Results tagged ‘ J.P. Howell ’
As the Fall Classic concludes and the 2012 baseball season comes to an end, it’s time to look forward into what the winter has in store for the Rays. Like last offseason, Andrew Friedman and the Rays will have some tough choices to make before players report to spring training.
First in line in Tampa’s offseason priorities is their club options, which must all be dealt with this week. Out of the four on the list, the only sure ‘yes’ is Fernando Rodney ($2.5 million). Next is Luke Scott, who hit just .229/.285/.439 with 14 homers and 55 RBI in 344 plate appearances this season. With that kind of production at DH and his lack of ability to stay healthy, the chances of the Rays bringing him back in 2013 for $6 million are very slim.
The Rays hold a $10.25 million on veteran James Shields, who will be one of the main storylines throughout the winter. If they decide not to pick up the option—which is very likely—than they’ll immediately look for suitable deals for a blockbuster trade. As much as the organization prides themselves on excellent starting pitching, they really could use some young offensive talent as well.
The toughest club option decision for the Rays will be Jose Molina. The 37-year-old catcher did a nice job with the pitching staff but didn’t produce well offensively (.284 wOBA through 274 PA’s). At $1.5 million, don’t be surprised to see the Rays exercise his option in order to bring his veteran presence back to the roster.
As for Tampa’s free agents this offseason, the list includes B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Ryan Roberts, Jeff Keppinger and J.P. Howell. It looks like the Rays will part ways with Upton after his many years of service, which means they’ll have one less outfielder in 2013. There is a question to as if the Rays will give Upton a qualifying offer (one year for $13.3 million), however, which would land them a compensatory draft pick if he declines. If the Rays do go ahead and extend a qualifying offer, chances are he’ll turn it down and hit the market in pursuit of a huge long-term team.
Carlos Pena—who hit an MLB-worst .197 with just 19 homers and 61 RBI—is another big name who will likely be missing from the lineup in 2013, meaning the Rays will likely shop the market again this winter for first basemen.
As for the rest of the FA’s, all have a pretty decent chance of returning next season. The Rays would love to bring back Jeff Keppinger after his suprisingly good 2012 season. Keppinger can play three different positions in the infield while serving as an excellent contact hitter who can get the job done at the plate. After hitting .325 last season in his 418 plate appearances, he should be able to earn more than the $1.5 million he made last year.
Ryan Roberts is another player that can provide some infield versatility as well as some power in his bat, and the Rays will probably work on re-signing him as well.
As for the bullpen, it will be interesting to see how they handle free agents Peralta, Farnsworth and Howell. I think it’s safe to say Howell will be back in the ‘pen next season after the fine comeback year he had, posting an ERA a tad over 3 in over 50 innings of work. As for Farnsworth and Peralta though, both are much more of a question mark at the age of 36.
The next offseason topic to talk about is how the Rays will adress their areas of need. The three main holes on the roster are at first base, catcher and DH. They’ll probably seek some help in the outfield, shortstop and in the bullpen as well.
Ben Zobrist made a smooth transition to shortstop towards the end of the year, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Rays decide to make him their starting shortstop next season or continue to search outside the organization. Either way, we can expect to see the Rays sign another middle infielder, such as a Jeff Keppinger or Ryan Roberts type player.
With James Shields and numerous talented pitching prospects, the Rays have the necessary pieces to make a trade that could fill up some of the gaps on the roster. 1B Ike Davis, SS Elvis Andrus, SS Yunel Escobar, C J.P. Arencibia, 1B Eric Hosmer and INF Jed Lowrie are all players who will probably be up for trade this winter.
There are a handful of FA options as well. James Loney seems to be a very realistic possibility at the moment. If the Red Sox decide not resign him—which is about a 50/50 chance—then he would definitely become an affordable option for the Rays at first base. 2B Skip Schumaker, INF Stephen Drew, 1B/DH Lance Berkman, OF Coco Crisp, RP Matt Capps, RP Ryan Madson and INF Maicer Izturis are other names to keep an eye on as well.
