January 2012

Rays Trade Russ Canzler to the Indians, Justin Ruggiano Becomes a Free Agent

20120131-181507.jpgRays’ farmhand Russ Canzler was traded to the Cleveland Indians today in exchange for cash, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Canzler won the International League’s MVP award last season, batting .314 with 18 homers and 83 RBIs in 131 games last season for Durham. The trade came less than a week after Canzler was designated for assignment to make room for the newly-acquired Jeff Keppinger on the roster. Although it may not seem to make sense for the Rays to trade away someone who’s produced big numbers offensively in the minors, Canzler doesn’t really have a future in Tampa. The corner infielder/outfielder’s lack of defensive ability is the main reason why he doesn’t fit on the Rays’ roster. The Rays could use some extra cash anyways.

The Rays lost another Triple-A player this week, after Justin Ruggiano declined his minor league assignment on Monday. Ruggiano has been in the Rays’ organization since 2006, when he was acquired in a trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 29-year-old outfielder had a .226 average with six home runs and 23 RBIs in 195 career Major League at-bats with the Rays.

Deals That Could Move the Rays’ Surplus of Pitching for a Bat

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Since the offseason began, rumors have swirled about the possibility of the Rays trading away some of their excellent starting pitching. With Matt Moore appearing to join Tampa’s rotation this season, it looks like the Rays will have a surplus of starters in 2011. Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann, will for the fifth spot in the rotation in the spring, are two players that could very possibility be traded before deadline this summer. Last year’s ace James Shields has also been in the discussion, as teams have been interested in his services for a while now. Although the Rays have filled in their main roster holes via free agency this offseason, it’s still pretty likely that the Rays will seek a trade. Most of the offseason’s action is over, but the trade possibilities have not exactly faded. Recently, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Rays’ president Matt Silverman said he isn’t finished looking to trade away a starter. Considering how much sense it makes for the Rays to trade away pitching in exchange for offense, it’s no surprise that the front office is mulling this over. When a team lacks hitting and has a surplus of pitching, a trade is the obvious solution. Let’s take a look at eight possible deals that could get the Rays to trade away starting pitching. The bats on the trade market are limited, but there still are some intriguing possibilities for the Rays.

 

The Toronto Blue Jays are one team that would love to add to their starting pitching this offseason. Toronto’s rotation had their struggles last season, which is why a trade for Wade Davis could possibly light up their eyes. Most of what the Jays have to offer is down in their farm system. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria are two young players that should interest the Rays. Both are part of Toronto’s top 10 prospect list in 2011 (according to MLB.com). Blue Jays’ top prospect and former first-round pick Travis d’Arnaud is one exciting young prospect. The 22 year-old hit .311 with 78 RBI’s in 21 homers in Class AA New Hampshire last season. With impressive skills both offensively and defensively, d’Arnaud has the potential to be a successful big league catcher. A good backstop is something the Rays will be needing in the future, as their 36 year-old acquisition Jose Molina was only signed for a one-year deal. Because of the emergence of the young J.P. Arencibia, it is possible the Jays will think about trading d’Arnaud soon. According to sources, the Philadelphia Phillies have actually discussed obtaining d’Arnaud earlier this offseason. Adding prospect shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria to the mix would really make a great deal for the Rays here. Shortstop is another area of need for the Rays, which should make Hechavarria pretty attractive. The 22 year-old Cuban-native batted .305 with 57 RBI’s and 20 stolen bases in the minors last year (AA and AAA).

Possible Trade: Wade Davis to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for minor league C Travis d’Arnaud and minor league SS Adeiny Hechavarria

 

Although the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t made any big moves for starting pitching in recent years, they may have the pieces to put together a potential deal with the Rays. Young outfielder Jose Tabata and former All-Star relief pitcher Evan Meek should be able to get the Rays to discuss a four-player swap. The Pirates would get Jeff Niemann and prospect starter Alex Torres, who went 9-7 with a 3.08 ERA and 156 strikeouts last year during his season with AAA Durham. Tabata would be a great guy for the Rays to pick up, as he seems to have a bright future in the MLB. However, it’s very unlikely that the Pirates would give away Tabata, especially after the huge contract extension he received this August. The 23 year-old leftfielder had a rather dissapointing 2011, after a pretty impressive rookie season. Tabata batted .299 with 121 hits and 19 stolen bases through his 102 games in 2010. He saw a decline last season, batting .266 through his 91 games. Still, Tabata is a talented player who could easily develop as a star in the big leagues. Make no mistake, this is one guy the Rays would love to have in leftfield. The Rays have done a lot of work this winter continuing to build their young bullpen. Right-handed reliever Evan Meek is somebody the Rays would love to add to their ‘pen, even if it’s worth giving up a prospect like Torres. Meek’s career stats include a 3.08 ERA and 7-7 record through four seasons (160.2 innings pitched).

Possible Trade: Jeff Niemann and Alex Torres to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for LF Jose Tabata and RP Evan Meek

 

Here’s a trade that’s a great idea for the Rays, as well as a win-win for both sides. Ryan Hanigan is exactly what the Rays need. He’s a catcher who’s consistent, has a high on-base percentage, and a very reasonable salary. Hanigan owns a career line .275/.371/.368. It’s nothing special and he doesn’t produce many runs, but his good defense and ability to get on base is something that must attract the Rays. As for Cincinnati’s point of view; they definitely get their end of the deal here. Alex Cobb is an underrated pitching prospect, and he’s proved that he can succeed at the big league level. Cobb went 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in his brief MLB stint last season. He also went 5-1 with a terrific 1.87 ERA at AAA Durham. This is a move the Rays need to continue to pursue. 20120130-150021.jpgIf the Rays want Ryan Hanigan, the chances of them working out a deal is not bad at all. The Reds will probably not be too hesitant to send their veteran catcher to Tampa, as they may have a franchise catcher in the making. Reds’ top prospect Devin Mesoraco could possibly take over the catching spot pretty soon, potentially making Hanigan a possible trade piece for Cincinnati. Interestingly, Hanigan was almost dealt to the Rays earlier this offseason. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Rays discussed trading for Seth Smith (who was on the Colorado Rockies then) and then sending him to Cincinnati in exchange for Hanigan. Even before that, ESPN’s David Schoenfield mentioned his name in article about trades he thought were reasonable. So if Hanigan does end up in Tampa Bay, nobody should be too surprised.

