Tampa Bay Rays (38 days until pitchers and catchers report)
Will everybody please shut the hell up about Scott Kazmir? This has been going on all off-season and it is approaching ludicrous levels. The original source for all the stories and speculation was a New York Post article written by the idiot Joel Sherman. Here is the original line…

An executive familiar with Tampa’s thinking said if the offers for Santana grow to a substantial level, then the Rays would test to see what they could get for Scott Kazmir.

“An executive familiar with Tampa’s thinking…” His source was not even a Rays’ executive. Hell it may not have even been a baseball executive. He might have talked to the executive at his morning coffee shop.

Now we have been inundated with dozens of stories and blog posts speculating that the Rays will trade Kazmir because he has not signed a long-term contract and does not seem to have any interest in doing so.

SO WHAT?!?!

He is still three years from free agency. Three friggin’ years! 2008 marks Kid K’s first year of arbitration eligibility. Our best guess has Kazmir and the Rays agreeing to a one-year deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million. If Scott Kazmir was a free agent pitcher today and he approached the Rays and said he would sign with Tampa Bay for one year at $4 million, the Rays would throw a party. Kazmir is going to pitch for the Rays in 2008. He is going to pitch for the Rays in 2009 and there is at least a 50/50 chance he pitches for the Rays in 2010.

If and when the Rays decide to move Kid K, it will not happen until after the 2009 season at the earliest. Why do it before then? There really is no incentive.

And so what if there is a chance the Rays trade Kazmir after the 2009 season? We have absolutely ZERO idea what the Rays’ rotation will look like entering the 2010 season. What if David Price, Wade Davis and Jake McGee are all fullfilling their promised careers and two have already joined James the Greater, Matt Garza and Kid K in the rotation? If the Rays have five young and talented starting pitchers at the major league level, and Kazmir is entering the final year before free agency the Rays better trade Kazmir. They would be stupid not to.

That’s right. We said it. And we will repeat it now for the cheap seats. If the Rays rotation entering 2010 is some combination of Kazmir, Shields, Price, Davis, Garza and McGee and all look to be above-average starting pitchers and the Rays have failed to lock Kazmir into a long-term deal…THE RAYS BETTER TRADE KAZMIR. And they will. Make no doubt about it. It is the smart move.

And if Kazmir continues to develop at his current pace, the Rays would be fools not to trade him. While he is not Johan Santana, look at the packages that are being offered for his services. Even if a proposed trade was slightly less than one of the Santana packages, it would still be a sweet bounty that would include 3-4 top prospects/young major leaguers. Add that group to Shields/Price/McGee/Davis/Garza/Upton/Longoria and the Rays will continue to have a very strong core of young players.

Kid K is the type of player that we covet. We may not get his peak years but we will get at least 5 seasons of top-level pitching and then he is moved for a number of pieces that will replenish the cupboards. Kid K is the type of player that keeps a team like the Rays competitive over the long-term.

As Rays fans we cannot be afraid to lose a player like Scott Kazmir. As a small-market franchise, the Rays cannot be afraid to trade a player like Scott Kazmir.

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • The Rays have signed former Devil Rays catcher Mike DiFelice to a minor league contract. He will be invited to spring training with an opportunity to make the squad as the backup catcher. With the other option being Shawn Riggans, we give Difelice the edge, unless another catcher is signed. [TampaBay.com]
  • Each week until the opening of Spring Training, Bill Chastain will preview a different position for the Tampa Bay Rays. The first week is catcher and a close look at Dioner Navarro. According to Joe Maddon, the team is not concerned with Navi’s bat, but are more worried about his development defensively. His throwing is above-average, but the team needs improvements in other aspects of his game. [DevilRays.com]

“He really came on offensively,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “But the quantum leap we want to see is defensively calling a game…”He does a pretty good job of blocking pitches. We like to see him receive balls on the corner better than he has in the past. Taking charge of the staff, communication wise, we have a ways to go. … It’s vital to the development of [Scott] Kazmir, [James] Shields, [Matt] Garza, [Edwin] Jackson, etc…We do lack experience (at catcher). No question. We have to accelerate the learning curve behind the plate. We talk a lot about it and we’re trying to address it.”