The latest Rays news and notes:
- The Rays’ spring training record dropped to 6-14-3 yesterday after losing to the Miami Marlins 5-1. Wade Davis continues to struggle as he battles for the fifth spot in the rotation, allowing four runs in just 4.2 innings pitched. Some notable performances included Carlos Pena (1-1 with a run scored), Sean Rodriguez (2-4 with a stolen base), and J.P. Howell (scoreless through 1.1 innings pitched). Click here for a full boxscore.
- Next up for the Rays are the Minnesota Twins today at 1:05 ET. Jeff Niemann will take the bump in his final spring start against Scott Baker; click here for the the Rays’ starting lineup.
- You’ve probably already heard the big Rays news of the week. Rays’ prospect pitcher Matt Bush was arrested last Thursday after a DUI crash, involving a a 72-year-old motorcyclist hospitalized in serious condition. While under the influence, Bush hit a man’s motorcycle from behind and than ran right over his head with one of the car’s tires. To make matters worse, Bush did not hesitate and ran away from the scene. Bush, who has had issues with alcoholism throughout his professional career, is set for a $1 million bond. It looks like Bush has put the finishing touches on ruining his baseball career, as Andrew Friedman said yesterday he won’t be playing for the Rays in the future.
- The Rays seem to have a hard time staying healthy this spring, as more injuries continue to pile up. B.J. Upton’s sore back is taking longer than expected to heal, as Maddon is apparently planning to set an Opening Day roster without him. Desmond Jennings and Reid Brignac are banged up as well, and have also joined Upton in their minor league rehab process. Brignac is in a bit of jeopardy of missing Opening Day with right foot inflammation, while Jennings could return tomorrow as he recovers from soreness after his collision with Upton. Sam Fuld is also hurt with a wrist injury, which he expects to get checked out by a doctor today. Fuld will likely miss Opening Day.
- The Rays made their latest round of cuts yesterday, reducing the roster down to 34. Craig Albernaz, Brad Coon, Matt Mangini, Jhonny Nunez, and Romulo Sanchez were all reassigned to minor-league camp.
- The first episode of the Rays podcast PTBNL came out last week. DRaysBay site managers Steve Slowinski and Jason Collette talk about Opening Day roster battles for the Rays. You can click here to play, and listen to all their episodes for free at iTunes.
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. Of 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.
The Rays Rant is evaluating every Rays player of 2011. Well at least the ones that played a decent amount of time in the big leagues this year. I will also be handing out the following team awards: Team MVP, the Team Leader award, Defensive Player of the Year award, Team Batting Champion, Stolen Base leader, Team RBI King, All-Star, the Impact Player award, the Rookie of the Year award, the Heart & Hustle award, and the Team Player award. Here are the grades and evaluation of the 2011 Rays:
Alex Cobb- When Alex Cobb was called up in the middle of the season to replace the injured Wade Davis, nobody really knew what to expect from him. He quickly showed that he was another Ray rookie talent, and was excelling at the Major League level. It seemed as if he was on a roll, until he required season-ending surgery. I big blow to the pitching staff, but still a bright future ahead. Grade: A
Juan Cruz- The Rays signed Juan Cruz in the offseason as part of their efforts to rebuild the bullpen. When they got Cruz, they were really just trying to get lucky. And very lucky they were, as Cruz went 5-0 in relief for the season. Cruz really was a surprise after the previous two years, which included a horrible 2009 and a 5.1 inning 2010. Grade: A-
Wade Davis- As expected, Wade Davis made the young 5-man Rays rotation. Like the other four guys, Davis looked bright coming into the season. But 2011 ended up being a bit of a frustration for Wade, as he put up better stats the previous season. His ERA climbed .38 points higher, but his 11-10 record with a 4.45 ERA was still pretty decent. Grade: B-
Kyle Farnsworth- Farnsworth was probably the Rays best offseason move. With no bullpen that meant no closer, and the Rays were out to find one. Just like almost every other reliever on the Rays impressive bullpen, Farnsworth didn’t really have high expectations coming into the season. The 36 year-old Farnsworth had the best season of his long career. Grade: A+
Jeremy Hellickson- The surging young right-hander had a tremendous season this year, and was probably the second-best starter in the rotation. His 2.95 ERA is one of the best in the league, and he is a very strong candidate for the ROY award. Grade: A+ Award: Rookie of the Year award