Possible Trade: Alex Cobb and C Robinson Chirinos to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for C Ryan Hanigan

 

Unfortunately for the Mets, they haven’t been able to add to their struggling pitching staff during their miserable offseason. Here’s a four-player deal that would make sense for both sides. The Rays did find their first baseman when the picked up Carlos Pena earlier this month, but it still could be an area of need in the future. Mets’ first baseman Daniel Murphy may not get much attention at all, but he’s a perfect fit in Tampa. The 26 year-old is a career .292 hitter (.320 in last year), and he’s even shown he has some pop in his bat during his three big league seasons. Murphy could be a serious trade target for the Rays in the future, as he probably doesn’t have a future with the Mets. Ike Davis seems to be emerging into a quality baseball player in New York, and it looks as if he’ll become their everyday first baseman. It shouldn’t shock anybody if the Rays pursue this guy in the future. Wilmer Flores, who is one of the top prospects in the Mets’ organization, is another player that I could imagine the Rays would like in the trade package. Being a shortstop, the 20 year-old would be a great addition to the Rays’ farm system. Although Flores hasn’t done that much statistically yet in the minors, scouts seem to be convinced that this youngster has what it takes to succeed.

Possible Trade: Jeff Niemann and Alex Cobb to the New York Mets in exchange for 1B Daniel Murphy, and minor league SS Wilmer Flores

 

This trade is very simple, yet very effective. I don’t see anything wrong with a Davis-Trumbo trade. Since Albert Pujols is now the first baseman in Anaheim, Trumbo’s future with the Angels is questionable. Trumbo himself has already acknowledged the fact that he may be traded. The question is, would the Angels be interested in one of the Rays’ starters? Right now it looks like their five-man rotation is set to go. However, I think Davis could actually give an already great rotation a boost. The Angels don’t have a solid starter in the fifth spot, and there’s a good chance that Davis can put up better numbers than Ervin Santana (fourth spot) this season. From the Rays’ side of things, Trumbo would obviously be a terrific acquisition. The 26 year-old has all the tools to become a big-time slugger in the majors. Trumbo had an outstanding rookie season, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting. He smacked 29 dingers and drove in 87 runs, showing off some raw power.If the Rays want a long-term first baseman, Mark Trumbo is their answer.

Possible Trade: Wade Davis to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for 1B Mark Trumbo

 

Mitch Moreland could potentially be another first base option for the Rays. He may not be the same type of player as Trumbo, but he sure does know how to hit. In his first full season last year, Moreland put up a .259/.320/.414 line including 16 homers and 51 RBI’s. He’s also pretty good defensively at first, even though he doesn’t play the position everyday. With catcher Mike Napoli very capable of playing first, it seems likely that he’ll get a lot of playing time their this year. That means that Moreland’s name may soon pop up in trade rumors. It will be interesting to see if the Rangers negotiate with the Rays, as Texas would love to strengthen their starting rotation. Minor League outfielder Jake Skole is the another piece that could complete a trade package for Davis. The first-round draftee excites scouts with his excellent athletic ability. At just 20, he hasn’t done that much yet statistically speaking. Skole batted .264 with nine homers, 62 RBI’s, and 21 stolen bases during his season at Class A ball last year.

Possible Trade: Wade Davis to the Texas Rangers in exchange for 1B Mitch Moreland and minor league outfielder Jake Skole

 

The Kansas City Royals could really use one of the Rays’ starting pitchers. They actually offered a deal for James Shields back in the Winter Meetings. They might not have what it takes to bring Shields to Kansas City, but they probably could work out a trade for Jeff Niemann. For Shields the Royals offered closer Joakim Soria, their top prospect, and prospect Christian Colon. For Niemann, the Royals could offer Soria and prospect Clint Robinson to make a deal. The Rays would love to add a solid closer like Soria to their ‘pen. The future of the closer role is very questionable, as Kyle Farnsworth will be a free agent after the 2012 season. 20120130-150036.jpgSoria owns a career ERA of 2.40 and 160 saves (162 game average of 37). He had the worst season of his career last year, but he’s still an effective closer. It wouldn’t be a shocker if Soria is traded, as his name has come up multiple times in trade rumors. First baseman Clint Robinson is one of top position prospects in the Royals’ farm system. The 26 year-old left-handed slugger is putting up huge numbers in minor leagues. Last year in AAA Omaha, Robinson posted a .326/.399/.533 line while blasting 23 home runs and 100 RBI’s. With Kansas City’s young star Eric Hosmer appearing to be their future first baseman, it’s possible that Robinson could end up as a trade piece for the Royals.

Possible Trade: Jeff Niemann to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RP Joakim Soria and minor league 1B Clint Robinson.

 

The Orioles have been looking to upgrade their starting pitching for a while now, and a trade may be the best way to find their man. Adam Jones’ name immediately comes to mind, who has been subject to trade rumors throughout the offseason. The 26 year-old outfielder owns a career line of .275/.319/.437, and hit 20+ homers and 80+ RBI’s for the first time in his career last season. Jones has great potential in the MLB, and his offensive could really be used in Tampa. There is a question as to how well Jones would suit the Rays, though. Being a centerfielder, it would be interesting see how he would fit in the same outfield as B.J. Upton. However, if Upton is traded at some point in the future, this could become a serious trade possibility. The chances of a Adam Jones trade happening for the Rays are very slim. This is more of a “what-if” trade scenario.

Possible Trade: Wade Davis and Alex Cobb to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for CF Adam Jones

Why Matt Moore Will Be Even Better Than David Price

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Rays’ top prospect Matt Moore and star pitcher David Price have a lot in common. Both Price and Moore are fireballing left-handed starters, who were considered the top left-handed pitching prospect coming into the majors. Both share a similar style of pitching, as well as some career experiences that are alike. It’s pretty clear how much these to young pitchers resemble each other. However, there’s one question that is debatable and makes a much more interesting discussion. Which of these phenom talents will be more successful in the big leagues? Since Price has been a member of the Rays since 2008 and Moore has just pitched 19.1 innings in the MLB, it’s hard to answer the question without thoroughly thinking through it. Price has already established himself as a bona fide ace in majors, while Moore has proven that he has every bit of potential needed to be.

Looking at some stats, Minor League and Major League, should help explain why Matt Moore will be better than David Price. When comparing Price’s minor league numbers to Moore’s, Moore absolutely dominates. When Price and Moore were at the age of 22, they both spent a minor league season playing in both Double-A and Triple-A. So it seems pretty fair to compare the statistics of those two years. Moore posted a 1.92 ERA during his 2011 minor league season, while Price put up a 2.80 ERA during his 2008 minor league season (excluding his 34.2 innings pitched at Class A+). I decided not to mention their strikeout and win-loss record, because Moore pitched 45.8 innings more. Three more stats that are worth mentioning as part of their minor league numbers, are BB/9 (walks per nine innings ratio), SO/BB (strikeout-to-walk ratio), and SO/9 (strikeouts per nine innings ratio). Price posted a 2.6 BB/9 ratio, an 8.9 SO/9 ratio, and a 3.41 SO/BB ratio during his 2008 minor league season (including AAA, AA, and A+). Moore posted a 2.7 BB/9 ratio, a stunning 12.2 SO/9 ratio, and an impressive 4.57 SO/BB ratio. Once again, it seems as Moore has the statistical edge. These statistics may not seem to important at first glance, but they are vital when predicting the future success of a young pitcher.

