Results tagged ‘ John Jaso ’
As the first two months of the Rays’ offseason comes to a conclusion and the Winter Meeting pass, the Rays have made progress on their Winter to-do list. Entering the offseason, the Rays had some work to do in order to address areas of need. First base, bullpen, catcher, and the DH spot were all holes that needed to be filled coming into the winter. There also were, and still are, big names at risk of leaving the team. Johnny Damon, Joel Peralta, Kelly Shoppach, and Casey Kotchman are all on the free agent list. James Shields, Kyle Farnsworth, and B.J. Upton are others that may not be playing for the Rays next year.
The first mission the Rays had this offseason was to deal with their three club options. Kyle Farnsworth, Kelly Shoppach, and James Shields were all asking for multi-millions for 2012. With the team’s ace and closer on the line, the Rays accepted both Farnsworth’s and Shields’ option. Kelly Shoppach, however, was declined and is now testing free agency.
The acceptance of Shields’ and Farnsworth’s options highly increased their chances of staying with the team next year. It was a huge sigh of relief for Rays fans everywhere to hear that their “Big Game” James is safe, unless traded. As for Farnsworth, he was a big part of the Rays’ bullpen in 2011. Keeping Farnsworth is essentially one less step in the bullpen’s rebuilding process. In Shoppach’s case, I guess the Rays just didn’t see any reason to overpay him after an awful 2011 season. Although considering the Rays’ catching situation, I was a bit surprised with the choice.
The Rays’ issue behind the plate was the main focus of their next offseason move. With Shoppach likely not returning in 2011, the Rays went out to look for catching on the free agent market. They found themselves a low-priced and experienced veteran in Jose Molina. It was a move that needed to be done, and took a lot of stress off the issue. After signing Molina, the Rays still weren’t done dealing with their catchers yet. Suddenly out of nowhere, the Rays acquired reliever Josh Lueke from Seattle in exchange for John Jaso. The trade was the biggest surprise of the Rays offseason so far. Being a catcher, nobody expected to see Jaso go anywhere. The trade forecasts that the Rays are probably looking for more catching in the following months. Already rumored names have emerged, such as 40 year-old Ivan Rodriguez.
Catcher isn’t the only position that the Rays have been targeting. With Kotchman and Damon free agents, the first base and DH roles are questionable for Opening Day. The Rays made their first efforts to find a first baseman last week, when the picked up Juan Miranda. Miranda was one of four minor leaguers who were invited to Spring Training by the Rays at the Winter Meetings. The 28 year-old Cuban native has played five professional seasons, showing scouts everywhere his raw power. He hasn’t had much success in his previous MLB stints, but the Rays see a bright future in his big bat. There’s been some trade rumors of other first basemen that the Rays may pursue, but Miranda is the only deal they’ve done so far. The other three players who received the Spring Training invitation along with Miranda, were Matt Mangini, Ricky Orta, and Johnny Nunez. Like Miranda, I believe the Rays made a great move signing Mangini.
The third/first baseman hit an impressive .336 in Triple-A Tacoma last year. I think he can also help give the offense a boost, even though he doesn’t have the power that Miranda has. Ricky Orta and Johnny Nunez are two young relievers that the Rays picked up as part of their bullpen rebuilding process. The Rays reportedly have been seeking more bullpen arms. Veterans that are more likely to contribute to the team in 2012. Joel Zumaya, Luis Ayala, and Andrew Bailey are all names that have come up in rumors lately. With the DH and first base positions a problem now, many overlook the Rays’ bullpen issue, which is also vital in the club’s success. The Rays are definitely better off seeking hitting during the winter. Being so deep in starting pitching, the Rays will probably be able to make something work for next season.
The most recent news of the Rays’ offseason is the contract extension of Matt Moore, which also happened at the Winter Meetings in Dallas. The rookie southpaw guaranteed his contract for a minimum of five years (up to 8 years including options) for $14 million. The contract extension was great news for Rays fans, and another clever offseason move by Andrew Friedman.
It’s a nice feeling knowing that a pitcher like Matt Moore is here to stay for a while. Hopefully, other young stars such as Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson will follow in Moore’s footsteps. Those are two guys that the Rays need to get a grip on, and a contract extension should be in the conversation this offseason. Besides handing out four Spring Training invitations and locking up Matt Moore, the Rays were pretty quiet at the Winter Meeting. With all the big-market action happening in Dallas last week, the Rays probably see a better chance to strike later in the winter. I believe the team’s main goal before spring should be to re-sign Casey Kotchman and Joel Peralta, as well as find at least one more good hitter. At the end of the day, DH and catcher are the Rays’ two main priorities. As of now, Jose Lobaton/Robinson Chirinos is the Rays’ second catcher, and Sam Fuld is the Opening Day DH. Obviously, there’s still plenty of work to be done. The Rays have made forward progress in the first two months of the offseason, but luckily there is another two and a half months to make things right.
The 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
Let’s start with the bad news first. Alex Cobb has has been placed on the 15-day DL with a dead arm. Southpaw reliever Cesar Ramos has been called back up from Triple-A Durham to fill in. Cobb said he had some pain and numbing in his fingers, but luckily it wasn’t anything serious like blood clots. He said that his arm actually started bothering him on July 30th. Joe Maddon expects to see Cobb pitch again in 2011, but it still is a very disappointing and frustrating setback for a surging young pitcher. Hopefully it’s not anything long-term, because that could seriously hurt the Rays future. For example, Jeff Niemann’s mid-season injury last year put a major dent in the Rays rotation. Probably it won’t be anything that bad, but only time will tell.
Now for the good news. John Jaso’s oblique stain has healed and he is almost ready to rejoin the Rays. He played 5 innings as the catcher in his rehab start in Durham last night, and went 2-3 with two RBI’s. Always good to have Jaso with the team. As much as I like to see Chirinos get a lot of big-league playing time, I’m glad to see Jaso healthy and back in action. He won’t rejoin the Rays for a while, as he will be spending at least two weeks in Durham recovering.