Contract extensions are where Andrew Friedman and the Tampa Bay Rays shine. The Rays have done a terrific job in recent years locking up young talent with very reasonable contract deals. Past young stars such as Evan Longoria, David Price, James Shields, Carl Crawford, and Ben Zobrist were all signed to long-term contracts with the Rays. The club kept the trend going this offseason, signing phenom pitcher Matt Moore to an eight-year extension. As more talented youth continues to emerge from the depths of Durham, more names continue to be recognized as extension candidates. Let’s take a look a look at the Rays’ most probable contract extension candidates.
Matt Joyce is currently the club’s most renown extension candidate. With Carl Crawford gone and B.J. Upton possibly leaving sometime within the next year, Matt Joyce could be a big part of the outfield in the years to come. Joyce is exactly the type of player the Rays want in their future. At just 27, Joyce already provides a big left-handed bat in the middle of the lineup. Last year in his first full MLB season, he was the only Rays position player elected to the All Star Game in Phoenix. Joyce finished the season with a .277 average and 75 RBI’s, and showed major improvement in both his defensive and running game. A contract extension is probably an attractive option for both the Rays and Joyce. Joyce is a young player seeking long-term financial stability, while the Rays are a team looking for effective power hitters like him. I definitely see a contract extension for Matt Joyce as a possibility for the Rays, and I’m hopeful the team can work out a deal with him. I believe that signing Joyce to an extension this offseason is the right move for the Rays. Offensive production is vital for the Rays’ future, and a decently-priced deal could also be in line here. In a past article from ESPNFlorida.com, analyst Tommy Rancel brings up an intriguing idea on how a Joyce extension might work out. He states that Ben Zobrist’s contract, $18 million through four years plus two club options, could serve as a blueprint for a potential extension with Joyce. A recent article via MLBTradeRumors.com mentions some more points that could favor a contract extension. It suggests that Joyce could offer a discount, being a Tampa native. The article also talks about how Joyce’s lack of a big draft signing bonus could make him more interested in signing the extension. Hopefully, both Joyce and the Rays see the same golden opportunity here that I do. Andrew Friedman is on a roll, and we’ll see if he can pull off another masterpiece yet again.
Rookie outfielder Desmond Jennings is one of baseball’s young stars ready to take flight. Unlike most of the Rays’ talented young stars, Jennings isn’t a pitcher. He’s a wanted commodity in Tampa Bay, and he’s player the Rays really need to get a grip on. In his anticipated rookie season in 2011, Jennings was everything the Rays had expected and more. His great speed, defense, and contact hitting was already acknowledged by scouts everywhere, but his electric power that he displayed was a bit of a surprise. Like fellow candidate Matt Joyce, Jennings is also a huge part of the team’s future in the outfield. He is the complete package, and the Rays are really excited about this guy. Considering how much the Rays would love to have a player like Jennings in their future, a long-term extension with him could be very possible. Jennings is under team control for six more seasons, which is good news. Interestingly, Evan Longoria and Matt Moore are the only other Rays players ever to be extended for all six years of their team control. Longoria was guaranteed six seasons and Moore was guaranteed five season. Both were given three years of club options. The reason for the Rays’ larger commitment towards Longoria is because Moore (being a pitcher) is at a higher risk for injury. If the Rays decide to offer Jennings a contract extension, it will probably be more like Moore’s. The reason for this, is that the 25 year-old has already experienced a number of injuries in his professional career. Jennings’ health issues are obviously something that will go against the chance of an extension. However, the likeliness of B.J. Upton leaving the Rays next year is something that definitely favors a long-term deal. At the end of the day, I think it’s a no-brainer to extend Jennings’ contract. We’re talking about the future leadoff hitter of the team here, and someone who I believe will be essential to the Rays’ offense in the coming years. Locking up Jennings for the long-term will come with a price, but it’s well worth the money.
2011 AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson, by no surprise, is an appealing extension candidate. After winning the prestigious ROY Award, making efforts to negotiate some sort of long-term deal with Hellboy seems inevitable. Of course the Rays and all their fans would love to see Hellickson pitching in Tampa for as long as possible, but a contract extension would be pretty pricey. After such a stunning rookie season, Helly can obviously make a good case for a salary. The money is really the only thing that would get in the way of an extension. If the Rays and Hellickson work out a deal, it would be something like the contract agreements of fellow starters Wade Davis, James Shields, and Matt Moore (click here for a chart via DRaysBay.com). That means it would be somewhere in the range of 4-5 years guaranteed, with probably three years of club options. Considering the Rays’ surplus of starting pitching right now, I don’t see a long-term deal with Hellickson as much of a necessity as a Desmond Jennings extension. Still, keeping Hellickson in Tampa Bay is something the Rays should work on this offseason.