Now let’s compare both Price’s and Moore’s numbers from their short rookie seasons, when they were both 22 years old. In 2008 (regular season and postseason combined), Price pitched 19.2 innings (one game started) posting a 2.08 while striking out 20 batters. In Moore’s 2011 MLB stint (regular season and postseason combined), Moore posted a 2.09 ERA with 23 strikeouts through 19.1 innings (two games started). As you can see, the stats are strikingly similar. After looking at both Price’s and Moore’s stats, it’s safe to conclude that Moore has the potential to be at least as successful as Price in the big leagues.20120125-165735.jpg

Pitch selection percentages and pitch F/X statistics are other key devices that can help predict big league success for a pitcher. According to TexasLeaguers.com’s Pitch FX Database, Price threw 73.6% fastballs (including cutters and two-seamers), 18.5% breaking balls, and 7.8% changeups during his big league career. During Moore’s brief MLB stint last season (including playoffs), he threw 73.1% fastballs, 19.5% breaking pitches, and 7.6% changeup. The balance of fastballs and off-speed pitches from the two southpaws are pretty similar, but further data from the pitch F/X database reveals that Moore’s individual pitches may be more quality than Price’s. Firstly, Moore’s fastball has a velocity 0.7 MPH faster than Price’s fastball. It may not seem significant, but that could be the difference between a solid hit and a strikeout in Major League Baseball. Moore’s slider (which is the primary breaking pitch for both pitchers) has a spin angle of 63 degrees more, as well as an impressive whiff rate (20.8%) that is 12.8% more than Price’s. Speaking of whiff rates, Moore’s changeup whiff percentage is also 12.8% better than Price’s.

To wrap up all this data in a nutshell; Matt Moore simply has better stuff. We already know that his fastball is top-notch, but he also has a plus changeup that is getting much better. The changeup, which is Moore’s second-most effective pitch (highest swing rate and whiff rate of all his pitches), complements his outstanding fastball and seems to do a great job keeping hitters off balance. If Moore continues to use his changeup well, he could establish an excellent secondary pitch, which will be crucial to his future big league success. Mastering secondary pitches is one component that could make Moore a better pitcher than Price. Price is able to keep hitters off balance with his various off-speed pitches, but he hasn’t truly established his go-to secondary pitch yet that he can really trust. With Moore, I see a great possibility he could create his changeup into a pitch like that.

At the end of the day, Matt Moore has done everything to prove he’s as ready for the big leagues as David Price was in his rookie year. Both Price and Moore will likely have successful careers if they stay healthy, but Moore clearly has the potential to be the best pitcher in baseball at some point in the future. There’s a reason why Matt Moore is the Rays’ best pitching prospect ever.

Rays To Sign Jeff Keppinger

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The Rays ended their search for an extra infielder yesterday, agreeing with Jeff Keppinger for a one-year deal. The 31 year-old veteran, who plays three positions (2B, SS, and 3B), will bring some versatility to the Rays’ infield. With Ben Zobrist at second base and Sean Rodriguez probably starting at shortstop, Keppinger will likely take over one of the bench spots on the Opening Day roster.

Keppinger played 99 games for both the Houston Astros and the San Francisco Giants last year, posting a .277/.300/.377 line through 379 at-bats. After seven seasons of MLB experience, Keppinger owns a career line of .281/.332/.388 playing for five different teams. His right-handed bat doesn’t produce many runs, but he has established himself as a solid contact-hitter in the big leagues. Keppinger doesn’t play well defensively or run well on the bases, but his ability to make contact with the baseball is something that apparently attracts the Rays. Picking up Keppinger wasn’t the only move the Rays made for a backup infielder this offseason, as ex-Detroit Tiger Will Rhymes was signed to a minor league contract earlier this January. Adding Keppinger to the roster probably ended the Rays’ search for a right-handed infield bats, but there’s no guarantee that Andrew Friedman won’t take another dip into free agency.

Although no financials have been publicized yet, I believe the Rays made a pretty good move here. They add a versatile contact-hitter that should improve a rather offensively-weak bench. Tampa Bay’s baseball team is looking pretty good right now, as Friedman continues to put together more pieces of the puzzle.

 

Also in Rays news, Matt Moore was recently ranked #1 on MLB.com’s 2012 Top 100 Prospects list. The Rays’ young fireballer was ranked ahead of some huge prospect names such as Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Moore was one of six Rays that made Jonathan Mayo’s list. The five other Rays prospects on the list included shortstop Hak-Ju Lee (#43), right-handed pitcher Chris Archer (#74), shortstop Tim Beckham (#92), outfielder Mikie Mahtook (#96), and right-handed pitcher Taylor Guerrieri (#99).

Rays Make Bold Move, Bring Back Carlos Pena

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The Rays continued their January search for offense yesterday, signing former Rays slugger Carlos Pena. Tampa Bay’s search for a first baseman is finally over, and the Rays have to be satisfied with the move. Pena, who played for the Rays from 2007-2010, agreed to a one-year contract worth $7.25 million. The deal is great news for both the Rays and Pena. By signing Pena, the Rays filled in a big hole on their roster. They picked up a power-hitting and run-producing first baseman, which was exactly what they needed. Pena seemed even more thrilled when learning he would reunite with the Rays this season. Pena texted “Sooooo excited … !!!!!” when first finding out about the news. The joyful reaction is not a surprise, as all of Pena’s best memories were during his four years in Tampa.

Pena, now 33 years old, smashed 144 homers and 407 RBI’s with a career line of .238/.368/.516 during his four seasons for the Rays. During those seasons, Pena collected a Silver Slugger Award, a Gold Glove Award, and an All Star selection. He also put up some impressive home-run totals, belting 46 dingers in 2007 and hitting a league-leading 39 round-trippers in 2009. His big bat in the middle of the lineup and his slick fielding at first were both a huge part of the Rays success in past years.

When signing Pena, the Rays essentially picked the veteran first baseman over Casey Kotchman. Kotchman had a surprisingly successful season in 2011, batting a high .306 average while playing terrific defense. Did the Rays make the right choice by choosing Pena instead of Kotchman?

Considering the offensive numbers starting first basemen are expected to put out in the MLB, Pena is definitely the more valuable player. A healthy Carlos Pena pretty much guarantees you 25+ homers and 80+ RBI’s. Kotchman is a much better contact hitter who’ll probably strikeout a lot less and hit for a higher average, but he simply is not capable of producing as much runs as Pena in the middle of the Rays’ lineup. Ten home runs with 48 RBI’s and .306 average is numbers you more often see from a middle infielder, not a starting first baseman. I don’t want to take anything away from Kotchman’s excellent 2011 season, though, especially considering he didn’t enter the season with high expectations.

