White Sox 5, Devil Rays 4.
Ahhh…the nostalgia. For a brief momen there it was like we were watching pre-All-Star break Edwin Jackson, all over again. We should thank Edwin for reminding us that he is still Edwin Jackson and we are still Devil Rays fans.
It should come as no surprise, but look for Akinori Iwamura to be the starting second baseman in 2008. The move for Aki, likely means that center field is going to be the permanent home for BJ Upton, with Evan Longoria manning the hot corner sooner rather than later.
“Longoria is going to be the third baseman, so you eventually have to do something, but now’s not the time, not yet,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You’re always thinking about that, but yeah, that’s an offseason discussion…He’s (Iwamura) a little more of a middle infielder on the corner right now,” Maddon said. “Just from what I’m seeing, the assumption is second base. When you make assumptions like that, that’s something you’d want to see. You look at his arm strength and that’s probably more applicable to second base, although his athleticism and range could play at shortstop.”
If Iwamura is moved to second base with either Longoria as the starting third baseman on opening day or Joel Guzman as a place-holder until Longoria is ready, that leaves only one position without a starter for 2008…Shortstop. Brendan Harris? He can hit, but his range may be too limited to be an everyday shortstop on a team that needs an upgrade in their middle infield defense. Josh Wilson? Not likely. Below average in all aspects. BJ Upton? O god no! Please don’t put us through that again. He throws from the left side of the infield like he is trying to give every fan behind the first base dugout a souvenir. Joel Guzman? Hard to say if he can be an everyday short stop. He has the arm and glove for the position, but does he have the range and can he hit major league pitching on a consistent basis?
No, the smart move is a veteran shortstop with an above average glove and a dependable bat. There is enough offense in the lineup already to carry a little dead weight at short. Omar Vizquel? He will be 41. Can he be enticed to play short for the Rays for two seasons and anchor a young team defensively? Look for the Rays to at least inquire as to how much it would cost.
On a more immediate note, the move of Iwamura to second base, will likely occur during spring training and could mean the end of Rocco Baldelli’s tenure as a Devil Ray. Five of the Rays six minor league affiliates will have completed their regular season schedules by Monday, with Hudson Valley playing until Friday. With Rocco shut down after experiencing soreness in his legs, there will be no place to conduct a rehab assignment once he is cleared. Unless Upton is moved back to the infield, with shortstop being a possibility, Baldelli is likely without a position for 2008.
The team will likely try to move Baldelli this off-season for pitching help, but if they are unable to find suitable value, he could return in 2008 as a part-time DH and fourth outfielder with the aim being to increase his trade value.
All of the sudden, Baldelli’s long term contract, once seen as a bargain, is not such a bargain after all. He will still be relatively cheap in 2008, as he is set to earn $2.25 million, but his $6 million tag in ’09 to go along with the hefty $4 million buyout could be a burden if Rocco cannot remain healthy for an entire season.
2B shift in the works for Iwamura [tampabay.com]
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- For those keeping score at home, the Devil Rays elimination number is 3 in the division and 10 in the wild card.
- We missed this in our first post this morning, but Troy Johnson of the Ledger-Enquirer had a one-on-one with David Price after a recent bullpen session with the Columbus Catfish. [Ledger-Enquirer]
“It’s just getting to know the guys and Tampa Bay’s system. They say they have the same system from rookie ball all the way up to the big leagues. That’s definitely one of their main (points of) emphasis, just to get used to their system because that’s the way I’m going to be doing it for the next six years. It’s nothing bone-crushing. It’s something you can stick to.”
- It is understatement to say that strikeouts are aplenty during Rays games. Both the hitters and the pitchers are on pace to set franchise records for strikeouts in a season, with the hitters threatening the AL record. [TBO]
- We are not surprised anytime Joe Maddon praises something that does not deserved to be praised, but to praise the “progress” of the infield defense is a bit absurd as it has been shown in several different forums that the Rays have been atrocious defensively this season. In fact The Hardball Times suggests that the Rays defense may be the worst ever. E.V.E.R. [devilrays.com]
- Is Jason Hammel the next Edwin Jackson? Or the next Seth McClung? so far, he has yet to perform up to his talent, but he is working on his mechanics to try and rediscover the success he experienced in the minors. [devilrays.com]
- Scott Kazmir set a team record for reaching 10 wins in three consecutive seasons. [Herald-Tribune]
- Carlos Pena is only the 5th player in the last 25 years to hit 30 home runs after being a non-roster invitee to spring training. [tampabay.com]
- Look for the Rays to sign Carlos Pena to a multi-year deal and avoid arbitration in the off-season. [tampabay.com]