For small-market teams in Major League Baseball, most offseason wishes are not a reality. Though there are some players out there that the Rays may be able to afford. With pitchers such as Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann possible trade pieces, the trade market could be the key for the Rays to pick up some hitting. Names that maybe were on the Rays’ radar before are slipping away as the offseason progresses. Carlos Beltran just recently signed with the Cardinals, and others like Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer have also found a team. However, what the Rays need is just one or two good hitters to really bolster their struggling offense. The Rays haven’t found that bat yet, but there are still a few intriguing options out there for them. Take a look at some players the Rays would love to reel in this winter.
Colorado Rockies’ Seth Smith is the newest member of Rays trade rumors. A report from Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi says that the Rays are one of five teams interested in the 29 year-old outfielder. Smith is a solid hitter, who batted .284 and knocked in a career high 59 runs last year. Smith wouldn’t be the guy to fill in the empty DH spot, but he would help out the outfield depth chart. What makes the Seth Smith rumors most interesting, is that there is pretty good odds the Rays will land a deal with him. According to the Denver Post, the Rockies are interested in Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann. Colorado is seeking a No.3-type starter to fill in the rotation, making Davis and Niemann raise eyebrows in Denver. So to recap it all, it’s not a bad chance that Smith plays for the Rays in 2012.
The Rays could get pretty serious about getting prospect first-baseman Anthony Rizzo. After the five-player swap earlier this week, including Yonder Alonso being traded to San Diego, Rizzo immediately hit trade rumors. Sources say that the Cubs and Rays are two teams interested in Rizzo. With the Rays in need of a first baseman, it’s no surprised that they have already asked about Rizzo. I believe that he’s a player that the Rays really need to pick up this offseason. Rizzo played his first season in AAA last year, and put up ridiculous numbers. He exploded in Tucson, batting .331 and hitting 101 RBI’s in just 93 games. He also blasted 26 homers, displaying his terrific power. Rizzo is a guy with a great future in the big leagues, and somebody that would be great to have in the middle of the lineup complementing Longoria and Zobrist. The Padres would be looking for starting pitching in return for Rizzo, so Wade Davis could be used as trade bait. Unfortunately for the Rays, it appears that the Padres and Cubs are checking out a possible trade scenario including sending Matt Garza to San Diego. The Cubs are currently the only competition to get Rizzo, but they are a big obstacle.
Carlos Pena could be a free agent that interests the Rays in the upcoming month. Pena had success in his seasons with the Rays, and there is a possibility they bring him back. Pena batted .225 last year with the Cubs, hitting 28 homers and 80 RBI’s. With his big-time power and terrific defense, Pena could be a perfect fit to replace Casey Kotchman in 2012. The main problem though, is that he’ll probably be looking for a rather expensive multi-year deal. Pena’s agent Scott Boras said that Pena is likely not going to come a bargain price. That means that the odds signing Pena are pretty low. Anyways, acquiring Anthony Rizzo should be the Rays’ main priority. However, if the Rays can’t get a grip on Rizzo, Pena could definitely be a possibility.
Luke Scott is non-tender option that really opens up the eyes of Rays Republic. According to sources, the Rays are interested in the 33 year-old veteran. It’s not a shocker that Scott attracts the Rays, considering how good of a fit he would be. Scott is a slugging outfielder with power, and he can also fill in at DH and first. Not only would Scott look great on the depth chart, he also provides a big left-handed bat in the middle of the lineup. On top of all this, he’s pretty cheap. Last year Scott battled with injuries throughout the season (which is why he comes at a low price), so he didn’t produce his usual offensive numbers. His injuries are a concern, but he should be able to fix some of the Rays’ offensive issues. The chances of the Rays signing Scott are not exactly great, though. According to a tweet from the Baltimore Sun, a total of ten teams are expressing some interest in his services.
Andrew Bailey reportedly is another reliever in the interest of the Rays. The report also says the that the Red Sox and Rangers are checking out the Athletics’ closer. Bailey, who is a former Rookie of the Year (2009), pitched great seasons out of the bullpen for the A’s in both ’09 and ’10. Last year was a rather disappointing season for Bailey, going 0-4 with a career-worst 3.24 ERA. His mediocre 2011 season is probably what triggered Oakland’s idea to use Bailey as trade bait. Even though the Rays are looking for another reliever to add to the ‘pen, it looks like the possibility of Bailey going to Tampa is very slim. While the A’s were dealing Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals last night, Jim Bowden of ESPN reported that the Red Sox could be making a deal for Bailey. At the end of the day, Andrew Bailey is truly more of a wish than a reality.
Here we are in late December and the Rays still have some work to do for the offseason. With Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon testing free agency, the Rays are in need of a first baseman and a DH. New names have emerged among Hot Stove rumors that the Rays may be interested in to bolster their offense. Of course, the Rays are also in pursuit of help in the bullpen. They have already picked up Burke Badenhop and Josh Lueke via trade, and sources say they are looking for more relief pitching. With the plentiful young talent that the Rays have, the trade market will probably be the way to go this winter. Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, Alex Cobb, and even David Price have spotlighted Rays trade rumors lately. Although the Rays have been quiet in the midst of all the Hot Stove action, it shouldn’t be too long before they strike. When it comes to the offseason, the Rays are silent but deadly.