In conclusion, the Rays are doing a great job of continuing to add bats to their roster. Bringing back Pena is a real sigh of relief for Rays Republic after long winter months without a first baseman. It will be fun to watch Pena return to Tampa in 2012, where he is needed more than ever before.

Rays Sign Will Rhymes and Two Others to Minor League Deals

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The Rays made a few minor moves earlier today. According to a Tweet by Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Rays signed three players to minor league contracts. Among the new acquisitions, are ex-Detroit Tiger infielder Will Rhymes, outfielder Jesus Feliciano, and relief pitcher Romulo Sanchez. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that all three were handed an invitation to Spring Training.

Will Rhymes, who is incredibly just 5’9″ and 155 pounds, played a total of 83 MLB games through his two seasons in Detroit. He owns a career line of .283/.341/.370 in the big leagues, but had a much better 2010 (.304 BA) than 2011 (.235 BA). The 28 year-old second baseman is a good fielder and a good contact hitter; two things you must be if you’re under a 160 pounds in the majors. The Rays seem to be pretty set at second base with Ben Zobrist, but you’ll likely see Rhymes get some big league playing time in 2012.

Jesus Feliciano, 32, has spent the past five years of his pro career in the Mets’ farm system. The left-handed outfielder played 54 Major League games in 2010, batting .231 through 108 at-bats. Feliciano struggled in the minors last year (AA and AAA), after batting over .300 through four straight years (2007-2010) in Triple-A ball.

Right-handed reliever Romulo Sanchez is returning to the MLB after spending all of 2011 in Japan. Sanchez does have some big league experience, though, playing in both the Pirates’ and Yankees’ organizations. The 27 year-old Venezuelan has a career ERA of 4.04 through 35.2 innings pitched in the majors.

Rays Avoid Arbitration with Price, Upton, Howell, and Badenhop; Can’t Agree to Deal With Niemann

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Yesterday, before the arbitration deadline, the Rays had choices to make with five remaining arbitration-eligible players. David Price, B.J. Upton, J.P. Howell, and newly-acquired reliever Burke Badenhop were all signed to one-year deals avoiding an arbitration hearing in February. Jeff Niemann, though, wasn’t able to work out a deal with Rays and is heading into arbitration.

Niemann asked for 450,000 more than the $2.75 that the Rays offered him, and apparently it’s worth the 17-day arbitration debate. I’m not sure what Niemann was thinking when deciding to test arbitration, as his chances of winning are extremely slim. The Rays are undefeated in all five of their past arbitration cases (4-0 in the Friedman era). Considering the circumstances, it would be a shocker if Niemann won the arbitration case. The 6-foot-9 righty posted an ERA of 4.06 last season while struggling with some injuries, and has also a been a likely trade piece. That is why a multi-year deal, which is the only thing that can still avoid arbitration, is probably not going to work out for Niemann.

As for the other four arbitration eligibles who tried to work out a deal before the deadline, the result much better. David Price’s deal was pretty much a bargain for the Rays. Price, who opted out of his contract earlier this offseason, was predicted to make $7.8 million next season by MLBTradeRumors.com’s salary projections, assuming that he would go through arbitration. The Rays pulled off an excellent deal, signing Price to a one-year agreement worth $4.35 million. 20120118-164823.jpgOf course, a long-term contract extension with Price would be ideal, but the one-year deal is still good news for the Rays. Price’s $4.35 million agreement tied Dontrelle Willis’ record for the highest ever for a first-time arbitration eligible pitcher. When you look at the kind of unbelievable potential Price has, the Rays can’t have any regrets on this deal.

B.J. Upton, Burke Badenhop, and J.P. Howell were still without a contract agreement as the deadline loomed. Upton, along with Price, highlighted the Rays’ arbitration chatter. B.J., who batted .243 last year with 36 stolen bases, 81 RBI’s, and 23 homers, was expecting a pricey salary for 2012. Upton’s salary projection had him at $7.6 million for next year, with a possible arbitration hearing in consideration. The Rays were able to come to terms on a reasonable deal with Upton, which will pay him $7 million in 2012. B.J.’s $7 million is an over $2 million increase from 2011’s $4.825 million salary, and will make him the second-highest paid player on the team next year. There’s a lot of money going to Upton here, but the Rays have to feel pretty good about the move at the end of the day. Burke Badenhop’s one-year deal was a bit more predictable than Price and Upton’s. Badenhop, who was acquired in a trade from the Miami Marlins over a month ago, signed a one-year agreement worth $1.075 million ($1.1 million projected) before the deadline yesterday. Badenhop went 2-3 with a 4.10 ERA out of the Marlins’ bullpen last season. J.P. Howell had a disappointing year in 2012, after recovering from a major shoulder injury. The Rays continued to show that they have confidence in the 28 year-old reliever, signing Howell to a one-year deal worth $1.35 million on Monday. Howell posted a lopsided 6.16 ERA last season, but has eyes to get back on track in 2012.

Prospects Who Could Make an Impact for the Rays This Season

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It’s hard to argue that any team in Major League Baseball utilizes their prospects as well as the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have a knack of producing farm-grown starts from their organization, and it looks as if they will continue this trend. It’s pretty well-known across baseball that the Rays have an absolutely stacked farm system. Young talent is the core of the Rays success. Every year it seems, the Rays have have at least one prospect come up to the big leagues to make an impact. Last year, Desmond Jennings, Wade Davis, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, and Rookie of the Year Award winner Jeremy Hellickson all contributed to the team’s memorable season. So, who which top prospect will make in impact in 2012? Many of the Rays’ top prospects won’t make a big league appearance this season, but let’s take a look at four who could very possibly make a splash.

Matt Moore- If anybody’s ready for The Show, it’s phenom pitcher Matt Moore. It’s very rare to discover any young baseball player with the talent like Moore; the kid’s an absolute natural. The young fireballer is considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball, being ranked No.3 overall (No.1 pitcher overall) by MLB.com’s top 50 list. Moore is also titled as the Rays’ top prospect by numerous sources, including Baseball America’s top 10 list. Moore features some wicked wicked stuff in his arsenal, which is a nightmare for hitters. The young flamethrower lives off of his outstanding fastball, which effortlessly reaches blazing speeds in the upper 90s. He also features a nasty curveball, along with a plus curveball. As expected, the 22-year-old lefty enjoyed success in his first Major League season. After pitching ridiculously well during his 27 starts for AAA Durham (12 wins, 1.92 ERA, and 210 Ks), Moore finally got his chance to shine on the big stage. And shine he did, in most of his 19.1 cumulative innings of his 2011 experience. Moore really made his mark when the playoffs started, though. 20120116-150152.jpgHe had an unbelievable outing in Arlington after being called on to start Game 1 of the ALDS (just his second MLB start). He was looking like the ace of the Rays’ rotation, dominating Texas’ big bats by shutting them out through seven strong innings. Moore would finish his brief 2011 season with a combined ERA (including postseason and regular season) of 2.09 with 23 strikeouts. If Moore is able to stay healthy, he’ll be the future ace of an already-great Rays rotation, which includes David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson. Moore gives the Rays every reason to believe that their contract extension decision with him was a no-brainer, and will be well worth it. Moore has a lot of pressure on him, and I’m sure he’ll respond positively, just as he did last October. A lot is expected from him, and I won’t be surprised to see the major rookie impact from him that everyone is anticipating. It’s early, but it looks like the Rays are possibly on their way to a second straight Rookie of the Year Award winner.

