Last year, The Rays Rant evaluated the Rays’ top prospects of 2011. This year, The Rays Rant will break down the top 20 Rays prospects of 2012, once again based off MLB.com’s rankings. Here’s a glance of what some of the Rays’ future players have to offer.
1. Matt Moore
Scouting Report: 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, having been ranked No.1 by MLB.com’s top 100 prospects of 2012 list. Moore has been ranked within the top three prospects by pretty much every source, making him one of the most recognized prospects in all of baseball. So, what’s the reason behind all this hype surrounding Moore? First of all, the kid features some wicked wicked stuff, making him a real 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. His curveball has always been a big pitch for Moore, but the changeup is now coming into effect more than ever before. His hard slider and powerful sinker, both above average pitches as well, completing a terrific arsenal. 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 K—Moore finally got his chance to shine on the big stage. And shine he did, in most of his 19.1 innings of his 2011 experience. Moore really made his mark when the playoffs started, though. He 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—including playoffs—with a combined ERA of 2.09 with 23 strikeouts.
Conclusion: 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. 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 looks like the Rays will likely have a second Rookie of the Year winner in a row this season.
2. Hak-Ju Lee
Hak-Ju Lee may not yet be a household name among Rays fans, but it won’t be too long before he gains recognition in professional baseball. The 21-year-old Korean was acquired in the Matt Garza trade and is considered one of the top prospects in baseball. Lee was one of three players that represented the Rays at the MLB Futures Game last July.
Offensively: Lee was promoted in August to Class-AA after spending most of his 2011 season playing for the Charlotte Stonecrabs (Class-A+). His combined stats from his 2011 season included a .292 average with 30 RBI and 33 stolen bases. Some of Lee’s best attributes are part of his offensive game. He has great speed, is a good contact hitter, and is able to put up quality at-bats. However, Lee does have some offensive weaknesses as well. He doesn’t have much pop in his left-handed bat at all, and he also needs to improve his baserunning. Lee will probably never develop into any kind of a power hitter, but wise decisions on the base pads will definitely become a very important part of his game. Last season, Lee was thrown out 16 times out of 49 attempts; a ratio that simply must improve. He’ll likely make good progress in that department, as he already has advanced during his time in the minors.
Defensively: Overall, Lee is a plus defensive shortstop. He’s made huge strides with his glove throughout his pro career, bringing his defense to one of the highest levels in his minor league class. Lee’s quickness provides him with great range at short, and he also features a strong arm. Lee recorded 18 errors last year, which is a drastic improvement from his previous seasons in the minors.
Conclusion: Many believe that Lee has All Star potential in the big leagues, and it’s pretty easy to see why. At just 21, Lee has already convinced scouts he has a Gold Glove caliber future and can be an effective base-stealer in the big leagues. Faults in his game, such as careless baserunning and fielding errors, are not much of a concern at this stage and are very common amongst 20 year-old prospects. At the end of the day, Lee is a very exciting youngster for the Rays’ organization, and appears to be the club’s future shortstop. Excpect to see him arrive sometime during the 2013 season.
3. Chris Archer
Scouting Report: Chris Archer, another top prospect acquired from the Matt Garza trade, has been one of the biggest names in the Rays farm system. With all the pitching talent in the Rays’ farm system, Archer leads the pack of right-handed arms. Archer’s effectiveness is heavily based off his two main pitches; the fastball and the hard slider. He features a very live heater, that reaches speeds in the mid-90′s. Archer’s slider is absolutely nasty, giving him an outstanding secondary pitch. The 23-year-old also includes a changeup in his arsenal, but it’s clear that it needs work to become a reliable pitch. Archer’s overall stuff is pretty impressive, and is definitely not his main issue. Command is by far the biggest thing Archer needs to improve on to take the next step in his career. When Archer struggles, it’s almost always when he’s not able to place his pitches where he wants them. Past command struggles are shown in his stats, as Archer’s high walk rate has hurt his numbers throughout his pro career.