J.P. Howell- Recovering from a horrific shoulder injury, J.P. and the Rays were thrilled after over a year on the sidelines. But it quickly became clear that Howell wasn’t the same, and he ended the season with a 6.16 ERA. Grade: D-
Jake McGee- McGee has been a young bullpen arm that the Rays are excited about. He still is a developing player though, and let up a lot of runs in 2011. Still his 5 wins was pretty good. Grade: C+
Matt Moore- Matt Moore is all he’s hyped up to be. The fireballer southpaw showed terrific stuff in his first month in the MLB, and lead the Rays pitching staff in the postseason. Moore is probably the most exciting rookie in the baseball, and my pick for ROY next year. Grade: A+
Jeff Niemann- Niemann is in a recovering process, after coming back from a major career-setback last year. Everything was looking great for the surging Niemann until he injured his shoulder. This season, Niemann has shown that he is on the right track, with an 11-7 record and a ERA just over 4. Grade: B
Joel Peralta- Peralta had an impressive season as the Rays setup man, and was part of a very smart offseason move. Joel is a big part of the Rays future in the bullpen, and will likely (and hopefully) be a Ray next year. Grade: A-
David Price- Price had extremely high expectations coming into the season. Considering all of that, 2011 may have been a disappointment. After a Cy Young caliber 2010 with a 2.72 ERA and 19 wins, Price finished 2011 with a losing record and an ERA of 3.49. Most think it was just an off-year for the phenom lefty, and he will continue his ace ways in the future. Grade: B Award: All-Star
Cesar Ramos- Being the only left-hander in the ‘pen, Ramos had one of the biggest jobs on the team. He just barely did it good enough. He had problems with the longball, letting up 19 dingers in the season. Grade: C+
James Shields- Shields had an unbelievable season, finishing with a stellar ERA of 2.82 and a remarkable 11 complete games. Shields was really the third-best pitcher in the AL this year, just behind the ridiculous seasons of Verlander and Weaver. Grade: A+ Awards: Team MVP, All-Star
John Jaso- Overall a disappointing year for Jaso. His average dipped to .224 and his defense behind the plate was sloppy. Grade: C
Kelly Shoppach- Quite frankly an embarrassing season for the backstop, hitting .176. The highlight of his season was some clutch homers, but besides that it was just one big disappointment. Grade: D-
Reid Brignac- Another big disappointment for the Rays, Brignac wasn’t able to do anything offensively. He hit .193 and knocked in only 15 runs. His great defense at shortstop was what kept him in the league. Grade: D
Elliot Johnson- Another Rays shortstop hitting in the .190′s. Johnson was still able to get some big hits, and his defense and running game was pretty good. Grade: D+
Casey Kotchman- One of the biggest surprises in MLB this year. Here’s a recent article I wrote about him for a full evaluation. Grade: A+ Awards: C0-Defensive Player of the Year award, Team Batting Champion
Evan Longoria- Just like David Price, Longoria had very high expectations coming into the season. Many experts even picked him to be the AL MVP in their preseason predictions. Considering the player he is, 2011 was a bump in the road. Injuries were a big part of it, as he played at least 20 games less than he would have. He still was able to rack up 99 RBIs and 31 dingers, but his .244 average was really the only disappointment. But it won’t be a season that Longo will forget, as he got the biggest hit in franchise history. Grade: B+ Awards: Co-Defensive Player of the Year Award, Co-Impact Player of the Year award, Team RBI King
Sean Rodriguez- The only part of Sean’s game that wasn’t good in 2011, was the hitting. He finished the season with a .223 average. His defense was great and he really helped the Rays with his high baseball IQ. Grade: B- Award: Co-Heart & Hustle award
Ben Zobrist- Every team in baseball wishes they had a player like Zorilla. The best utility man in baseball also knows how to hit, knocking in 91 runs and hitting 46 doubles. What makes Zobrist amazing, is how he defends every position he plays so great. Almost anywhere you put him, he’ll field above-average. Grade: A Award: Team Player of the Year award
Johnny Damon- Closing out on a great career, Damon has shown he can still play. He’s really a perfect fit for the Rays; the way he plays with his heart and hustles on every play. A .261 average and 73 RBIs is not too shabby for a 37 year-old. Grade: B Award: Co-Heart & Hustle award
Sam Fuld- The young left fielder will always be known for his fearless defense in the outfield. His hitting is something that is still developing though. Here’s a past article about him and his legend. Grade: B- Award: Co-Defensive Player of the Year award.