Brandon Guyer- Brandon Guyer was one of a handful of Major League-quality players acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade. Guyer was one of three Rays on the top 10 prospect list to get big league playing time in 2011. Out of all three, nobody started off his career with a bang like he did. In his first ever big league at bat, Guyer blasted a solo homer into the seats of Camden Yards. That would be the first of 15 games for the Rays in 2011, as Guyer spent most of the season for Triple-A Durham. In his 107 games in AAA, he batted .312 and knocked in 61 runs. From what Guyer has displayed in his years in the minors, he definitely has the tools for a successful MLB career. Not only is Guyer a tremendous athlete, but he is also a potential four-dementional player. The 25 year-old outfielder has power, speed, good defense, and the ability to hit for average as well. The Rays could really use a guy on the roster like Guyer, who brings the uncommon combination of speed and power to the table. At 25 years old, Guyer is older than most of the Rays’ top prospects. 2012 will probably be the year Guyer will get to prove himself in the big leagues, and emerge as a full-time MLB player.

Chris Archer- Chris Archer has been one of the biggest names in the Rays farm system, swiftly surging through minor leagues . Archer was another top prospect that was included in the Matt Garza trade. According to MLB.com, Archer is the Rays’ third-best prospect and is ranked at No. 38 in the top 50 list. With all the pitching talent in the Rays farm system, Archer leads the pack of right-handed arms. He features an impressive fastball, with great movement and velocity. The hard slider is the next good pitch in his arsenal, which he also throws very well. Then there is the still-developing changeup, which can also become an effective pitch. Like Matt Moore, Archer’s fastball command is the key to his big league success. The command was the only main issue Archer had this year, but it is clearly improving as he gains experience. Archer’s stats for the year (in AA Montgomery and AAA Durham) include 4.09 ERA, a 9-7 record and 130 strikeouts. 20120116-150158.jpgArcher started 27 games in 2011, two of them in Durham. The best news is that he ended the season strong on a high note. After being promoted to Triple-A late in the season, Archer posted an ERA of 0.69 in 13 innings pitched. Archer could be a big help to the Rays bullpen at some point in next season, as that will probably be his best chance to contribute to the team in 2011. With the stable and talented rotation that the Rays have, the ‘pen may be Archer’s best opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation anytime in the near future. Whether he’s pitching out of the bullpen or starting games, I think Archer will impress a lot of people in 2012. Archer is a player destined for a career in the MLB, and his potential is sky-high. This is definitely a guy Rays Republic should be excited about.

Alex Torres- Torres is another impressive young arm on the Rays’ prospect list. The 23-year-old lefty was acquired from the Angels in the Scott Kazmir trade. In his first full season in the Rays organization, Torres started 27 games for the Durham Bulls and pitched eight innings for the Rays. His minor league numbers in 2011 were pretty good, as he went 9-7 for Durham with a 3.08 ERA and 156 K. He didn’t do poorly in his first crack at the big leagues this year, either. He posted a 3.38 ERA through eight innings pitched out of the bullpen. Torres’ main arsenal includes a solid and live fastball, a pretty decent changeup and a developing curve. The curveball has been sort of his “x-factor” pitch in the past. When he has a feel of the curve, opposing batters are doing a lot of swinging and missing. Like Moore and Archer, Torres is good at striking out batters. Unfortunately, his command issues are worse than Moore and Archer. Not only does Torres have problems placing his fastball where he wants it, but he also walks far too many batters. Torres knows that his command is not adequate for an effective Major League starter, and is working hard to fix it in Venezuelan winter ball. Torres is preparing to pitch another season in a terrific Durham rotation, but there’s also a good chance he’ll be pitching out of the bullpen for the Rays. The front-end of the ‘pen could use as much help as it can get next season, meaning Torres may be an important piece.

Russ Canzler- 2012 will probably be the year Russ Canzler will get his chance to prove himself as a big league quality player. Canzler definitely did his job in AAA Durham last year, winning the International League MVP award. Canzler, another successful minor leaguer out of the Cubs’ farm system, put up some terrific numbers in Triple-A last season. The 25 year-old batted for a high .314 with 83 RBI’s and 18 homers. Considering how well Canzler has hit in his minor league career, it seems a bit strange that he’s not considered one of the Rays’ top prospects. A high strikeout rate (23.5% in the minors last season) and lack of defensive value likely have a big part to do with it. Canzler spent most of his 2011 season at first base, but can also play a little in the outfield as well. Assuming that the Rays acquire a first baseman later this offseason, Canzler will probably be used mostly as a pinch hitter and DH in the majors this year. Although Canzler probably won’t get a huge chunk of big league playing time, his big bat could come through in clutch situations. Timely hitting is something that will play a major part in the Rays’ success in 2012, meaning the Canzler will have his chance to be an impact rookie.

Is Luke Scott The ‘One’?

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The Rays found there much-needed Designated Hitter on Wednesday when they signed 33 year-old veteran Luke Scott to a one-year deal (with a 2013 club option). The former Baltimore Oriole played mostly in the outfield, but also contributed at the DH position. Scott is clearly going to have to get used to playing DH, because that’s the reason the Rays signed him.

The left-handed slugger had an off-year last season, but it was mostly because of an injured shoulder which cost him him over half the season. Before the injury, Scott was one a steady rise from 2007- 2010. In 2007 Scott batted .255 with 18 home runs and 64 RBI’s, in 2010 he hit .284 while smashing 27 homers and 72 RBI’s. Scott holds a career batting line 0f .264/.349/.494. The numbers show what kind of offense Scott is able of producing, which is is something the Rays have been lacking in recent years. If Scott can recover from his surgery and return to his slugger form, the Rays will be a very dangerous team in 2012. A veteran power bat in the middle of the lineup may have been the difference between an American League pennant and an early playoff exit for the Rays in the past two seasons.