Conclusion: The future looks pretty bright for maybe the Rays’ most intriguing young righty. Archer finished his 2011 season on a high note, being promoted late in the year to AAA Durham after spending most of the season with AA Montgomery. He let in just one run through two excellent starts with the Bulls. Hopefully, Archer can start the season where he left off and improve his 4.09 ERA that he posted last year. His second-half turnaround re-convinced many people that Archer has the potential to become a frontline starter in the majors. At this point it’s pretty clear that only his command is holding him down. Archer may contribute to the Rays bullpen later this season, where he seems like he could fit in pretty well with his dangerous fastball-slider combo.
4. Tim Beckham
Tim Beckham proved a lot last year to remind everybody of the former No. 1 draft-pick he is. Some scouts wrote off Beckham before the 2011 season, but he apparently has made himself noticeable enough to move himself up on the Rays’ prospect list from No. 10 to No. 3 (via MLB.com).
Offensively: Beckham spent his 2011 season playing 107 games for AA Montgomery and 24 games for AAA Durham. He combined for a .271 average with 12 home runs and 70 RBI. Beckham improved his offensive game overall, especially in power and plate discipline. Being a six-foot middle-infielder, Beckham doesn’t feature any real big-time power, but he definitely can hit the ball hard with his excellent bat speed. The biggest thing Beckham has to work on offensively is increasing both his batting and on-base percentage. Besides his appearance at the plate, Beckham also can run the bases well. He increased his baserunning intelligence a lot last year, dropping his caught stealing total by nine while decreasing his stolen base total by just five. Beckham will never become an avid base-stealer, but he probably can be a threat on the bags at the big league level.
Defensively: Defense has been one of the biggest concerns for Beckham in the past. Sloppy defense at shortstop has made many question his future at the position. Fortunately, Beckham has made huge progress with his glove, cutting his error total down by the years. Errors are really the biggest issue for Beckham defensively, as he probably has the tools to become a big league shortstop. He features a strong throwing arm, but it’s debatable how good his range and hands still are.
Conclusion: Beckham has established himself as one of those “Late Bloomers” in the prospect world, but he still hasn’t really ‘bloomed’ to his full potential yet. He may not be the star that he was once predicted to be, but he does have bright potential. This season will be a crucial year for Beckham, as he needs to continue to make strides and rebuild his reputation. He appears to be on the right track, as he inches closer and closer to the big leagues. Beckham could make his MLB debut as early as late this summer.
5. Mikie Mahtook
Former LSU star Mikie Mahtook was drafted by the Rays last summer in the first round. The 22-year-old outfielder is a member of MLB.com’s top 100 prospects, being ranked at 96 on the list.
Offensively: Mahtook is arguably the best offensive prospects in the Rays’ farm system. He was a big-time hitter in college, batting .383/.496/.709 in his final season with Louisiana State. The impressive numbers didn’t stop there, as Mahtook continued his success into his professional baseball debut. Mahtook batted .338 with three homers and 9 RBI through 18 games during his stint in the Arizona Fall League. Overall, Mahtook is a very a good hitter. He has great mechanics at the plate, as well as quick bat speed that allows him to hit for both average and power. Mahtook also excels in the baserunning department, featuring average to plus speed. He’s a very intelligent baserunner as well, the type of player that won’t make too many blunders on the base pads. Mahtook’s power-speed combination can bring excitement to any lineup, and is the reason why the Rays drafted him.
Defensively: Mahtook was a centerfielder throughout his college career, but he’ll likely end up in the corner-outfield positions where he seems to fit better. He’s an all-around plus defender, with good range and a strong arm. Mahtook’s throwing accuracy is probably his most attractive asset in the outfield, something that will help in develop into an MLB outfielder.
Conclusion: The Rays have every reason to believe Mahtook’s bat skills and athletic abilities will make him a solid player at the big league level. His natural baseball instincts and energy will likely translate well when he arrives in the majors. The Rays should be eager to have an emotional and intense player like Mahtook joining them in the near-future.
The wait is finally over; Spring Training is officially underway! The long offseason has finally come to an end, which means baseball will soon return to Tampa Bay. As the Rays prepare for another successful season in 2012, there are some questions yet to be answered. Take a look at the five biggest questions coming into Spring Training.
Who will take over the the fifth spot in the rotation?