  • Joe Maddon has placed on emphasis on making sure that Dioner Navarro arrives to Spring Training in shape and ready to take on a leadership role with the Rays. [TampaBay.com]

Maddon said he was in contact with Navarro this week, and he has been working out at the Naimoli complex trying to get into better shape for spring training. Last spring Navarro struggled as Maddon called the starting job open….”I really got a sense of urgency from him,” Maddon said. “I would be very surprised if he didn’t come into camp in much better shape and ready to play. I know he’s not going to forget what happened last spring, also because I’m not going to let him.

  • Dayn Perry, of Fox Sports, who we have been very critical of in the past, has a feature story predicting a bright future for the Rays. [FoxSports.com]
  • With Baseball America set to unveil their list of the Rays’ top 10 prospects and best tools list, Future Considerations makes their predictions for which Rays farm hands will be named in the “Best Tools” categories. We don’t see much to argue with, although we are not sure we would name Evan Longoria “Best Power Hitter and “Best Average Hitter”. Rhyne Hughes or John Jaso for “Best Average Hitter”? [Future Considerations]
  • RotoAuthority lists the top 25 catchers. Not a single Dioner Navarro among the bunch. [RotoAuthority]
  • Did Carl Crawford ruin the career of Matt Clement? [The Dugout]
  • Michael Kalt, the Rays Vice President of Development, has been named by the St. Pete Times as one of “10 People to watch in 2008″. He is the man behind the plan to bring a new stadium to the St. Pete waterfront. [TampaBay.com]

After helping parlay other people’s needs and money into new homes for the Yankees and Mets in New York, Kalt cobbled a plan that would raise most of the cash to build a new $450-million stadium in downtown St. Petersburg by selling publicly owned Tropicana Field as site for a $600-million-plus mixed-use project.

  • The Rays signed Andy Cannizaro and outfielder John Rodriguez to minor-league contracts. Both players will be invited to Spring Training with a shot at making the 25-man roster. Neither will. Rodriguez would have to beat out Jonny Gomes for the fourth outfielder spot. And even if Gomes is traded, there is still Justin Ruggiano. Cannizaro has a slightly better shot as the only real competition for utility infielder at this point appears to be Ben Zobrist, but as a switch-hitter, Benny Boo Boo has a strong advantage as the only available left-handed bat off the bench at this point. [TampaBay.com]
  • Beyond the Boxscore interviewed Paul DePodesta. Why are we including this in the “Webtopia”? Because DePodesta confirms something we have been screaming at the top of our lungs ever since we read Moneyball…That is, a “Moneyball” player has NOTHING to do with a good OBP. It has everything to do with finding a player that is undervalued. Nothing more. Nothing less. At the time Moneyball was written, players with a strong OBP were undervalued. Nowadays, strong OBPs are on everybody’s radar so they are no longer undervalued. [Beyond the Boxscore]
  • Reid Brignac has a rooting interest in tonight’s BCS Championship game between Ohio State and LSU. Probably don’t have to tell you which team The Cajun God of Baseball will be cheering for. [Stacy Long's Riverwalk Talk]
  • The Rays will discuss their stadium proposal with members of the Downtown Neighborhood Association at 7 pm on Thursday at the Sunshine Center. [TampaBay.com]
  • On Wednesday, The Rays will hold a meeting open to the public to discuss the new stadium. The meeting will be held at Tropicana Field at 6pm. City officials are requesting RSVPs but will not turn anybody away. [TampaBay.com]
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3 Comments

  1. Robert Rittner says:

    I think your comments regarding Kazmir are exactly right.

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  2. Sean G says:

    I understand the point, but every effort still needs to be made to try and secure Kaz to a long-term deal. I am not saying that every young player that shows talent that comes through here needs to be retained. But it says a lot to retain one or two key elements.

    If anything it gives a sense of hope to the fans and the rest of the players.

    a team like the Rays need one or two "faces" that people will always know as Tampa Bay Rays. They need to start building that history.

    I think Evan Longoria is being groomed as one and it wouldnt hurt to have one on the mound also.

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  3. Devil Ray Guevara says:

    I know the Rays and Rays fans have not been in this position before, but this happens to other teams ALL THE TIME.

    Not every stud player signs an extension prior to free agency. It is no reason to panic. And A TON of the extensions that are signed happen after arbitration figures are exchanged. And even more happen in the second year of arbitration.

    I am annoyed by all the talk of moving Kaz also. But my beef is that there is still PLENTY OF TIME to sign an extension.

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