                                        ( OF )

Dioner Navarro                                  ( C )

Jason Barlett                                     ( SS )

Willy Aybar                                       ( INF )

Grant Balfour                                    ( RP )

 

 

Kansas City Royals:

Esteban German                              ( INF )             1-year contract

John Buck                                       ( C )

Mike Jacobs                                    ( INF )

Mark Teahen                                   ( OF )

Brian Bannister                                ( SP )

Kyle Davies                                      ( RP )

Jimmy Gobble                                 ( SP )

Zack Greinke                                   ( SP )

Joel Peralta                                      ( RP )

       

 

 

Florida Marlins:

Jorge Cantu                                      ( 3 B )

Dan Uggla                                        ( 2 B )

Cody Ross                                        ( OF )

Jeremy Hermida                               ( OF )

Rick Nolasco                                    ( SP )

Josh Johnson                                   ( RP )

Alfredo Amezaga                             ( RP )

Logan Kensing                                 ( RP )

Dallas McPherson                             ( INF )

 

 

Philadelphia Phillies:

Shane Victorino                               ( OF )

Ryan Howard                                    ( 1 B )

Ryan Madson                                   ( RP )

Jayson Werth                                   ( OF )

Eric Bruntlett                                   ( INF )                   1-year contract

Clay Condrey                                   (  RP )                  1-year contract

Joe Blanton                                      ( SP )

Cole Hamels                                      ( SP )

Greg Dobbs                                      ( INF )

Chad Durbin                                    ( RP ) 

 

 

Seattle Mariners:

Eric Bedard                                     ( SP )

Aaron Heilman                                (SP, RP ) 

Felix Hernandez                              ( SP )

 

 

San Diego Padres:

Scott Hairston                                  ( OF )

Luis Rodriguez                                ( INF )

Jody Gerut                                       ( OF )

Heath Bell                                        ( RP )

 

 

Atlanta Braves:

Kelly Johnson                                   ( INF )

Matt Diaz                                          ( OF )

Jeff Francoeur                                  ( OF )

Mike Gonzalez                                 ( RP )

Omar Infante                                    ( INF )

Casey Kotchman                              ( 1 B )

 

 

Boston Red Sox:

Kevin Youkilis                                ( 1B )

Jonathan Papelbon                        ( RP )

Javier Lopez                                  ( RP )

 

 

Minnesota Twins:

Jason Kubel                                   ( D H )

Matt Guerrier                                 ( RP )

 

 

Los Angeles Dodgers:

Russell Martin                                ( C )

Andre Ethier                                  ( OF )

Johnathan Broxton                        ( RP )

 

 

Oakland Athletics:

 Rob Bowen                                   ( C )          $ 535,000    1-year contract

Justin Duchscherer                        ( SP )

Jack Cust                                      ( OF )

 

 

Chicago White Sox:

Dewayne Wise                              ( OF )              1-year,  $ 550,000 contract

Wilson Betemit                            ( INF )              1-year    $ 1.3 Million contract

 

 

Detroit Tigers: 

Ramon Santiago                           ( INF )           1-year  $ 825,000 contract

Marcus Thames                             ( OF )

Fernando Rodney                          ( RP )

Bobby Seay                                   ( RP )

Joel Zumaya                                 ( RP ) 

Justin Verlander                            ( SP )

Edwin Jackson                              ( SP,RP )

 

 

Cleveland Indians:

Kelly Shoppach                              ( C )

 

 

Chicago Cubs:

Chad Gaudin                                  ( RP )               1-year  $ 2 million contract

Ronny Cedeno                               ( INF )

Reed Johnson                                ( OF )

Neal Cotts                                      ( RP )                1-year  $ 1.1 million contract 

Mike Wuertz                                  ( RP ) 

Kevin Gregg                                  ( RP )

 

 

San Francisco Giants:

Jack Taschner                                ( RP )

 

 

Toronto Blue Jays:  

Jason Frasor                                  ( RP )

Brian Tallet                                    ( RP )

Brandon League                            ( RP )

Jose Batista                                   ( INF )

 

 

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Nate McLouth                                ( OF )

Adam LaRoche                             ( 1 B )

Ryan Doumit                                 ( C )

Zack Duke                                    ( SP )

John Grabow                                ( RP )

Tyler Yates                                    ( RP )

Paul Maholm                                ( SP )

 

 

St Louis Cardinals:

Rick Ankiel                                  ( OF )

Chris Duncan                               ( OF )

Todd Wellemeyer                        ( RP )

 

 

Colorado Rockies:

Garrett Atkins                               ( 3 B )

Clint Barmes                                 ( 2 B )

Jorge De La Rosa                          ( SP )

Taylor Buchholz                           ( RP )

Jason Grilli                                   ( RP )

Huston Street                                ( RP )

 

 

Cincinnati Reds:

Edwin Encarnacion                       ( INF )

 

 

Milwaukee Brewers:

Seth McClung                                  ( SP, RP )

Prince Fielder                                  ( 1 B )

Rickie Weeks                                  ( 2 B )

J J Hardy                                        ( S S )

Corey Hart                                       ( OF )

Dave Bush                                       ( SP )

 

 

Washington Nationals:

Ryan Zimmerman                         ( 3B )

Josh Willingham                          ( OF )

Scott Olsen                                   ( SP )

Shawn Hill                                    ( RP )

Willy Harris                                  ( SS )                           2-year  $ 3 million 

 

 

Houston Astros:

Brandon Backe                              ( SP )

Geoff Geary                                   ( RP )

Wandy Rodriguez                          ( SP )

Tim Byrdak                                   ( RP )

Jose Valverde                                ( RP )

Humberto Quintero                        ( C )

  

 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

Chone Figgins                              ( 3 B )

Robb Quinlan                               ( INF )

Maicer Ituris                                 ( INF )

Ervin Santana                              ( SP )

Mike Napoli                                 ( C ) 

 

 

 

As tonight comes to a close at midnight, the name will still be pouring in and this liost might not be totally complete by tomorrow afternoon. But I will do my best to be sure that you all have the latest listing of all players tendered contracts on December 12th.

 

I will also so a listing of the players who are deemed free agents now that their respective teams have put them on the open market. That listing might be a bit different as I want to block everyone into their respective positions, instead of teams for the non-tender list.

 

I will have that listing working by tomorrow afternoon and I have not decided yet if I might make prediction on what might happen to those players. As the night grows and the list gets longer, I will determine if that would be entertaining and informative to all of you.

 

 

 

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