Yesterday the Rays signed relief pitcher (we use that term loosely) Scott Dohmann to a 1-year contract. We were amused by the headline that surfaced on the Tampa Tribune website here…”Rays Get Some Relief”. Other than being an unoriginal and overused headline when a major league team signs a relief pitcher, in this particular case it appears to be completely inaccurate. Forgive us is we don’t see how this signing is anymore than a bullpen filler. Dohmann split the 2006 season between Colorado and Kansas City posting a 7.08 ERA in 48 appearances. He had shown some promise and a live arm during his rookie season of 2004 with a 4.11 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 46 innings. Still, in an area where the Rays desperately needed improvement heading into the 2007 season, Dohmann now marks the most significant addition to the relief corps.
As the free agency market dwindles and trade rumors have simmered, we are now starting to get a clearer indication of what the 2007 Rays are going to look like and right now it doesn’t look much different than the 2006 team in the rear view mirror. So let’s take this time to take another look at the Rays Trade Value Index and 2007 40-man and 25-man projections.
TRADE VALUE INDEX
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 mischievous little badger, 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 rankings…
- B. J. Upton’s value has taken a big hit in the last 6-months, falling from 4th to 10th in the rankings. First off, his experiment at third base showed that he still has a long ways to go before he will ever be a major league infielder. Upton ranked 13th in the American League with 13 errors having only appeared in 50 games. Now, with the signing of Akinori Iwamura, Upton is a man without a position. There will be chances for Upton to win a position in Spring Training, but he will have to significantly outperform somebody else. Of course, a trade could free up a position or a move of Jorge Cantu to first base would open up second base for either Upton or Iwamura. The team could also move Upton to another team looking for a center fielder with a lot of upside. The problem is the Rays will have to take 75 cents on the dollar at this point in any trade, which may be preferable to bringing Upton off the bench or sending him back down to Durham. Upton is only 22 and his future is still very much uncertain. The guys at Baseball Prospectus also seem to have no indication of his future with Upton’s list of potential comparable players including Carlos Febles and Derek Jeter.
- Jeff Niemann continues to creep up the list and cracks the top 5. So far this off-season, the Rays have failed to add any starting pitchers. The Rays continue to talk to other teams about trading one of their young position players. Until any trades do occur and the Rays are able to acquire a young power arm that they covet to fill out the rotation, the team will depend on Niemann to become that #1 or #2 starter that they so desperately need.
- Reid Brignac may be the one player that is lower on the list than his talent would indicate. After some question his defense, the 2006 California League MVP now looks like his future at the major league level will be as a shortstop. After a slow start at AA Montgomery, he did rebound to finish the season hitting .300. Still, he only has 28 games above A-ball and the Rays have a number of other young major league infielders and prospects.
- Newly acquired Akinori Iwamura (#7), Brendan Harris (#31), and Scott Dohmann (#58, the new Mr. Irrelevant) make their debuts on the list. Mu-Rah may be a bit high, but again this is value in the eyes of the organization and most people that have actually seen him play say that while he may not be a great Major Leaguer, the Rays were able to obtain him at below market value thanks to the Japanese posting system, thus increasing his value to the team.
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.
A couple of notes on the 40-man roster projection…
- With the recent signings of Seth McClung and Ty Wiggington the Rays only have one remaining arbitration eligible player, Josh Paul. Paul made $475K in 2006 and looks to earn a raise in 2007. Paul is seeking $940K while the Rays have offered $625K. We had originally projected a salary of $800K. No matter the outcome of that case, the Rays 2007 payroll is now projected to be in the neighborhood of $27 million. This is down significantly from the 2006 opening day payroll of $43 million. On the surface this appears to contradict the organization’s promises to increase payroll. As w
e stated all along, we would have been surprised with any big ticket free agents this off-season. The plan appears to be, that the Rays are going to treat the 2007 season as one more evaluation season and decide what holes need to be filled heading into the 2008 season when the Rays would like to start making a push up the standings.
A couple of notes on the 25-man roster projections…
- Little has changed since our last TVI in regards to the opening day roster. At this point it still looks as if Mu-Rah will be the third baseman. Assuming Jorge Cantu remains at second base, first base is the only position that may be up for grabs in Spring Training. Ty Wiggington figures to get most of the ABs at first, but will also fill in at other positions. This will open up playing time at first for possibly Cantu and Jonny Gomes as well as non-roster invitee Hee-Seop Choi.
- There are still two open spots on the bench. Before his latest brainfart, Elijah Dukes had an excellent shot to grab one of those spots as well as significant playing time in the outfield, first base and at DH. Also, the recent acquisition of Brendan Harris fills manager Joe Maddon’s need or a backup middle infielder. Maddon would probably prefer one more outfielder and one more infielder to fill the final two spots, but may be inclined to only add one more fielder and head into the season with a 12-man pitching staff.
- The top three spots in the rotation appear to be set with Scott Kazmir, and Jae Seo and Scott Shields. There is still no indication whether Casey Fossum will be healthy in time for Spring Training. With his expiring contract and the always high demand for left-handed pitchers, Fossum is likely to be moved sometime before the trading deadline. This means that we only have to endure the Fossum Flop for 12-13 more starts (assuming he begins the season on the DL). J. P. Howell has the strongest chance of making the rotation. Tim Corcoran will be given a shot, but Madden has made it clear that he prefers to have Corcoran as a long reliever. Jeff Niemann should make his Rays debut sometime in 2007 but most likely will start the season at AAA Durham to ensure that he is arm is ready for the show. The darkhorse for the rotation is Edwin Jackson. Jackson is out of options and must be on the 25-man active roster. He struggled mightily in 2006 but he is still young (23) has a live arm and shown some progress in winter ball this year. If Fossum is not ready in April, Jackson could be given one last shot to be a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.
- The bullpen may be the biggest disappointment heading into 2007. The unit struggled in 2006 and needed a one or two fresh arms. So far only Dohmann has been added to the corps and has no guarantee of even making the opening day roster. The only veteran on the staff is Dan Miceli. If no changes are made, Seth McClung will most likely be the team’s opening day closer. There are some talented arms in the bullpen but they are young and inconsistent. Tim Corcoran and Juan Salas will also be given long looks in the Spring to make the bullpen.