Star outfielder Carlos Beltran brings some new excitement to Rays rumors. The 34 year-old veteran had another great offensive season last year, and was elected to his sixth All Star Game. Despite battling a nagging knee injury throughout the season, Beltran still managed to hit .300 and knock in over 84 runs. According to the most recent update on Beltran’s status, many teams are interested in getting the free agent. Unfortunately for the Rays, the St. Louis Cardinals continue to show strong interest in Beltran. The Cardinals obviously have more money to spend if they want him, but the Rays are right behind them if they lose interest for some reason.
Anthony Rizzo of the San Diego Padres is another name that has recently headlined Rays rumors. With the recent Reds-Padres blockbuster trade, the Rays have a golden opportunity to snag the minor league first baseman. Yonder Alonso, who was part of past Rays trade rumors himself, was sent to San Diego in a five-player deal. Now that the Padres have Alonso as their first baseman, Rizzo becomes an immediate trade possibility. A recent Tweet from CBS’s John Heyman reported the predictable news; that the Rays and Cubs are both expressing interest in Rizzo. Being a larger-market team and having first base questions themselves, the Cubs could really get in the Rays’ way here. Hopefully, Chicago will find someone else to fill in at first base (maybe Prince Fielder), and the Rays will have their shot at Rizzo. I believe that Rizzo is the guy to get for the Rays this offseason. Although he’s only played one season in triple-A, his terrific stats show he could be ready for big league success. With the Cubs seeking a star first baseman, I think it’s very possible that this deal might work out.
Luke Scott was one of the biggest bats amongst the notable non-tenders. Scott is not really a star-type player, but he can hit. He has power, and has established himself as a consistent 20-homer guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rays aggressively go after Scott this winter. After an underachieving 2011 (mostly because of constant injury problems), Scott will probably not be a hit with the big market teams and won’t be asking for a large salary. A combination of this and his impressive power is what makes him very attractive for the Rays. I definitely would not be shocked if the Rays reel in Scott sometime in the following months.
Joel Zumaya is another player that can’t be scratched off the list just yet. The Rays are looking to get at least one more arm to add to the bullpen, and Zumaya is looking for a job. There’s a chance Zumaya might work out in Tampa Bay. The 27 year-old fireballer has been busy this offseason, throwing in front of hundreds of scouts. The Rays were one team to participate in the Zumaya showcases, a source reported about two weeks ago. The chances of getting Zumaya have gradually decreased as the offseason has progressed, though. The recent injury to Detroit Tigers’ reliever Al Alburquerque, makes Zumaya’s former team a very possible candidate to re-sign him.
Jose Mijares is one non-tendered reliever that may attract the Rays. The 27 year-old left-hander pitched four seasons for the Minnesota Twins, and served as their ‘lefty specialist’ out of the bullpen. The Rays were in need of a lefty for their ‘pen coming into the offseason, but they took some stress off the issue after acquiring Josh Lueke. Still the Rays would like to maybe add another experienced lefty in there for a bargain deal.
When it comes to excitement, the Tampa Bay Rays do not disappoint. The Rays have done truly incredible things in their short history. Wether they’re winning the pennant against the defending World Champs or walking off to the postseason, the Rays have some unforgettable moments. Here are the top 10 moments that every Rays fan must relive.
Note: MLB.com videos are not compatible with WordPress. So I decided not to use Youtube’s fan-taken videos and just put pictures instead. If you want to see ‘The Top 10 Moments’ video slideshow, click here to check it out on TheRaysWay.com.
10.) Rays Win Their First World Series Game
The 2008 Fall Classic was probably the Rays’ worst memory during their magical season. After defying all odds and winning their first ever pennant, the Rays run came to an abrupt end against the Philadelphia Phillies. Although the series was not one to remember, the Rays will never forget the franchise’s first World Series victory. They won Game 2, to tie the series at one apiece. James Shields got the win in the 4-2 victory, and rookie David Price came in later to close out the game. Hopefully, October 23, 2008 won’t be the last World Series game at Tropicana Field.
9.) Rays Clinch the 2010 Postseason
Rafael Soriano’s strikeout of Adam Jones got the Rays back into the playoffs in 2010, closing out a 5-0 win against the Baltimore Orioles. The star of the game that night at the Trop was David Price. Price pitched eight scoreless innings in an absolutely stellar outing. 2010 was a great regular season for the Rays, as they also won their second AL East Division Title. Unfortunately, their impressive season ended after losing to the Texas Rangers in the ALDS.