Having an overcrowded rotation is probably the best problem a team can have. With the addition of phenom rookie Matt Moore, the Rays’ position in the MLB arms race is higher than ever. The front four in the rotation is pretty predictable. Expect to see James Shields in the number one spot, followed by Price, Hellickson, and Moore. Of course, all eyes will be on who wins the last spot in the rotation. Although there is really four candidates for the fifth spot (Jeff Niemann, Alex Cobb, Wade Davis, and Alex Torres), the decision is likely going to come down to two players. It appears as if Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis, who were both part of the Rays starting rotation last season, will battle it out for the job this spring. It should be fun to watch, as Joe Maddon’s decision will most likely be heavily based off their Spring Training performances. Niemann pitched nearly 50 less innings than Davis last season, but there statistics were still pretty similar. Niemann finished the year with a 4.06 ERA and an 11-7 record, while Davis posted a 4.45 ERA with an 11-10 record. The numbers show that Niemann has been the more effective pitcher in the past, but that’s something he’ll have to prove this March. It’s hard to predict who will get the No. 5 role, but I think the early edge probably goes to Niemann. Again, we’ll just have to wait and see how they fare during Spring Training. As for the three pitchers who will be kept out of the starting rotation, they’re still valuable reserves on the roster. Almost never does a team go through a whole season without an injury to one of their starters, which means that they’ll have their chance to step in and contribute during the season. While the starting five are healthy, the reserve starters will likely help strengthen the bullpen. Whoever is edged out out of the rotation — Niemann or Davis — will become the team’s long reliever this season.
Who will win the battle at short?
The shortstop position is one of the big topics for the Rays this season, and it’s a big question of how much production can come from there in 2012. The competition for the shortstop job features three candidates: Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac, and the newly-acquired Jeff Keppinger. Like the rotation battle, the candidates are going to have to prove themselves during Spring Training. Rodriguez, who can play pretty much every position besides pitcher and catcher, seems to be the early favorite entering Sprig Training. Rodriguez put up the best offensive production out of all the Rays’ shortstops last year, batting .223 with eight home runs and 36 RBI’s. He also has good speed on the bases, collecting 11 thefts in 2011. His defense is maybe a bit above average, and he has proven to be a consistent fielder at short. Brignac also has similar plus sides to Rodriguez. His defense is at least as good as Rodriguez’s, and he’s probably just as much as a threat on the basepads. Besides his speed, Brignac has pretty much no offensive value. That’s main reason why his odds don’t look good for the shortstop job. Brignac finished the season with a low .193 average and just 15 RBI’s. As for Jeff Keppinger, he could earn himself a starting role with a strong Spring Training performance. He’s going to have to hit well for average, as his defense, power, and speed are not going to cut it. Keppinger is less than average defensively at shortstop, and plays a lot more games at second. A lifetime .281 hitter, Keppinger mostly adds offensive value to the roster. The Rays have a defense-oriented infield, but I believe Keppinger could possibly get the shortstop gig if he can convince the Rays that he is offensively stable enough. Still, Rodriguez seems to be the best fit for the job at the moment, and is probably the best prediction to play shortstop on Opening Day.
Who Will Be a Part of the Bullpen?
The battles for the rotation and shortstop spots may be the biggest storylines for the Rays this spring, but there will also be a heated competition for the bullpen. The Rays made multiple moves to reinforce their bullpen this season, now we will have to see how Maddon will piece them together. The closer role and setup man role are pretty predictable for 2012, as Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta look like they will return to their respectable spots in the bullpen. That leaves five more spots in the bullpen, with at least eight serious candidates. New right-handed additions Burke Badenhop and Fernando Rodney will likely find themselves a spot in the bullpen. The long reliever of the ‘pen would be however loses the Davis-Niemann battle for the fifth spot in the rotation. So, that leaves just two spots left in the bullpen. I’m assuming Maddon will want two lefties in his bullpen, bringing multiple names into the picture. The Rays showed a lot of confidence in J.P. Howell this offseason, which makes me predict that he’ll become the team’s left-handed specialist in the ‘pen. That leaves two main names who will likely fight it out for the middle relief role; Jake McGee and Josh Lueke. Even though McGee had a better statistical season last year, I think Lueke will be the one on the Opening Day roster. McGee is younger, and the Rays may prefer that he continues to develop in AAA Durham. However, McGee could be one among a handful of players who will be called up to contribute in the bullpen throughout the season. Brandon Gomes, Dane De La Rosa, Alex Torres, and Cesar Ramos could all potentially find themselves just outside the bullpen as well. Here’s how I predict the bullpen will look at the start of the regular season:
Can Matt Joyce Develop into a First Baseman?