Back in December, a columnist from the Tampa Bay Times wrote an article stating that the Rays are just a single bat away from winning the pennant in 2012. Although the idea seemed a bit too optimistic at first glance, Rays fans started to adhere to the thought. I personally believe that the statement is not only true for the 2012 season, but it probably could apply to last season as well. Hopefully, the Rays will take another dip into free agency to pick up a hard-hitting first baseman. Reports say the Rays are still in play to bring back Carlos Pena or Casey Kotchman to play first for the Rays in 2012. I think it’s likely that the Rays will sign one of the two, which should have Rays Republic very excited. Both are terrific defensively and did great jobs contributing to the offense during their time in Tampa Bay. Adding Kotchman or Pena into the middle of the lineup along with Scott would definitely have the Rays headed in the right direction.

The last subject that emerged arousing the Luke Scott acquisition, regards ex-Rays DH Johnny Damon. By signing Scott, the Rays essentially parted ways with the 38 year-old veteran. Since both Scott and Damon’s main position on the Rays is DH, it’s very unlikely Damon will be re-signed. Damon’s very aware of this, and expressed some frustration in his comments on Wednesday. He started by saying “It’s an unhappy day”. He continued by talking about how he thought the shortstop and catching spots were bigger offensive issues than the first base and DH positions. I don’t know if I can agree with that statement, but I must say that Damon makes a great point when reminding us that “Those positions were hitting under .200″ last year. 20120113-095756.jpgDamon also told reporters that he loves to play for the Rays, and wanted to reach his 3,000 hit goal with the team. It’s easy interpret Damon’s comments as whiny or unappreciative, but I look as it as an honor for the Rays and sympathy for Damon. The fact that a player with a great career like Damon wants so badly to spend his last years with the Rays, should say something. Damon, a man who’s witnessed so much in baseball over his years, seems to respect the Rays more than any other team. I also feel bad for the guy too. Damon was a great example for the Rays clubhouse, and is one of the most unselfish players in Major League Baseball. It would be nice to see Damon get that magical 3,000th hit one day for the Rays, but let’s just hope Luke Scott can help us forget about it.

James Shields Trade Talk: 10 Possible Trade Packages That Could Work

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For small-market teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, the trade market is the key to filling in holes on the roster. The Rays are in desperate need of hitting, particularly a first baseman and a DH, which means they will likely need to trade away some of their excellent starting pitching. Fellow starters Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann are probably more likely candidates to be traded away, but James Shields trade rumors haven’t totally disappeared. With Shields entering his first club option of his contract coming into the offseason, rumors starting heating up since last season’s trade deadline. After Shields was optioned by the Rays back in October, the trade possibilities started to gradually cool down. However, there are still plenty of teams in need of starting pitching help that they couldn’t find from free agency. Trading James Shields seems to be more like ‘food for thought’ at the moment, rather than a serious possibility. There might not be many clubs who are willing to offer enough for Shields, and the Rays themselves may want to hang on to him. The exciting part about a potential Shields trade is that the Rays would get some serious offensive production out of the deal, while hoping that rookie Matt Moore can replace Shields at some point in the future. The question is, what kind of deals can teams offer to make the Rays bite? Take a look at ten different trade possibilities that may be enough to send the Rays’ ace out of Tampa Bay.

 

If any team is looking to add a big-time starting pitcher, it’s the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto has been in many discussions to acquire a starter since the offseason began, including being barely outbid on Japanese prodigy Yu Darvish. As far as we, the Jays haven’t been looking into a James Shields trade yet. However, it wouldn’t be a shocker if they show interest in him at some point in the future. What would it take to get the Rays to send their ace out of Tampa Bay? Veteran first baseman Adam Lind could potentially be a start to a deal. With the Rays in desperate need of a first baseman, Lind could be a great addition for the club. The left-handed slugger owns a lifetime .267 batting average and has established himself as a consistent 20+ homer-type player. Blue Jays’ No.1 prospect Travis d’Arnaud would essentially be the center of the trade package. The 22 year-old first-round draftee is one of the best position-player prospects in the American League. He hasn’t reached AAA yet, but his .311 batting average with 21 homers and 78 RBI’s in Double-A last season show that he isn’t far from moving up. d’Arnaud is a catcher, which would be his most attractive asset if the Rays were to pursue him. His defensive skills are pretty impressive, lead by his great arm behind the plate. The most interesting part about the possibility of d’Arnaud being traded is that he may not have a bright future in Toronto. Rookie catcher J.P. Arencebia appears to be emerging as the team’s main catcher. Outfielder Jake Marisnick is one minor leaguer you’ve probably never heard of. Marisnick is also considered one of Toronto’s better prospects, and clearly for a good reason. Marisnick has the ability to a be a five-tool outfielder in the majors. The 20 year-old possesses great fielding and throwing ability, excellent speed, and rapidly rising hitting skills. Marisnick hit .320 along with 14 homers, 77 RBI’s and 37 stolen bases through his 118 games in Class A Lansing.

Possible Trade: James Shields to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for 1B Adam Lind, minor league C Travis d’Arnaud, and minor league OF Jake Marisnick.

 

2011 was another disappointing season for the New York Mets, and poor starting pitching has been a big part of their struggles. The Mets simply need at least one more good starter to become a competitive team again. James Shields would give the Mets’ rotation the boost they need, and they may have some offensive players to offer. Daniel Murphy, a first baseman who also can play other positions around the infield, could very possibly be in the interest of the Rays. As Ike Davis appears to be the future first baseman of the ball club, Murphy probably has a much better job opportunity in Tampa. Former star outfielder Jason Bay just hasn’t been the same in the past two years like he was in his glory days with Boston and Pittsburgh. 20120111-211327.jpgThe slugging leftfielder is still only 33, and many wonder if he can put up the ridiculous run production that he did in the past. Bay’s big bat joins Murphy in the main focus of a potential James Shields trade. However, just Murphy and Bay would still probably not be a good enough offer for the Rays to take. A talented offensive prospect like Wilmer Flores is someone the Mets can throw in there to make this deal possible. Though I would think that it would really be a blow to the team to give away a young shortstop like that after losing Jose Reyes this offseason. Flores, who is the Mets’ top hitting prospect, has a while to go before he hits the big leagues. At just 20 years old, Flores still managed to drive in over 80 RBI’s in a full Single-A season. The youngster is progressing in all parts of his game, but his exceptional hitting skills are what could ring bells in Tampa.

Possible Trade: James Shields to the New York Mets in exchange for 1B Daniel Murphy, LF Jason Bay, and minor league shortstop Wilmer Flores.