8.) Matt Garza Tosses the Rays’ First Ever No-Hitter
July 26, 2010: the day Matt Garza threw the first no-hitter in team history. Garza’s memorable outing was one of six no-no’s of 2010′s “Year of the No-Hitter.” Garza pitched an unbelievable game that night versus Detroit, facing no more than the minimum 27 batters and only giving up a single baserunner. It was a great complement to a terrific season for Garza, and a great season for the Rays’ pitching staff.
7.) Wade Boggs Joins the 3000 Hit Club
August 7, 1999: the first great moment in the franchise’s history. It was also the most memorable moment in the Devil Ray era. Hall of Famer Wade Boggs got his long-awaited 3,000th hit that day. Boggs reached his historic milestone by blasting a home run into the seats of Tropicana Field. It was more of a career moment for Boggs than a franchise moment, but it gave Devil Rays fans a lot to be excited about. Boggs was the first franchise star, playing in Tampa Bay for both the ’98 and ’99 seasons. It was just the second year of the franchise when Boggs joined the 3,000 Club, and Rays fans were thrilled to see the big hit happen in Tropicana Field.
6.) Rays Advance to the 2008 ALCS
October 6 was one of many memorable fall nights for the Rays in 2008. Grant Balfour struck out future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. to defeat the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS. It was the Rays’ first ever playoff series, and they didn’t seem to have too much of a hard time moving on to the next round. The Rays finished off the White Sox in Chicago, winning the series in four games.
5.) Dan Johnson’s Game-Tying Shot
September 28, 2011: one of the most incredible days of baseball ever. If you’re a baseball fan at all, you can not forget this unbelievable night at the Trop. It was game 162 of the regular season, and the Rays were tied with the Red Sox after an amazing wild-card comeback. The Rays were playing the Yankees that night, who jumped out to a 7-0 lead. The Rays, as they had done all season, had come all the way back to almost tie the game in the late innings. In the bottom of the ninth, with two strikes and two outs, Dan Johnson was up to bat. As Rays Republic was wishing for yet another miracle, Johnson ripped a screaming line drive off the foul pole. Just like that, the game was all tied up. We all know the rest of the story, but that moment was absolutely unbelievable.
4.) 2008 ALCS: Rays Walk Off to Game 2 Victory
Game 2 was the first of a few slugfest games in the 2008 AL Championship Series. The game was pretty much a must-win for the Rays, after being shut out in Game 1. The Rays and Red Sox went back and forth that night, constantly belting homers out of the yard. Eventually, the crazy game carried into extra innings. In the bottom of the 11th, the Rays had their speedy Fernando Perez at third and the big bat of Upton at the plate. Upton’s shallow fly ball to right proved to be good enough to even the series in walk-off fashion.
3.) Rays Clinch the Playoffs for the First Time
With over 36,000 fans watching at the Trop, the Rays finally clinched the playoffs after 10 years. A foul pop to Evan Longoria off the bat of Joe Mauer closed out the historic 7-2 victory. The Rays had done what nobody thought was possible. After an incredible 2008 season, stunning the baseball nation, the Rays had proven to everyone that nine does equal eight.
2.) Evan Longoria Puts the Rays into the 2011 Postseason
Evan Longoria’s 12th-inning walk-off home run was maybe the most incredible regular season moment in MLB history. A better script could not be written for what happen that night on September 28, 2011. Almost simultaneously, the Red Sox were blowing it in Baltimore the same way the Yankees were blowing it at the Trop. Right before Evan Longoria stepped into the batter’s box, the Orioles had stunned the Red Sox with an amazing ninth-inning comeback. Now, the Rays were just a run away from finishing off the historic comeback. Just like Dan Johnson had done a few innings prior, Longoria ripped a frozen rope right down the line. This time, the home run had won the game and clinched the Rays their third postseason appearance. There’s really no words to describe an epic moment like this.
1.) The Rays Win the Pennant
October 19, 2008: the day the Tampa Bay Rays went from worst to first. Game 7 of the ALCS was a game that no Rays fan will ever forget. Matt Garza was called to start the game against the defending World Champs from Boston. Garza pitched the game of his life, and rookie David Price was later called on to secure a ticket to the World Series. The young Price, with barely any MLB experience, closed out the series, crowning the Rays American League champs. That pennant victory still stands as the all-time high of the franchise.
As the first two months of the Rays’ offseason comes to a conclusion and the Winter Meeting pass, the Rays have made progress on their Winter to-do list. Entering the offseason, the Rays had some work to do in order to address areas of need. First base, bullpen, catcher, and the DH spot were all holes that needed to be filled coming into the winter. There also were, and still are, big names at risk of leaving the team. Johnny Damon, Joel Peralta, Kelly Shoppach, and Casey Kotchman are all on the free agent list. James Shields, Kyle Farnsworth, and B.J. Upton are others that may not be playing for the Rays next year.