Desmond Jennings- When the Rays called up phenom Desmond Jennings this season, it was huge boost for the team. Every part of his game was great, including his power (which surprised everyone). His season started off with a bang , and that’s when everyone knew what kind of player he was. Grade: A+ Award: Co-Impact Player of the Year award
Justin Ruggiano- Ruggiano has been in the Rays organization for a long time, but hasn’t seen too much big league playing time. His time came in 2011, and he gave the team a bit of a boost with some clutch hits. His defense in left was also impressive. Grade: B-
B.J. Upton- In maybe his last year in a Rays uniform, Upton once again repeated some of his same issues. His average was once again low (.243), his strikeout total was very high, and his baserunning was also not so great. On the bright side of things; Upton knocked in 81 runs, was great in center field, and lead the team in stolen bases with his great speed. Grade: B Award: Stolen Base leader
Matt Joyce- Last but definitely not least, it’s the big bat of Matt. Joyce was one of three Rays elected to the All Star Game in Phoenix. After a terrific first half, Joyce’s second half wasn’t nearly as good. What impressed me about Joyce this year, is how he met his goals. Coming into the season, Joyce worked hard to improve his running and fielding game; which hadn’t been up to par last season. He committed just 3 errors (with 8 assists) this year, and only 1 caught stealing. Grade: B+ Award: All-Star
It’s been a fustrating past few days for Rays Republic. Two close losses, and one that for sure could have been won. Let’s start with yesterday’s pivotal Game 3 at the Trop. Firstly, Price was called to start that game over Jeremy Hellicson. To me that makes no sense. Why would Maddon start David (who has struggled this month) for Game 3 instead of Hellickson, who has more rest and is pitching great recently. Although I have great confidence and respect for Price, I just thought that Jeremy would be a better choice for the game. Despite all this, Price didn’t have such a bad outing yesterday. But that leads to another thing that irked me in yesterday’s heart-breaker. I haven’t discussed much about J.P. Howell on this blog this year, but he is definitely a subject of matter in this ALDS. For some reason, Maddon has a lot of trust in Howell.
Although I think Howell has been a big part of the Rays in the past and have a lot of respect for him, he frankly hasn’t been the same since recovering from his disastrous injury. It’s really too bad it had to happen to such a good guy, but that’s the reality of baseball. Unfortunately, Maddon is not totally aware that J.P. is hurting his team late in games (like last night). With Juan Cruz, Wade Davis, and Niemann in the bullpen; I don’t see the logic in putting him in in that situations. There’s plenty of other scenarios that would fit Howell, like a lead of at least 3 or a large deficit. Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann have done plenty this year to prove that they are deserving of this responsibility. The next frustrating ALDS decision I want to discuss, is the Game 5 starter. Optimistically assuming that the Rays win today, I don’t understand at all why James Shields is starting Game 5. Let me get this straight; James† Shields is the best pitcher by far on the Rays.
On the other hand, rookie Matt Moore has a day more rest than Shields and the Rangers have absolutely no answer hitting him. I’m aware that this means Matt Moore will be the ALCS Game 1 starter, but you got to get there first. At the end of the day, I still like the Rays chances in this series. This is virtually nothing compared to how much the Rays have been through. They came back from 9 games behind in September, I think they can win two games in a row. That’s truly how I think of the Rays being of the verge of elimination; win two games. I’m very confident the Rays can do this after the unforgetable miracles I’ve witnessed this year.