We’re back. The 2006 season began with delusions of grandeur and ended with a thud. When the dust cleared, the Rays finished 2006 with the second most losses in franchise history and winners of the David Price Sweepstakes, and the first pick in the 2007 amateur entry draft.
Now we have returned from a self-imposed exile and ready to attack the 2007 season. First up is our revised Trade Value Index (TVI) and 2007 roster projections. The TVI ranks every player on the current 40-man roster and the top prospects in the organization. Our goal is to determine which players in the organization are the most valuable to the team. Ultimately, when looking at the rankings, the question should be, if the Rays could only keep one of two players from the organization, which player would the front office choose to keep.
The rankings consider a number factors in addition to talent and good looks, such as potential, age, contract and depth of position in organization. This last factor comes into effect if one player is stuck behind another player with more ability. For example, Elijah Dukes loses a little value because he is a head-case, and some more value because the team has Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford and Delmon Young firmly entrenched on the major league roster. Another factor is team needs. A pitcher may be ranked ahead of a more “talented” fielder because the team has a stronger need for pitching at the major league level. (Please see the original TVI post for further explanation).
A couple of notes on the TVI Rankings…
- We acknowledge that there may be errors in the “Contract Status” and “Roster Status” columns and strongly encourage anybody to let us know so that we can have the most accurate information.
- We are confident that most players are at least in the general area of where they should be ranked. However, this listing is a work in progress and we are open to any ideas or suggestions you may have.
- Salaries with * next to them are the player’s ’06 salary. These players are not arbitration eligible yet and their ’07 salary should be comparable to their ’06 salary unless the team works out a long-term contract with that player. The only player we can see that happening with is Scott Kazmir. In fact we actually expect it. Kazmir’s agent has a track record of negotiating long-term contracts for young stars that go into the players arbitration years and first year(s) of free agency. This was the route taken with Travis Hafner and the same route taken by the Devil Rays with Crawford and Baldelli.
- The top 7 remain unchanged, although their order has been shuffled a bit. Rocco Baldelli’s strong finish moves him up two spots. Still questions remain as to whether he will be able to put together an injury-free season. After the top 7, their is a strong drop-off to the next tier of talent
- The cream of the next crop and one of the biggest question marks in the entire list is Elijah Dukes. Last season’s suspensions and the Rays’ crowded outfield situation had Dukes well down the list. Now it looks like Dukes may be back in the good graces of the team and he was playing first base in the Arizona Fall League before having to be shut down for minor knee surgery. With an immediate need at first base, this move immediately increases Dukes’ value as he now has a shot to make the major league roster sooner rather than later. In addition, in the unlikely event that Carl Crawford or Rocco Baldelli are traded, Dukes would be first in line to take their place.
A couple of notes on the 40-man roster projection…
- The projected 40-man roster is based solely on players currently in the organization. As trades are consummated and free agents are acquired, the projections will be adjusted accordingly.
- We project the 2007 salary for every member of the 2007 40-man roster. Interestingly, the projected payroll for 2007 is only $24 million. This is down considerably from the 2006 payroll of $43 million. This could be an interesting development for the team as the young players continue to develop. If we are reading this right and we like to think we are, the Rays may be setting themselves up to make a big free agent splash in 2008, when the team may only need one or two pieces to contend for a playoff spot.
- If the Rays are able to sign Akinori Iwamura, his 2007 salary would likely be in the neighborhood of $1.5 million based on recent reports.
A couple of notes on the 25-man roster projections…
- There are not a lot of open spots on the 25-man roster. If Ben Zobrist can retain his starting job in spring training, the only spot in the starting lineup that will be up for grabs is first base. Ty Wiggington should be back and as we mentioned previously, Elijah Dukes has an opportunity in Spring Training to win the spot. It would not surprise us to see a platoon situation with Dukes filling in occasionally in the outfield.
- We have not included Akinori Iwamura in these projections as he is not yet on t
he roster. When he is signed, there is no clear indication at this point if Iwamura would have a regular position on the infield. The five-time gold glove third baseman could also play second base and the outfield. All of those positions appear to be set at this point with players currently on the roster. Iwamura could be a left-handed version of Ty Wiggington or more likely a trade will be made that frees up a position.
- On the bench, there could be two or three new faces. At this point there is only one open spot that needs top be filled by a veteran middle infielder. There is nobody currently in the organization that fills that criteria. This spot is most likely to be filled via free agency. Josh Paul should return as the veteran backup catcher. Damon Hollins may not be back in 2007.
- We are assuming an 11-man pitching staff.
- The one area that looks to see the biggest change is the bullpen. We expect the Rays to add depth to the bullpen through free agency and/or trades. As the roster stands today, Shinji Mori, Dan Micelli and Edwin Jackson have to be on the active roster (Mori and Micelli are signed for ’07, and Jackson will be out of options in ’07). If the Rays fail to add a proven closer in the off-season, Seth McClung will likely fill that role in 2007. If no changes are made to the roster, two spots are available to be filled by Rudy Lugo, Chad Orvella and Juan Salas.
- Unfortunately Casey Fossum is signed for next season and is unlikely to be headed anywhere, however there is question as to whether or not he will be healthy at the beginning of the season. On the flip side, he does offer a veteran presence in the rotation. On a good staff, he could be a solid contributor as a fifth starter, and will likely be traded to a contender before the deadline next season. In
, he is over-matched as a front-of-the-rotation guy. The wild card in the rotation is Jeff Niemann. He is likely to start the season in Tampa . However, if he can show that his arm strength and endurance have returned, he will make the jump to the Rays very quickly. His arm injury was not major and he was over-powering in his return. “Stuff” is not an issue with him. Durham