The first mission the Rays had this offseason was to deal with their three club options. Kyle Farnsworth, Kelly Shoppach, and James Shields were all asking for multi-millions for 2012. With the team’s ace and closer on the line, the Rays accepted both Farnsworth’s and Shields’ option. Kelly Shoppach, however, was declined and is now testing free agency.
The acceptance of Shields’ and Farnsworth’s options highly increased their chances of staying with the team next year. It was a huge sigh of relief for Rays fans everywhere to hear that their “Big Game” James is safe, unless traded. As for Farnsworth, he was a big part of the Rays’ bullpen in 2011. Keeping Farnsworth is essentially one less step in the bullpen’s rebuilding process. In Shoppach’s case, I guess the Rays just didn’t see any reason to overpay him after an awful 2011 season. Although considering the Rays’ catching situation, I was a bit surprised with the choice.
The Rays’ issue behind the plate was the main focus of their next offseason move. With Shoppach likely not returning in 2011, the Rays went out to look for catching on the free agent market. They found themselves a low-priced and experienced veteran in Jose Molina. It was a move that needed to be done, and took a lot of stress off the issue. After signing Molina, the Rays still weren’t done dealing with their catchers yet. Suddenly out of nowhere, the Rays acquired reliever Josh Lueke from Seattle in exchange for John Jaso. The trade was the biggest surprise of the Rays offseason so far. Being a catcher, nobody expected to see Jaso go anywhere. The trade forecasts that the Rays are probably looking for more catching in the following months. Already rumored names have emerged, such as 40 year-old Ivan Rodriguez.
Catcher isn’t the only position that the Rays have been targeting. With Kotchman and Damon free agents, the first base and DH roles are questionable for Opening Day. The Rays made their first efforts to find a first baseman last week, when the picked up Juan Miranda. Miranda was one of four minor leaguers who were invited to Spring Training by the Rays at the Winter Meetings. The 28 year-old Cuban native has played five professional seasons, showing scouts everywhere his raw power. He hasn’t had much success in his previous MLB stints, but the Rays see a bright future in his big bat. There’s been some trade rumors of other first basemen that the Rays may pursue, but Miranda is the only deal they’ve done so far. The other three players who received the Spring Training invitation along with Miranda, were Matt Mangini, Ricky Orta, and Johnny Nunez. Like Miranda, I believe the Rays made a great move signing Mangini.
The third/first baseman hit an impressive .336 in Triple-A Tacoma last year. I think he can also help give the offense a boost, even though he doesn’t have the power that Miranda has. Ricky Orta and Johnny Nunez are two young relievers that the Rays picked up as part of their bullpen rebuilding process. The Rays reportedly have been seeking more bullpen arms. Veterans that are more likely to contribute to the team in 2012. Joel Zumaya, Luis Ayala, and Andrew Bailey are all names that have come up in rumors lately. With the DH and first base positions a problem now, many overlook the Rays’ bullpen issue, which is also vital in the club’s success. The Rays are definitely better off seeking hitting during the winter. Being so deep in starting pitching, the Rays will probably be able to make something work for next season.
The most recent news of the Rays’ offseason is the contract extension of Matt Moore, which also happened at the Winter Meetings in Dallas. The rookie southpaw guaranteed his contract for a minimum of five years (up to 8 years including options) for $14 million. The contract extension was great news for Rays fans, and another clever offseason move by Andrew Friedman.
It’s a nice feeling knowing that a pitcher like Matt Moore is here to stay for a while. Hopefully, other young stars such as Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson will follow in Moore’s footsteps. Those are two guys that the Rays need to get a grip on, and a contract extension should be in the conversation this offseason. Besides handing out four Spring Training invitations and locking up Matt Moore, the Rays were pretty quiet at the Winter Meeting. With all the big-market action happening in Dallas last week, the Rays probably see a better chance to strike later in the winter. I believe the team’s main goal before spring should be to re-sign Casey Kotchman and Joel Peralta, as well as find at least one more good hitter. At the end of the day, DH and catcher are the Rays’ two main priorities. As of now, Jose Lobaton/Robinson Chirinos is the Rays’ second catcher, and Sam Fuld is the Opening Day DH. Obviously, there’s still plenty of work to be done. The Rays have made forward progress in the first two months of the offseason, but luckily there is another two and a half months to make things right.
The Tampa Bay Rays have a very short, but interesting history. The franchise has changed so much in a 13-year span, probably more than any other team. It’s a team that has suffered through plenty of bad seasons, but have had some miraculous ones too. So far there aren’t any Rays jerseys hanging in Cooperstown, but the emerging young talent is looking to change that. On this list I will rank the top 10 overall-best Tampa Bay Rays players; all the way from 1998. All position players who played over 300 games for the Rays and pitchers who were on the roster for at least two seasons, are eligible for the list. This automatically excludes some star names, like Jose Canseco and Wade Boggs. Still, super stars such as Carl Crawford, Fred McGriff, and Evan Longoria highlight a great top 10.