 

The New York Yankees are really one good starting pitcher away from being the best team in the MLB. If the Yanks had a arm like James Shields in their rotation in the last two years, they probably would of won the pennant in both of those seasons. New York is very aware of that, and it’s no surprise that they have been seeking starting pitching this offseason. It doesn’t seem like they’re heading towards any sort of blockbuster trade to get a starter, but they have some young talent that makes a potential swap an interesting idea. Catcher Jesus Montero, who is the Yankees’ top prospect and baseball’s No.1 catching prospect, would be the guy to lead the young trade package for Shields. Montero has very impressive hitting abilities and he is a catcher; something that should obviously attract the Rays. Montero, who hit .328 during his first brief stint in the MLB, has all the tools to become a star slugger in the big leagues. Outfielder Chris Dickerson possibly would be another piece to the trade. Dickerson is nothing special quite frankly, as he spent most of his time with the Yankees down in AAA. The Yankees would need to offer more to make this deal work, and they do have a couple of exciting prospects deep in their farm system. First round draft pick Slade Heathcott and prodigy Mason Williams are two more young outfielders that the Rays would love to add to their minor league system. Both are just in Single-A right now, but their left-handed hitting abilities plus their good defense could be enough to complete a potential trade package for Shields.

Possible Trade: James Shields to the New York Yankees in exchange for C Jesus Montero, OF Chris Dickerson, minor league OF Slade Heathcott, and minor league OF Mason Williams.

 

The Texas Rangers made it all the way to the World Series in both of the past two years. I think it’s fair to say that starting pitching is what was the difference between a AL Champion Rangers ball club and a World Champion Rangers ball club. Their starting pitching was simply not adequate to prevail on baseball’s biggest stage. The Rangers would surely love to pick up an ace like James Shields, but the question is whether they are able to give away some of their outstanding offense. First baseman Mitch Moreland’s name pops up right away as a player the Rays could definitely use on their roster. The 26 year-old power-hitting lefty is in just his second year in the big leagues, and he already plays the first-base role pretty nicely. Speedy outfielder Craig Gentry had his first year of decent MLB playing time last season, and he could likely be a trade piece for Texas in the future. Gentry is emerging as someone who could be a solid MLB player. His excellent base-running skills and above-average defense are already very impressive, but he’s also improving as a hitter. Don’t be too shocked to see either (or both) Gentry or Moreland be traded away sometime in the future, as Texas may not have too much need for them on their squad. Both David Murphy and Julio Borbon can take over in the outfield, while Mike Napoli could probably fill in at first base. If the Rays were to work out a Shields trade with Texas, they would likely also get pitching out of the deal. With Neftali Feliz and Shields (if they are to make a trade) joining the rotation next season, southpaw Matt Harrison probably won’t have a consistent spot in the rotation, making him another trade piece. The Rays are certainly not looking to add to their starting pitching, but they have been seeking bullpen help throughout the offseason. The Rays would love to use Harrison as an effective left-handed reliever out of their bullpen. Still, I think that the Rangers are going to need to throw in another prospect into the pile to make a deal possible. First-round draft pick Jake Skole, a member of the Rangers’ top 10 prospects, is a thought. The 19 year-old outfielder has plenty of pop in his left-handed bat, which would be a great addition to the Rays’ farm system. Adding Skole as the final player of the trade might be close to enough to pry Shields away from Tampa. Below is the final deal that I think would get Texas the deal.

Trade Possibility: James Shields to the Texas Rangers in exchange for 1B Mitch Moreland, OF Craig Gentry, LHP Matt Harrison, minor league OF Jake Skole, and cash.

 

First of all, the chances the Arizona Diamondbacks acquire a starting pitcher before spring training are close to none. Even though the D’Backs would like to improve their starting rotation, there are some obvious reasons why a future James Shields trade is unlikely. They already made a big trade for Trevor Cahill earlier this winter, and also used some of their spending money on Jason Kubel. Also, it seems as if rookie first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is making a name for himself in Phoenix. Being a young first baseman, Goldschmidt would probably be the main trade target if the Rays were to discuss trade talks with Arizona. The problem is that the Diamondbacks aren’t looking to give away their future first baseman. What the D’Backs do have to offer is leftfielder Gerardo Parra and third baseman Ryan Roberts. Parra, who won a NL Gold Glove Award last season, is clearly on an upward rise in his three year-old career. 20120111-211336.jpgThe 24 year-old left-hander hit .292 last year and stole 15 bases (caught only once), and was a big part of the Diamondbacks’ successful 2011 season. Ryan Roberts didn’t exactly put up the same numbers as Parra, but he probably should get more credit. 2011 was the best of Roberts’ career, belting 19 homers and 65 RBI’s while batting .249 and stealing 18 bases. You’re probably asking why the Rays would want a third baseman when the have Evan Longoria. The fact is that Robert can actually play at second base and in the outfield. So Roberts could be a fit on the Rays, but in reality the D’Backs would way rather trade away Parra. Two additional top prospects should be enough to make a discussable deal with the Rays. If they were to negotiate a trade, the Rays would probably have a keen eye on both first/third baseman Matt Davidson and outfielder A.J. Pollock. Both sluggers are considered among the organization’s top prospects. Davidson smashed 20 homers and 106 RBI’s in Single-A ball last season, showing off is outstanding power. Pollock spent the whole season in AA Mobile, and batted a high .307 with 73 RBI’s and 36 stolen bases.

Possible Trade: James Shields to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for LF Gerardo Parra, 3B Ryan Roberts, minor league 1B/3B Matt Davidson, and minor league OF A.J.Pollock.

 

Like the Diamondbacks, the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals also don’t have high odds of a James Shields trade. With the team’s ace Adam Wainwright returning (who missed all of last season due to injury) and the same starters from last year, the Cards’ rotation looks pretty set. It seems as if St. Louis will enter the spring with Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Jake Westbrook. To reel in James Shields to St. Louis, the Cardinals would need to sacrifice much of their talent that they would use to replace Albert Pujols. Right off the top, Allen Craig’s name comes to mind. Craig, who plays in the outfield and first base, batted an impressive .315 average in his second big league season. Craig would probably be someone the Rays would like to add to their roster, but his offseason knee injury could have them thinking otherwise. The Rays have emphasized their focus on strengthening the bullpen this offseason. Considering that, right-handed reliever Fernando Salas could be a player that the Cards could add to the trade package. The 26 year-old Mexican-native posted a 2.28 ERA last season through 75 innings pitched out of the ‘pen. Craig and Salas are a pretty good start to a potential Shields trade, but the Cards would probably need to throw in a couple of high-ranked prospects. 19 year-old phenom Oscar Taveras would be an exciting addition to the Rays’ system. The left-handed outfielder has just started his venture in professional baseball, but he has proven that he can flat-out rake the baseball. Prospect first baseman Matt Adams is also a big left-handed bat. The 23 year-old slugger has some big-time raw power, which he displayed in AA Springfield by smashing 32 homers with 101 RBI’s and a .300 average. With the loss of Pujols, the Cardinals are most likely going to want to get a grip on Adams rather than trade him away. That’s another reason why this trade seems unlikely. The Rays would probably demand a first baseman, and Adams would be vital to a possible deal.

