Devil Rays 17, Orioles 2.
In last night’s offensive outburst, Brendan Harris hit his first home run since June 18. Teamed with Ben Zobrist and Josh Wilson, the Rays have been sporting below-average hitters and brick-glove defensemen at the shortstop position. With Reid Brignac still at least a year away from contributing at the major league level, shortstop is the one defensive position that the Rays would like to upgrade in the off-season. There are three possible moves for 2008.

The first option is that the Rays will stay with Brendan Harris and/or Josh Wilson for one more season as they await the arrival of Brignac. This is the trickiest of the potential moves. Both Harris and Wilson are below-average defensively, at best. Wilson is atrocious, while Harris is simply blessed with the range of a person with their feet stuck in cement. Offensively, both players are passable as major leaguers with Harris having the potential to break out. After a near-all-star level performance in the first half (.310-8-39), Harris has cooled off considerably in the second-half (.253-1-15).

Acquiring a shortstop via a trade is always possible, but the most difficult to predict. While the team can never assume the future arrival of a minor league prospect, the team would have to view the team’s starting shortstop in 2008 as a one or two year solution at most. It is hard to imagine the team would part with any key pieces to acquire a player that may only be needed for one season.

In the past, opening the checkbook and signing a veteran free agent would seem as likely as Chuck LaMar ever being given another chance to run a major league baseball team. But Stuart Sternberg and Andrew Friedman have promised that money will be spent on the right players and when the time is right. While pitching is the most likely target during free agency, signing a veteran shortstop to a 2-year deal could be a solution to the team’s opening in the middle of the infield.

The Baseball Analysts have compiled a list of shortstops that will be free agents at the end of the year.

David Eckstein      STL
Cesar Izturis PIT
Ramon E Martinez LAD
John McDonald TOR
Neifi Perez DET
Juan Uribe CHW
Omar Vizquel SF

This is your year if you like good-field, no-hit shortstops. Even steroids haven’t helped one of the members of this punchless group.

First of all, please do not let the Rays sign David Eckstein. He looks like he is going to get a hernia everytime he throws a ball across the diamond.

But what about Juan Uribe? He would look to make about $3 million per season. But would he be willing to sign a 2-year deal with a club option for 2010? Is the marked improvement in defense worth the pricetag?

A Preview of This Year’s Free Agent Class: Part One – The Hitters [The Baseball Analysts]

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • The Devil Rays set new marks for most runs (17) and hits (22) in a game at the Trop last night. Carlos Pena had two home runs and now has 11 in his past 17 games, adding more digits to his 2008 salary. His seven RBI are a new franchise record for a single game. [TBO]
  • The Devil Rays have scored 101 runs in their past 12 games, tops in the majors. The pitching staff has walked only 28 batters over that stretch, which is the third lowest total. The team is 9-3 in that stretch. [Devil Rays]
  • Carl Crawford was suspended for 2 games for his little tirade the other night. Crawford will appeal the suspension. [TBO]
  • Carl Crawford has been named as the Devil Rays nominee for the Roberto Clemente award given to a player that “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” [MLB]
  • Andy Sonnanstine is proving very difficult to steal against. He has allowed only 1 stolen base in 439 batters faced. [Roto Authority]
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12 Comments

  1. Jason Lyman-Hazleton, PA says:

    Prof, What about playing Iwa at short and leave Harris at 2nd, he may have concrete feet, but he has more range than Cantu ever did- I tihnk that's passable for one year until Reid finds his way to St. Pete...

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  2. The Professor says:

    Aki is possible, but his biggest problem at third seems to be his arm strength. Aki never seems to make the bang-bang play. He will always make the great stop, but seems to always just miss the runner. That tells me he has no arm strength. That would be a problem at short.

    I am pretty sure Aki is the Rays starting second baseman in 08 which will be an upgrade there.

    The other possibility i didnt touch on is Guzman. Is he good enough defensively that the team will be willing to put up with a .250 avg and 150 strikeouts?

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  3. Zenny says:

    I dunno, I like Eck. He's an upgrade at SS, a pesky leadoff or #2 hitter who doesn't strike out, and he's won 2 rings. He's also from Florida, and Madden loved him when they were together with the Angels.

    He'd be a great fit, imo.

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  4. Robert Rittner says:

    I have seen the same thing from Iwamura. He seems to have great footwork and is very smooth afield, but his throws are a bit erratic when they come from deep or when he had to scramble for the ball.

    I would be surprised if Guzman hit .250 in the majors. I think he is more likely to hit near or even below the Mendoza line.

    At the session with BP writers and Andrew Friedman at the Trop last night, it was pretty clear the Rays intend to have Iwamura at 2B next year and Longoria at 3B. In fact, Friedman said they discussed that probability with Iwamura before signing him, and while he admitted it was a projection that Aki could handle it, they felt his skills lent themselves best to 2B.

    As for SS, he was not specific about the possible solutions in the short run. (Of course, he could not be.) My solution would be to sign A-Rod and move him back to SS.

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  5. The Professor says:

    I do like Eck too and think he would be an upgrade. i am just not certain my stomach can take 1-2 years of writers drooling all over how gritty he is for being so tiny

    As for A-Rod. sure that would be nice. but let's say the Yanks offer A-Rod $30m this offseason, and word around NY is that they will (unless he chokes in the playoffs again)...would you be prepared to offer $35-40m per year, bc that is what it would take for him to come to what many would view as the Rangers, part 2.

    Also, the talk is that A-Rod has cooled on his desire to move back to short. that seemed to be his intent at the beginning of the season, but the belief is that he is content playing third if it is with the Yankees or another top club (angels/cubs)

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  6. Robert Rittner says:

    Well, I was not really serious about A-Rod, as fabulous as it would be. We discussed the issue of defense at the session with Friedman, and the Rays are fully aware of the issue. I don't know that free agency is an answer this year. Perhaps there is a trade available. Maybe they have to work within the system.

    I was speculating with my son about a challenge trade with the LAD of Brignac for Hu. LA has a shortstop but needs more offense, and Brignac might move off short to provide it. Hu is a defensive whiz and his offense came on this year. Because he is now at a higher level, the Rays might have to add something to the deal.

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  7. The Professor says:

    I'm glad you added that last line because I would take Hu for Brignac in a heartbeat.

    The two teams do have a history of getting deals done.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    how about john mcdonald of the blue jays? if you really want a no-hit great-glove player, i think that's the glove.

    any guys buried in AAA somewhere that could get a look?

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  9. The Professor says:

    Well Hu is the only one that I can think of that might be worth pursuing because he is probably major league ready (made his MLB debut this week). The problem with another teams prospect is that the Rays already have that in Brignac. Sure you might find a guy at AAA, but there are no guarantees with that guy either. I think the team will look at the SS position in 08 as an opportunity to add a veteran presence to a very young lineup. Maybe the fielding version of Al Reyes? whoever that might be.

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  10. Robert Rittner says:

    I saw Hu play this year when Jacksonville played in Montgomery, and he looked very good both at bat and in the field. I do not remember how many hits he got, but they were hard line drives, and I think at least one went to the wall up the alley.

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  11. the george says:

    Don't insult the mini-Eck, otherwise you'll spark a war between grit lovers and VORP lovers.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    how about trading for billy hall? he's kinda the odd man out of the infield in milwaukee. he doesn't really fit any of the profiles you've described, but i bet he could be had. he could always move over to 2nd if/when brignac comes up.

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