7.) B.J. Upton- B.J. Upton has proved to be one of the most valuable players to ever wear a Rays uniform. His career WAR of 19.8 is the fourth highest of all time for the franchise. He’s been a big part of the Rays’ past success, but still hasn’t played up to his full potential. Upton (along with Longoria) carried the Rays through the 2008 magical postseason run, blasting seven homeruns in the playoffs. Upton has been a huge part of the club for seven years now. His terrific speed, power, and great defense in center are all reasons why BJ is a big name in Tampa Bay. Below are Upton’s career stats:
6.) Fred McGriff- Fred McGriff, the “Crime Dog”, was one of the premier sluggers of the Devil Ray era. He spent five years playing for his hometown team in Tampa Bay, starting from the ’98 Inaugural Year. The six-time All Star was the franchise’s first real good hitter, along with Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. McGriff closed out his great career strong as a Devil Ray, hitting 99 homers and batting over .290 through his five seasons. Here are his career Tampa Bay Devil Rays stats:
|TBD (5 yrs)||577||2074||277||603||102||99||359||11||305||433||.291||.380||.484||.864||1004|
5.) Scott Kazmir- Scott Kazmir was the ace of the Rays’ rotation in four out of his six years on the team. He was amongst the franchise’s three original farm-gown stars, including his Texas-native teammates Aubrey Huff and Carl Crawford. Kazmir was really the only starting pitching the Rays had until 2008, when the team went worst to first. Considering the Devil Rays’ lack of arms in the rotation, the two-time All Star was one of baseball most valuable pitchers for a while. Kazmir’s years are probably behind him, but he had a heck of a run with the Rays. Here are career numbers as a Ray:
|TBR (6 yrs)||55||44||.556||3.92||145||834.0||777||400||87||382||9||874||1.390|
4.) Aubrey Huff- Aubrey Huff was the team’s main power source in most of his seven years as a member of the Devil Rays. Huff was an offensive machine for the team in his seasons, raking 128 homeruns and knocking in 449 runs. His solid defense at first base and ability to hit well for average, also added to his player value. Here are his stats for his Devil Rays career:
|TBD (7 yrs)||799||3028||400||870||172||128||449||20||247||412||.287||.343||.477||.819||1444|
3.) James Shields- Statistics don’t show how much “Big Game James” has meant to the Rays. More than any other Rays starter in history, Shields wins games. Especially the the big games (hence the nickname). Shields has played six seasons for the Rays, and has been a big part of the rotation for most of his short career. After a disappointing 2010 season, Shields came back with an incredible season last year. He lead the terrific young Rays pitching staff, with a 2.82 ERA and 16 wins. He finished third in the Cy Young voting, and was elected to his first All Star Game. He’s the most valuable Rays pitcher of all time, and he looks like he’s just getting better. Here are his lifetime stats:
2.) Evan Longoria- Since Carl Crawford departed to Boston last winter, Longoria has been the face of the franchise. The true leader of the team; the man who’s been carrying the Rays every since his monster rookie year back in ’08. Not only is Longoria a hometown hero in Tampa, but he’s also one of the best players in all the big leagues. The 27 year-old has big-time power, amazing defense, and hits in the clutch better than any Ray ever. He’s played only four seasons in the majors, but has already blasted over 100 homers and 400 RBIs. It’s only a matter of time before Longoria becomes the best Tampa Bay Rays player ever. Here are his career stats:
1.) Carl Crawford- I don’t think there’s a question of who’s the best Ray ever. Carl Crawford leads the franchise’s history in average, RBIs, runs, hits, stolen bases, WAR (36.8), and games played. All the way from 2002 to 2010, Crawford was the heart and soul of the franchise. CC was there for the good times and the bad, but was a great baseball player the whole way through.
|TBR (9 yrs)||1235||4992||765||1480||215||105||104||592||409||293||768||.296||.337||.444||.781||2217|
Two days ago, a Cleveland Indians blog called DidTheTribeWinLastNight.com asked me a few questions as part of their Offseason Swap Series. Their goal is to feature five Q & As from every MLB team to feature on their site. Below are the questions DTTWLN asked me regarding the Rays. Click here to view the full link of the post.
Question 1 – The Rays had a great September but couldn’t keep it going in the playoffs. Do you think the energy they used to get into the playoffs was just too much for the rotation and team to handle?
I don’t think this was the reason for their abrupt exit at all. The team they played, the Texas Rangers, simply outplayed the Rays. The Rangers were very ready for the postseason again this year, and proved that they were the champions of the American League. Although the Rays had the advantage in pitching, the offensive production was not even comparable. Texas has some excellent veteran hitters on their roster, including Michael Young (second-highest average), Josh Hamilton (2010 MVP), Adrian Beltre (3 home runs in game 4), Mike Napoli, and more terrific players. What makes Texas such a great club, is they are able to get the clutch hits that the Rays can’t. This is why they were just one strike away from a World Series title. The Rays rotation definitely didn’t choke, they were just met by the hottest bats in Major League Baseball.