Matt Joyce did not conduct his usual offseason workouts this winter. For the first time in his big league career, the 27 year-old Tampa-native is trying out the first base position. The All-Star outfielder is possibly considering becoming a first baseman. Even though Carlos Pena will be manning first base for the whole season, it’s always good to have the idea in mind. Offensively, Joyce is an adequate hitter for the position, and he’s still developing. In just his first big league season, Joyce batted .277 with 75 RBI’s and 19 home runs. Joyce’s power is something that will help him fit in at first, if he were to continue to pursue the position. Obviously, the biggest adjustment for Joyce would be defensively. Being an outfielder for his whole MLB career, Joyce would have a lot to learn in order to master the position. Joyce is one of many outfielders who have tried the move to first, and it hasn’t been much of a success story. Knowing Joyce, though, I believe he can complete the transition if he’s truly determined. Last offseason, Joyce worked to improve his baserunning and defense, and the results were great and very noticeable throughout the 2011 season. Joyce has terrific work ethic, and he’s one of those players who will do what it takes to achieve his goals. Joe Maddon may make team orders, but at the end of the day it really depends on whether Joyce is willing to put in the hard work or not.
Which Prospects Will Stand Out This March?
Besides Matt Moore, there are a handful of Rays prospects who have a lot to prove this Spring. Shortstop Tim Beckham is one of those names. Beckham, who’s ranked the Rays’ fourth-best prospect (by MLB.com), has a crucial year coming up ahead of him. The former first-overall draft pick has disappointed a bit so far in his minor league career, considering the extremely high expectations put on him since the beginning. Beckham compiled a .271 average with 70 RBI’s and 17 stolen bases through his 131 games last season, during his time with AA Montgomery and his brief stint with AAA Durham. It may not be the big numbers that stand out among scouts, but he was only 21 in 2011. He made a lot of progress last year, specifically improving in his defensive game. Many scouts say he may not have a big league future at the shortstop position, but Beckham is making efforts to prove them wrong. Even if Beckham won’t be an MLB shortstop, I still believe he has the potential to be a solid big league player. Any way you look at it, this is a very important Spring Training for Beckham, and I doubt he’ll disappoint.
Hak-Ju Lee is another top prospect who received a Spring Training invitation. The Rays are hopeful the 21-year-old Korean-native is there future shortstop. Lee, who was acquired in the Matt Garza trade two offseasons ago, ended his 2011 season in AA Montgomery after spending most of the year at the Class-A+ level. He finished the year with a .292 average along with 30 RBI’s and 17 stolen bases. Lee features great speed as well as plus defense, and is expected to make major progress in the minors this season. Although Lee will most likely not be joining the Rays in 2012, he should be a fun player to watch at Spring Training. It will be interesting to see if Lee and Beckham will have themselves a bit of a private battle throughout the spring.
Brandon Guyer, another youngster acquired in the Matt Garza trade, may have the most important Spring Training out of all the Rays prospects. The 26-year-old will have to play some quality baseball if he wants to break into the Rays’ crowded outfield. Guyer batted .312 with 14 homers and 16 stolen bases through his 107 at-bats with AAA Durham last season, displaying his power-speed combination. Even with the good numbers, it will be hard for him to find a decent amount of MLB playing time this season. With B.J. Upton, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, and Sam Fuld taking over the outfield, he’s going to have to impress this March if he wants the big league shot he deserves.
With the exception of Matt Moore, there will be three main prospect pitchers to keep an eye on during Spring Training. Alex Cobb, Alex Torres, and Chris Archer will all have a lot of work to do this spring in order to prove they have what it takes to join the Rays’ talented rotation in the future. Cobb has the most MLB experience out of the three, going 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in his nine starts last season. He has also been successful in his minor league career, and has improved year by year. Alex Torres will need to follow Cobb’s path and improve his numbers if he wants a future as a Rays starter. Torres’ stats weren’t bad last year, as he went 9-7 with a 3.08 ERA through his 27 starts at AAA Durham. Still, some things have to be fixed, and I’m pretty confident Torres will make progress doing so during Spring Training. As for Chris Archer, the Rays hope he can start the spring where he finished off. Archer, who is ranked the third best prospect (by MLB.com), ended his minor league season strong after having some struggles earlier in the year. It’ll be a big season for the 23-year-old hurler in 2012, and it should be interesting to see how he starts along side the rest of the Rays’ pitching talent. I think this may be the year Archer really shines and shows off his high potential.