Possible Trade: James Shields to the St. Louis Cardinals for OF/1B Allen Craig, RP Fernando Salas, minor league OF Oscar Taveras, and minor league 1B Matt Adams.

 

The Colorado Rockies have been aggressively seeking help for their starting rotation this offseason, and have even had interest of Rays pitchers. James Shields would be dream acquisition for Colorado considering their situation. The Rockies’ have two outfielders, Seth Smith and Charlie Blackmon, who would make a a decent start to a deal. The Rockies don’t seem to mind parting ways with Smith, as he has already been a hot topic amongst MLB trade rumors for a while now. Smith had probably his best season of his career last year for Colorado, batting .284 with 59 RBI’s and 15 homers. Rookie Charlie Blackmon would be every bit as much valuable as Smith in this trade. The 25 year-old only has 27 games of MLB experience under his belt, but his great minor league numbers can’t be overlooked. Blackmon played his first season of AAA baseball last year, hitting .337 through his 243 at-bats. It’s debatable, but I think one really good prospect could complete the trade package. Colorado’s No.1 prospect Wilin Rosario is a name that should surely light up eyes in the Rays’ front office. The 22 year-old phenom catcher has all the tools to be a successful big league backstop. Rosario doesn’t hit for a high-average like Smith and Blackmon, but he sure has plenty of power. His great arm behind the plate is also impressive. Rosario spent most of his season in Double-A last year, where he hit 21 home runs with a .249 average in his 102 games. Despite not experience AAA baseball yet, Rosario still earned himself 16 MLB games with the Rockies last season. In his brief 54 AB’s, Rosario was able to knock out three homers and drive in eight RBI’s.

Possible Trade: James Shields to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for OF Seth Smith, OF Charlie Blackmon, and C Wilin Rosario.

 

A trade for a James Shields would likely put the Detroit Tigers over the top. The Tigers have been seeking a starter to complete a pretty good rotation lead my AL MVP Justin Verlander. I doubt they are looking for an ace-type pitcher like Shields though, but rather a fifth-spot starter. Detroit probably wouldn’t want to trade away a chunk of their young talent, but they have the right players to make a big deal work. Former Ray and outfielder Delmon Young could be a potential trade piece for Detroit. Last season in his first year as a Tiger, Young didn’t meet the expectations that were brought upon him after the blockbuster Tampa-Minnesota trade before the 2008 season. Young did a pretty good job producing runs, but his .268 average was the lowest of his career by 16 points. Also, his RBI total dropped 48 runs from the previous year. All reasons way a future Delmon Young trade is by no means impossible. Rookie outfielder Andy Dirks seems to have a bright future in the big leagues. Dirks played 78 games in his first season last year, batting .251 with seven homers and 28 RBI’s. Dirks holds a career AAA average of .343 (2010 and 2011) with 41 RBI’s and 11 homers through his 63 games in Toledo. Young and Dirks would make up the offensive part of the trade package, but the Tigers would probably also have to sacrifice their No. 1 prospect Jacob Turner. The first-round drafted right-handed pitcher has been surrounded by scout hype for years now. To acquire an ace like James Shields, that would mean giving up a potential future ace like Jacob Turner.

Possible Trade: James Shields to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for OF Delmon Young, OF Andy Dirks, and minor league SP Jacob Turner.

 

The Washington Nationals have been the center of offseason excitement this winter. They came into the offseason in search of starting pitching help, and may of found their guy when they acquired Gio Gonzalez in a trade. The Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo are definitely not a team that shies away from big moves, but getting James Shields to Washington seems unlikely. If a trade were to work out, the Nats would probably have to send their slugging outfielder Jayson Werth to lead the trade package. The Rays could use his offensive production, and it’s possible he would be a demand in this deal. Even though Werth had an off-year last season batting .64 points lower that 2010, I doubt the Nationals would be willing to trade him. They signed him for a mega seven-year contract last year, and they probably don’t see any reason to give him away while they’re looking for as much outfield talent they can get. This trade possibility is more of a “what if” situation, rather than a trade rumor. 20120111-212116.jpgShortstop Ian Desmond and relief pitcher Henry Rodriguez would be the additional pieces to complete the trade package. Ian Desmond would be a very intriguing acquisition for the Rays. It’s amazing how well Desmond could fit in Tampa; he’s an absolute textbook Tampa Bay Rays player. For starters, Desmond is a speedy infielder (25 steals last season) who plays well defensively and does all the little things right on the baseball diamond. He puts his best efforts into the game every night, which was acknowledged when he won the Nationals’ Heart and Hustle Award. These are all traits of a Rays ballplayer. In addition to all this, Desmond was born and raised less than an hour away from Tropicana Field. Henry Rodriguez, the final piece to the potential deal, is a key part of the Nationals’ bullpen. The 24 year-old right-hander was a MLB Futures Game Selection and posted a 3.56 ERA through 65.2 innings last season. As I mentioned earlier in the article, the Rays are still continuing their bullpen rebuilding process and wouldn’t mind adding some relief help in their ‘pen.

Possible Trade: James Shields to the Washington Nationals in exchange for OF Jayson Werth, SS Ian Desmond, and RP Henry Rodriguez.

 

Just like the Boston Red Sox regular season last year, Boston’s offseason with new GM Ben Cherington has been a failure so far. The Sox have some good starting pitching, but there’s no arguing that they need to improve their rotation. Although the Sox will likely want to sit tight with their rotation for the rest of the offseason, they may have enough young talent to pry Shields from Tampa Bay. Ryan Lavarnway and Darnell McDonald are two interested names that probably would be thrown into a trade for Shields. Lavarnway, who played 17 MLB games in his short 2011 stint, is catcher/DH with outstanding hitting skills. Through 116 games in the minors last season (AA and AAA), Lavarnway batted .290 with 93 RBI’s and 32 home runs. Darnell McDonald, who’s played five seasons in the majors, might not have a future in Boston anyway. The 33 year-old corner outfielder struggled hitting .236 for the Red Sox last year, but hit .270 in 2010. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks is unanimously ranked the top prospect in the Red Sox organization. Middlebrooks has the ability to be an all-around excellent baseball player, which he displayed while making huge amounts of progress in the minor leagues during 2011. Because third is the only position he plays, I’m not sure what kind of future he would have alongside Evan Longoria and the Rays. First baseman Lars Anderson may not be a big name, but he would be a crucial part of this deal. As the Rays are in search of a first baseman, the big left-handed slugger would be an attractive asset in the deal. Anderson batted .265 with 14 homers and 78 RBI’s last season for AAA Pawtucket.

Possible Trade: James Shields to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for OF Darnell McDonald, C/DH Ryan Lavarnway, 3B Will Middlebrooks, and 1B Lars Anderson.

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