Question 2 – Rumors are abound that the Rays ownership is short on funds. Do you have any insight into the teams financial situation?
It’s pretty clear by now that the Rays have financial problems. I definitely do see a baseball future in the Tampa area, but some improvements will eventually need to happen. At the moment the attendance is not adequate, which is the main reason for low income. The media has constantly ripped on Tampa Bay, claiming that the fans don’t deserve the Rays and etc. Popular reasons why the Rays have low attendance is because of bad stadium location, high unemployment rates, etc. These reasons may all be a part of the issue, but everyone seems to miss the biggest reason. Tropicana Field is located near Florida’s Gulf Coast, home to some of America’s most beautiful beaches. There are so many outdoor activities that residents can do from spring to fall. When you think of the other teams that have a similar situation, one that comes to mind is the Marlins. They have even worse attendance. They also know how to win, as they have won two World Championships in their 18-year history. At the end of the day, I think that the Rays need to continue to have successful seasons for their financial issues to improve. The more wins the better, and one World Series title could change everything.
Question 3 – Fans seem to stay away from Tropicana Field in droves. What are the chances we see a new ballpark for this, now, very competitive team in the near future?
The Rays new ballpark is something that would surely help with the financial problems, but it doesn’t seem like something to anticipate for now. Unfortunately, any new stadium for the Rays is at least 3-5 years from any kind of reality. Contrary to popular belief, Tropicana Field is not a low-quality stadium at all. A new stadium, however, would excite sports fans and would get more people to come to the ballpark. Building a brand new stadium also costs money though, a lot of money. And money is the thing that most limits the Rays, and is really not helping this situation. I don’t feel much progress happening now, but it could happen in the future if the Rays feel that they truly need it.
Question 4 – How much longer can the Rays keep battling the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox when they don’t spend big bucks the way those two teams do?
The answer is simple; As long as the terrific farm system lasts. The Rays are built around their great young prospects, and good coaching is what transforms them into quality ballplayers that can play with the big boys. What’s impressive about the Rays young roster more than any other young club, is that they probably make less mental mistakes than the veterans. The Rays have the youngest team but amazingly are able to play the most error-free and clean baseball. Most would think it would be the opposite, but a lot of incredible things happen with Joe Maddon’s management. The Rays unique style of baseball is what keeps them in the competition year after year. When you can’t ever be like a team, don’t try to be like them. How the Rays run their ball club is the true definition of ‘Moneyball’, rather than Oakland’s past efforts that never actually led to any more success than a playoff spot.
Question 5 – What does the 2012 season hold for the Tampa Bay Rays?
I believe that 2012 will be another successful season for the Rays. My prediction is not just purely out of optimism, but the Rays look like they will have a pretty good roster next year. 2011 was a very exciting and memorable season, but the Rays really want to take the next step. Being stopped in the ALDS two straight years by the same team is pretty frustrating, especially after having such impressive regular seasons. The two players that Rays Republic should be most excited about in 2012, are Desmond Jennings and Matt Moore, two phenom rookies with never-ending abilities it seems. Both of them showed that they are ready for The Show after their impressive performances this season. These next few months will also effect the Rays in 2012, as there are some offseason moves to be made. It’s still early in the offseason, and there will probably be more new faces to join the Rays next year. Andrew Friedman seems to know what he’s doing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulls off another great offseason. So far the Rays have acquired a veteran catcher and traded away a young catcher. Still some holes need to be filled in, such as DH and first base. Also, the new MLB playoff format will have an impact on the Rays’ future, maybe more than any other team. In the toughest division in baseball, finishing in third place and making the postseason is great news for Rays fans. It will be pretty interesting how it effects the Rays in 2012 and the following years to come.
The Tampa Bay Rays are not new to the MLB trade rumor conversation. Being a small-market team, the Rays do not have many options shopping in the free agent market. To fill in areas of need during the offseason, the Rays are practically forced to trade away some of their young talent. Players such as B.J. Upton, have been in the spotlight of Rays trade rumors for over a year now. As the Rays stand a month and a half into their offseason, new names have emerged arousing the Rays’ Hot Stove. Earlier this week, catcher John Jaso was traded to Seattle for reliever Josh Lueke. It was a move that seemed to come out of nowhere. Many analysts were already projecting Jaso as the Opening Day backstop in 2012. Since the offseason started in October, more possible trade pieces have been named. Pitchers Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, Alex Cobb, and James Shields could all possibly end up as trade bait to reel in some offensive production from teams that lack pitching. The questions are, what kind of players will the Rays pursue? What players are they willing to trade away? The Rays’ winter probably won’t be a real busy one, but there’s a lot to be done in the following months.
