Tampa Bay Rays (41 days until Opening Day)
Yesterday we posted a list of 10 questions we wished the media would ask the Rays. One of those questions dealt with the future of the shortstop position for the Tampa Bay Rays.

  • In an ideal world, is Jason Bartlett the Rays starting shortstop in 2009?

One topic that has yet to be addresses by the team or the media is what are the team’s plans beyond 2008.

Earlier this off-season, the Rays, knowing they needed an upgrade in defense, targeted Bartlett of the Minnesota Twins. What his acquisition means to the Rays in 2008 was addressed yesterday by Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman.

Maddon suggests that Bartlett is “one of the top five” shortstops in the American League. Executive vice president Andrew Friedman says “he has a chance to be among the best in the game.”

“The trickle-down effect a shortstop can have on your pitching staff is immense,” Friedman said. “You’re talking about more pitches for your starting pitcher, which prevents him from going deeper in the game, which taxes your bullpen more, which affects you the next night because your bullpen is tired.”

The Rays control Bartlett’s contractual right for the next four years, and his arbitration figures should be relatively cheap. So. Is Bartlett the long-term answer for the Tampa Bay Rays? More specifically. Will Jason Bartlett be the starting shortstop in 2009?

With the new emphasis placed on defense, especially up-the-middle, Bartlett is deemed as very important to the future success of the Rays. It is easy to imagine that he will not have to hit very much to secure his role as long as he continues to play gold glove-caliber defense. Bartlett posted a .339 OBP in 2007. If he can improve that to .360-.370, that should be enough to secure his future with the Rays.

But there is one small problem with that scenario.

Sitting down in the minors is, Reid Brignac, one of the top shortstop prospects in baseball. Presumably, he will spend the 2008 season at AAA Durham, and if he stays on schedule he should be ready to make his major league debut as early as this September, but certainly by next Spring.

If Bartlett is the future shortstop of the Rays. What do the Rays do with Brignac? Third base is spoken for by Evan Longoria. Two of the outfield spots are taken (Carl Crawford and BJ Upton) for at least the next three years. Right field is an option if his arm is strong enough. But the Rays will have Fernando Perez knocking on the door soon and Desmond Jennings right behind him. Oh. And there is that guy Rocco Baldelli.

The more likely scenario is to trade Brignac. If the team meets following the 2008 season and feels that Bartlett has done enough to be the starter in 2009, we could be faced with a scenario in which the Tampa Bay Rays trade a prospect for veteran help.

Boy. The times. They are a changin’.

Rays need Bartlett to become a nuisance [St. Pete Times]

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • If you have not yet answered our “Tampa Bay Rays Confidence” survey, please do so HERE. [Rays Index]
  • Dioner Navarro reported to camp yesterday after being excused to be with his ailing mother. Navarro claims that a more strenuous off-season workout regimen has him in the best shape of his life. [Herald-Tribune]
  • Bill Chastain takes a look at how Dioner Navarro has adjusted to just the latest turmoil to hit his family. [Tampa Bay Rays]
  • Joe Maddon commented on the chances of seeing David Price pitching for the Rays in 2008. “No, it’s not a stretch…If everything breaks well for him this summer, he’d be somebody we’d consider.” In other words, they won’t rule it out, but it is not very likely. [Tampa Tribune]
  • Tyler Hissey has a solid interview with David Price, in which he discusses expectations for the upcoming season and his newfound celebrity status. [Rays Digest]
  • Troy Percival wore a shirt in practice yesterday that compared the Rays top three pitchers to the Atlanta Braves talented young trio of the early 90′s, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. [Bradenton Herald]
  • One More Dying Quail takes a look at PECOTA projections for the Rays from the past five years. Lou Piniella consistently out-performed the projection, while Joe Maddon’s Rays have seriously under-performed. This year PECOTA is projecting 82 wins. [One More Dying Quail]
  • John Heyman lists the top 11 GM’s in baseball. While not in the list, Andrew Friedman is named as one of the “up-and-comers”. [SI]
  • Rays Digest worries that Troy Percival may not be dependable considering his injury history. Still they feel that his presence in the locker room alone is worth having him around. [Rays Digest]
  • Rarely do we go to another baseball blog and say “Damn, we wish we thought of that.” That is not to say that we are so great. Rather, we think there is a lack of originality in ideas out there. Well it happened yesterday. David Chalk over at Bugs & Cranks has begun his preview of every major league team. Original? Only if you consider that the preview will take each team and compare them to the Tampa Bay Rays. More specifically, Chalk will tell us why each team “Ain’t $#!T Compared To The Devil Rays”. First up is the Pittsburgh Pirates. Chalk will work his way up from the worst teams to the best teams. We are really curious, how long it will take before it becomes difficult to make/believe the argument. It could take a while this year. Oh, and yes. Chalk is sticking to his guns and will keep the Devil in Tampa Bay. [Bugs & Cranks]
  • Rays of Light turns the spotlight on BJ Upton. [Rays of Light]
  • The New York Daily News previews the Tampa Bay Rays. Not sure we take anything they say seriously. Jesse Spector says Carl Crawford “might be the best leadoff hitter in baseball.” Hmmm? Well. By our count, CC was the leadoff hitter in six games in 2007 and the assumption is that Akinori Iwamura will resume the role in 2008. [Daily News]
  • Breaking Balls takes a look at the recent trend of locking up young players to long-term deals. While the practice may be more wide-spread, it is hardly new. The Indians rode this method to sustained success in the 90s. Interestingly they seem to think the trend suggests that these deals are more likely to be given to good defensive players and high strikeout pitchers, such as James Shields. [Breaking Balls]
  • Eephus Pitch names Rays minor leaguer Brooks Badeaux their baseball player name of the week. [Eephus Pitch]
 