The Rays and skipper Joe Maddon have agreed to a three-year contract extension, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The great news is also predictable news, as the Rays have been negotiating with Maddon for a while now.
The Rays really hit a home run with this deal, which was also a no-brainer. Obviously, Maddon has been a vital part of the Rays’ success in the past years, and they simply can not afford to let a guy like this go. It’s good to see Andrew Friedman continue to get the job done in the Rays’ front office.
Speaking of Joe Maddon, check out yesterday’s article: 5 Things You May Not Know About Joe Maddon.
Ever since the Rays’ magical season back in 2008, it became clear that skipper Joe Maddon was someone special. Since taking over the Rays’ head coaching spot in 2006, Maddon has emerged as one of baseball’s best managers. He helped turn a franchise around, transforming the Tampa Bay Rays from the league’s laughingstock into one of the most respected teams in baseball. His unconventional style of coaching baseball and his unique paths to success make Maddon one of Major League Baseball’s most interesting and colorful personalities. The guy is simply not your average Joe. Although baseball fans are pretty familiar with a lot of Maddon’s achievements throughout his career, there are some facts that are not well-known about Joe. Let’s take a look at five things you may of not known about Maddon.
Passion for Cycling-
Throughout his whole big league coaching career, cycling has been one of Maddon’s passions away from the game. Biking along the bay near his Tampa Bay home has been part of Maddon’s weekly routine, as well is his main source of exercise. Back two years ago, Maddon said he rode his bike anywhere from 60-100 miles per week. At 58-years-old, Maddon is committed to taking care of his body and staying in shape. Besides getting his needed exercise from his bike rides, Maddon also benefits mentally from cycling. He says it helps manage the stress of being a big league manager, and even helps him think of creative ideas. The “9=8″ slogan, which Maddon made famous after clinching the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, was actually thought of during one of his bike rides.
Previous Coaching Experience and World Series Ring
Before joining the Rays as manager in 2005, Maddon did have some MLB coaching experience. In his final of 31 years serving the Angels’ organization, Maddon won a World Series Championship as the bench coach of the 2002 Anaheim Angels. Maddon learned a lot under current Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia during his years as a coach in Anaheim. Being one of baseball’s elite managers, Scioscia’s teachings have definitely been influential in Maddon’s success with the Rays. Besides Maddon’s 21st century experiences in Anaheim, Maddon had many years of coaching pro baseball before that. He managed Angels minor league clubs for six seasons, from 1981-1986. He also managed 51 games for the Angels at the Major League level during the 90′s, all as an interim. After leaving the Angels following the 2002 season, Maddon became a manager possibility for teams seeking a skipper. Before the 2004 season, Maddon was considered one of the leading candidates to get the managing job for the Boston Red Sox. The job went to Terry Francona instead, and Maddon signed with the Rays a year later.
Professional Playing Career-
Obviously, Joe Maddon will never be remembered for his brief career as a baseball player. His professional playing career was not much of a success story, which is why most people are not familiar with it at all. Maddon was signed by the California Angels as a free agent in 1975, after graduating from Lafayette College. He spent four seasons in the Angels’ minor league system as a catcher from 1976-1979, before becoming a scout and manager for the organization. He played for the Quad Cities Angels, the Salinas Angels, and the Santa Clara Padres. All three teams are Class-A clubs. Maddon’s career statistics include a career .267 batting average and no more than five home runs through 514 total at-bats. Maddon is one of only a few active Major League managers who have never played a game in the big leagues.
Not a lot happened for the Rays during the summer of 2007, but Maddon will always remember it for a different reason. When the Rays were on a road trip to Colorado four years ago, Joe Maddon became engaged. He proposed to his girlfriend Jaye Sousoures that June, who he would marry a year later. Maddon had his wedding in November of 2008, just a couple weeks after the conclusion of the Rays’ memorable pennant-winning season.
