Tampa Bay Rays (7 days until pitchers and catchers report)
The Rays signed a pair of players yesterday. Relief pitcher Trever Miller was signed to a one year contract that will pay him $1.6 million this season with a $2 million team option in 2009. Miller previously pitched for the Rays in 2004 and 2005. As a left-handed relief pitcher, Miller fills the last remaining hole in the Rays 2008 opening day roster. With five of the seven bullpen spots now spoken for (Troy Percival, Al Reyes, Dan Wheeler, Gary Glover and Miller) that leaves two jobs up for grabs. One of those spots (long reliever) will be filled by one of the starting pitchers that does not make the rotation (likely Jason Hammel). The final spot is likely to be a spring training battle between Juan Salas, Scott Dohmann and Grant Balfour.

The Rays also brought in former rookie of the year, Eric Hinske on a minor league contract. He will make $800,000 if he makes the team. Hinske was signed despite news that domestic violence charges against Willy Aybar have been dropped in the Dominican Republic. Hinske is being brought in as insurance in case Aybar is not fit to be either the starting third baseman or part of a platoon with Joel Guzman. Hinske appeared in 84 games for the Red Sox last year playing first base, left field and right field, hitting .204-6-21. Hinske could also conceivably become part of the right field rotation, as the team has made it clear that they prefer Cliff Floyd be the team’s DH and Rocco Baldelli may be limited to start the season.

While he have heard rumblings that the Hinske deal is similar to the situation in which the Rays brought in Carlos Pena last year, everybody needs to temper their excitement. The Rays also brought in Hee Seop Choi last year and now he is out of baseball. Hinske has not hit more than 15 home runs in a season since his rookie year of 2002. That includes four seasons in which he has appeared in more than 100 games. Pena had shown that he could at least hit for power when he was given regular playing time, with 27 dingers in 2004 and 18 home runs in half a season in 2005. In short, we would guess that he and Joel Guzman have an equal shot at the last roster spot.

Finally, it is not too much of a stretch to assume that the trade for Aybar and the signing of Hinske suggest that the Rays have decided to keep Evan Longoria in the minor leagues to start the 2008 season.

Miller’s contract brings the Rays payroll above $43 million.

Miller reunited with Rays [DevilRays.com]
Rays Sign Hinske [MLB Trade Rumors]

DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA

  • We are not sure if the title “The Eric Hinske Era Ends” is a reflection of his time in Boston ending or his time with the Rays beginning…or both. [Surviving Grady]
  • The Rays apparently tried to sign Dallas McPherson, prior to trading for Willy Aybar. [Sun-Sentinel]
  • How many other teams have a GM that is so dedicated that he will appear on a blog radio show that has about 20 listeners? Andrew Friedman will be a guest on “Baseball Talk” on BlogTalkRadio this Sunday at 11:00 AM. [BlogTalkRadio]
  • The domestic violence charges against Willy Aybar have been dropped. [TampaBay.com]
  • Bill Chastain continues his “Around the Horn” series in which he examines each of the Rays’ “positions”. This week it is the bullpen. [DevilRays.com]
  • Sox1Fan takes a look at the Rays top 10 prospects. [Sox1Fan]
  • Opponents of the Rays proposed stadium are expected to make an appearance at this morning’s St. Pete city council meeting. The protesters want to see the site of Al Lang Field turned into a park. [TBO]
  • The Bleacher Report says there is a lot to be optimistic about with the Rays this year. [Bleacher Report]
  • Mets fans can take solace in the fact they finally got back the pitcher they gave up for Victor Zambrano. Wait? You mean it wasn’t Jose Diaz you wanted back? [Mets Fever]
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