One player that Rays appear to have an eye on is Yonder Alonoso. The Cincinnati Reds’ Alonso is one of the best hitting prospects in all of baseball. Some people even believe that the 24 year-old has the same potential as his teammate Joey Votto. Alonso does resemble the former MVP in some ways. He’s a thick left-handed batter who can hit for average and has power as well. From what scouts predict, he’s the making of a great hitter like Votto. Besides for his phenomenal hitting skills, Alonso is also a first baseman. His ability to play at first makes him even more attractive from the Rays’ perspective. With Casey Kotchman and Dan Johnson possibly not returning in 2012, first base is one of the Rays’ areas to tend to in the offseason.
Alonso’s not really a slick fielder like the first baseman the Rays have had in the past, but his offensive production could be a huge boost for the team. In just his second MLB season, Alonso put up excellent numbers for Cincinnati. He hit an impressive .330 and knocked out five homers through his 47 games. This is guy I believe the Rays should seriously go after. The former #1 draft pick has only a year left on his contract, he’s young and healthy, and he can simply rake the baseball. A hard-hitting first baseman who can also serve as a DH; sounds like a perfect fit for the Rays. The question to ask now, is who would the Reds be looking for in return? According to sources, the Reds are looking for starting pitching and ideally a No. 2 in the rotation. James Shields is the type of pitcher they are looking to get out of a Yonder Alonso trade. If the Rays are willing to give away Shields to bolster their mediocre offense, Alonso could easily be a Ray. Shields is not the only pitcher that the Rays could trade. Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann are both young arms that the Reds may like in their starting rotation. Wether the Rays decide to go with the Davis/Niemann offer or the Shields offer, a deal could very well be in their reach.
The Reds are not the only team after Davis and Niemann’s services; the Colorado Rockies also seem to have a bit of interest. Maybe not so much anymore though, as they just recently made a deal to pick up a young starter to fill in the rotation. On Wednesday the Rockies found pitching in the Angels’ Tyler Chatwood, trading catcher Chris Ianetta. It wasn’t the greatest of news for the Rays, as Ianetta would be a nice pick up considering the Rays’ catching situation. After the Rays signed Jose Molina, any possibility of making a deal with Colorado quickly diminished. If the Rockies are still looking for more pitching, they do have Ian Stewart to offer. But because he is a third baseman and the Rockies already made their main move, a deal with Colorado seems highly unlikely.
In the last few years, pitching has been the main source for the Rays’ trade away rumors. The one exception to that is center fielder B.J. Upton. The fact that Upton is still a Ray after two consecutive Trade Deadlines where he was almost traded, is a surprise to many. The Washington Nationals are one team that have been interested in Upton for a while now. With the potential in Desmond Jennings and Brandon Guyer now obvious, the long-anticipated B.J. Upton trade seems more likely than before. What the Nationals have to offer is young farm talent, including a catcher that the Rays should keep an eye on. 22 year-old Derek Norris is one of the Nationals’ top catching prospects, and is a possible trade piece with Wilson Ramos emerging as their future catcher. Of course Norris would be just a part of a B.J. Upton trade.
Infielder Blake Kelso and right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole are two more minor leaguers that could interest the Rays. Kelso is a utility player, that is known for impressing scouts with his ‘Rays style’ of baseball. The other guy is A.J. Cole, who is a 19 year-old pitcher who has great potential as a big league pitcher. These are all guys that the Rays could use in the future, but I’m still not sure how much I like the idea of Upton being traded. After all, he did just have his best year since 2008 and it seems as he might be on the way up. With the Rays in need of offense, keeping Upton is clearly the right move. Last year Upton finished top three in the five major offensive stats for the team, including first in stolen bases. Losing B.J. would be a pretty big blow for the team, especially considering their efforts to boost the offense. Upton is only going to get better I believe, and his improvement is noticeable. He may still strikeout a ton and hit for a low average, but there’s also a lot of things he does right. On the defensive side of his game, he’s probably even better. To start, there’s only a few center fielders in the big leagues with the range Upton has. This gives him ability to play shallow and still be able to snag the deep flies. In addition to his speed, Upton also has a cannon of an arm. His accuracy is not exactly spot on, but he can throw the ball hard and far. At the end of the day, any pitcher would love to have B.J. Upton playing in center field for their team. B.J. Upton has been a piece to the Rays’ puzzle ever since their magical run in ’08. The team without Upton would be hard to picture.
To recap it all, the Rays should pursue the big bat of the Reds’ Yonder Alonso. As for Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Alex Cobb, I think it’s very possible that one will be traded away this winter. Regarding the B.J. Upton trade rumors, Upton is pretty much a must-keep for the Rays’ 2012 roster. The list of Rays trade rumor names is short, but if the right moves are made the Rays will have another successful season next year. In the MLB Hot Stove, it’s about quality not quantity.