Besides putting his hard work into his baseball club, Maddon also does a lot for the community. Back in 2006, Maddon started an annual event called Thanksmas, in order to help the Tampa Bay area’s needy during the holiday season. Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Joe Maddon and a group of Rays employees prepare traditional meals for the homeless citizens of the Bay area. The main point of Thanksmas is to raise awareness for the growing homelessness issue in Tampa, as well as raising money for the Salvation Army charities. After six years of community service, Maddon has created one of the most effective charitable programs in the Tampa Bay area. This last Thanksmas was probably the most successful ever, as $4,000 in donations was given to each of the three Salvation Army centers near Tampa Bay.
The Tampa Bay Rays clearly have a true ace in James Shields. “Big Game James” has proved himself as one of the elite pitchers in baseball, leading the Rays’ outstanding starting rotation with an excellent 2011 season. Although Shields has made a name for himself in Tampa more than ever before, his future with the Rays is a big question. Since the offseason began, Shields’ name has flooded trade rumors in recognition that the Rays’ star pitcher could possibly be traded for a bat. Shields is also entering the final two club options of his contract during the next two years, making a potential trade even more likely. Considering the Rays’ current situation, it would take a lot of work to lock up Shields long-term. The Rays don’t have a lot of money to spend on big-market players like Shields, and they also have plenty of pitching talent. When you put that fact into mind in addition to Shields having an extremely high trade value, a career-long tenure with the Rays doesn’t seem probable. Before we determine how the Rays can keep Shields in Tampa Bay, let’s take a look at Shields’ current contract: As we can see from the picture (courtesy of spotrac.com), Shields has two more (of his three) club options options left in his contract that he signed back in 2008. Just like in all multi-year club options, the player gets paid more by each year. Based on what we see in Shields’ previous contract, he would have to be paid more than $12 million per year, which is the amount he will make if the Rays excercise his option in 2014. So whether the Rays chose to re-sign Shields or renew his contract, he would probably be requesting over $13 million eventualy. Based on Shields’ fabulous performance last season, he’s definitely not earning the amount of money he deserves right now. A contract extension should be able to solve that problem for Shields. Although Shields can earn more when he is signed as a free agent, there are a few things that should make him eager to re-negotiate his contract with the Rays. First of all, Shields would make more money in the next two seasons than he would with his old contract. With a renewed contract, Shields would be guaranteed with the highest pay of his professional career. Another positive for Shields would be the financial security that a contract extension would provide for him and his family. Being a pitcher in his thirties, there is always the risk for injury. There is also the risk that a pitchers effectiveness will decline as he ages, which the Rays would need to be aware of if they were to negotiate a major deal. If Shields is offered a good amount of guaranteed money that extends into into his mid-thirties, he would likely jump on it. A contract extension seems like the best way to lock up Shields, but what kind of contract could we be looking at here? Another AL East star pitcher, C.C. Sabathia, recently agreed to a five-year contract extension with the New York Yankees. His renewed contract probably serves as the best model of what a James Shields extension could look like. Both are star pitchers and are about the same age. Here are Sabathia’s contract details below (courtesy of spotrac.com):
Obviously the prices are not what we are looking at here, as Sabathia is paid by a huge-market team and Shields is playing for a very small-market team. However, Sabathia’s new contract extension still makes a perfect example for what the Rays need to do to keep Shields. Like Shields, Sabathia was also signed under a long-term deal before he extended his contract, and was meeting (or exceeding) the financial expectations of the deal. In other words, he was underpaid (for a Yankee star player). If the Rays are interested in keeping Shields long-term, they’re going to have to work out a similar deal to this. Sabathia was given a five-year deal, including a vesting option for the sixth year (2017). A similar deal of five years guaranteed and one club option is really the best choice to keep Shields in Tampa Bay. As for the price, $70 million guaranteed through the five seasons sounds pretty reasonable. I think he would except $14 million per year, including a $16 million vesting option in 2017. It’s less than pitchers like Shields are getting paid in this league, but the Rays’ cash is very limited. Also, I would assume that Shields would give the Rays a “Hometown Discount” if they were to negotiate a deal.
At the end of the day, signing Shields to a contract extension would definitely be a risk for the Rays. It’ll be tough for Shields to repeat his incredible success that he had in 2011. Still, nobody can say that paying around $14 for an ace-type pitcher is not worth it.