 

9 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Jesse Spector is obviously an idiot!

  2. The Professor says:

    in defense of Spector. CC may be the best leadoff hitter in baseball. It just so happens that he does not lead off.

    And this is all ignoring the fact that there are very contrasting criteria for a good leadoff hitter. Some just want a guy with a solid OBP. Some want a speed guy. Some want some combo of the two.

  3. Jesse says:

    Thank you, anonymous. I do feel like an idiot — that was a sloppy mistake by me, and I do apologize for it.

    And the professor is right on. After my error was pointed out, here’s what I posted on the comments section of my own blog:

    “You’re absolutely right… in fact, Crawford didn’t hit leadoff after April last year. But I will stubbornly stand by my point — Crawford might be the best leadoff hitter in baseball, except that he’s not being used in that role.

    I think that’s foolish — if I were the Devil Rays, I’d want to maximize Crawford’s impact by putting him at the top of the order for maximum plate appearances, followed by Iwamura, Upton and Pena.”

    Again, a stupid and sloppy mistake by me, and I apologize for that.

  4. TK says:

    I’ve been thinking about that Bartlett/Brignac situation and I’ve been wondering if the solution isn’t to flip Brignac over to second. Maybe not right away; after all, they’ve got a few months to see what Iwamura does with the position switch.

    But if Bartlett is really the glove wizard everybody says, and I hope he is, I agree they should probably ride with him at SS for the next few years. So the question then becomes: how close are Brignac and Iwamura defensively at 2B, because I think we know Brignac’s bat is much stronger. Iwamura’s not too expensive in 2009 that he couldn’t be a utility guy, and they could deal him or just decline the 2010 option.

    Anyway, fun to speculate.

  5. The Professor says:

    TK,

    you bring up a good point we only passively considered. Our first inclination was that the team wants to keep Iwamura because of the potential to expand the Rays brand to Japan. I still lean that way…And when we discussed it we were thinking “move Bartlett to second” as his bat is more suited for second base…

    BUT what does it really matter, offensively, whether one is playing second or the other? Moving Brignac to second may not be such a crazy idea (think Ryne Sandberg). And there may be enough of a market for a strong Japanese personality like Aki to get a decent package in return.

    Not out of the question.

  6. TK says:

    You’re exactly right. It’s a nice idea to keep Brignac at SS, but if you get that offense out of 2B, particularly if it’s paired with world-class D at SS, that’s still way above average production from an up the middle position.

    And maybe if you allow Brignac to focus on the stick more than the glove, he can reach that Ryne Sandberg/Chase Utley level of offensive production. I keep hearing how he’s making progress at SS, but he’s never going to be the defender Bartlett is so why not get the bat in the lineup ASAP?

    The Iwamura/Japan market presence is an interesting angle that I hadn’t thought of. I just wonder if most teams have a Japanese player (it sure seems to be going that way) that only the truly elite guys are really going to deliver for you in Japan. All love to Aki, but I don’t think he’s in that category.

    Then again, he’s pretty much got 2008 to make a statement.

    Thanks again, Prof, for all the work you do.

  7. Big Mike says:

    i think most agree that Iwamura will be better in 08, but how much better is the question. I just have a funny feeling that we are going to see a whole other side to his personality this year now he is more comfortable. If he puts up solid numbers, i think he is going to become a fan favorite. he seems to have one of those magnetic personalities.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Jesse Spector, I think that you are a dummy because of what you said regarding the Rays other than Crawford. You attribute James Shields 12-8 record to a lack of run support, when it was clearly a lack of bullpen support. Also, Pena, Upton, Gomes, Floyd, and probably Longoria provide plenty of power in the lineup. A team needs balance to win (Average, Speed, Power), not just homerun hitters. The Rays won 66 games last year with Fossum, Seo, Camp, Orvella, Stokes, First half EJAX, no Garza, so-so Wheeler, etc. And you think they will not up their win total. That is laughable and the stupidest offseason information I have read about the Rays.

  9. Anonymous says:

    In addition, the Rays defense will be better this year with Longoria at 3rd, Bartlett at Short, Iwamura and 2nd, and BJ with more experience in Center.

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