FIRST INNING (A look back)…
The Rays added three players to the 40-man roster last week to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. The most notable exception was Eddie Morlan…Was it a mistake to leave Morlan unprotected?

A quick look at the numbers shows Dale Thayer (2.82 tRA, 10.0 K/9 at AAA) was much stronger than Morlan (4.40 tRA, 8.62 K/9 at AA) this past season. Of course Thayer will be 28 next season and Morlan will only be 23. Morlan is only one season removed from being one of the best relief pitcher prospects in baseball. Still, Thayer is more likely to help a major league club in 2009. So if it is Thayer versus Morlan for one spot, we would have understood either choice. Of course, the Rays still have an empty spot on the roster, so the question is really: Morlan or the roster flexibility that comes from having an empty spot on the 40-man roster. The Rays chose the latter and as a result there is a good chance Morlan will be taken in the Rule 5 draft…GOOD CHANCE RAYS WILL LOSE MORLAN

SECOND INNING (Headlines)…
The biggest need for the Rays this off-season appears to be a right fielder…If the Rays do not bring in somebody from outside the organization, who will be the starting right fielder on opening day?

The Rays have options (Fernando Perez, Willy Aybar, Ben Zobrist, Jonny Gomes) but are any of them appealing as an everyday option? The Rays were well off the pace of league-average right fielders in 2008, and we don’t see anybody in that group that will change that scenario. Perez still has holes in his swing (172 to 66 strike out to walk ratio). We refuse to believe that Zobrist is suddenly going to slug .550 for a full season. The Rays clearly have lost faith in Gomes. That leaves Aybar. Maddon probably prefers to keep Aybar as a bench guy that receives 2-3 starts a week, but if the Rays are unable to make a trade or sign a free agent, Aybar will be the guy, although others will see time…WILLY AYBAR

THIRD INNING (Headlines)…
Rocco Baldelli met with Red Sox officials last week…Does this hurt the Rays chances of resigning Rocco?

There is a lot of sentimentality to keep Rocco and there is little question he can still be a force off the bench. But right now it seems like the Rays would rather see what else is out there before making a commitment to a player that won’t be able to play the field and might only face left-handed pitchers. If the Rays don’t bring in a full time DH, we can see Rocco resigned and forming a platoon with Willy Aybar at DH. But, by the time the Rays try to play that hand, we have a feeling Rocco will be gone. And boy is it gonna suck to see Rocco in a Red Sox uniform facing Scott Kazmir in Fenway in that second or third game of the season…ROCCO MIGHT HAVE TWO FEET OUT THE DOOR

FOURTH INNING (Headlines)…
The Rays still have an open slot on the 40-man roster following the most recent additions…Is there a possibility for the Rays to select a player in the Rule 5 draft?

One thing that will take a while to get used to, is the Rays drafting at the bottom of the board. In the Rule 5 draft next month and the Rule 4 draft next June, the Rays have pick #30. The chance a player worth keeping on the major league roster is still available is slim. Besides, the Rays prefer flexibility and a borderline major leaguer without an option is the opposite of flexibility. And looking back, this front office has yet to take a player in the Rule 5 draft for the purpose of keeping the player…NOT LIKELY

FIFTH INNING (Headlines)…
With the Rays declining the option on Cliff Floyd, the Rays suddenly have a need for a left-handed hitting DH…Is there any chance the Rays sign Jason Giambi?

We would love to see the Giambino in a Rays uniform next season. And we are not going to say it is impossible but a lot needs to happen before the Rays are even rumored to be serious suitors. The Rays first need to trade for a cheap right fielder. They need to move Carl Crawford and insert Fernando Perez in left field (saves Rays $8.25MM). The Rays need to sign a left-handed reliever for less than $2 million and they need to trade the arbitration-eligible Edwin Jackson (saves Rays $2-4MM). With Rocco’s $4 million buyout, the Rays payroll is already pushing $60 million. That is quite a leap from the opening day payroll of 2008 (~$43MM). Our gut says the Rays are looking at $60 million as a ceiling for the ’09 roster. So if the Rays want to add Giambi’s $10-12 million salary, they need to cut salary in other areas first. And even then…VERY LITTLE CHANCE

SIXTH INNING (A look outside the box)…
Last week it looked like a foregone conclusion that CC Sabathia would sign with the Yankees. Now the Yankees have set another one of their arbitrary deadlines…What will happen to the Yankees if Sabathia signs with another team?

Even better is Phil Rogers scenario: What happens if the Yankees fail to sign Sabathia, AJ Burnett or Derek Lowe, the three biggest free agent pitchers? Mike Mussina has retired and if you heard the press conference you know the Yankees won’t be able to talk him out of it. The Yankees would certainly stop playing hardball with Andy Pettite, but are the Yankees a contender with a 37-year old Pettite, Chien-Ming Wang, Phillip Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain Darrell Rasner as their rotation? That team could lose 90 games… WE WILL POP THE BUBBLY IF SABATHIA SIGNS WITH THE DODGERS OR GIANTS

Date for the Rays first trade of the off-season: January 1

All signs indicate that the Rays are going to be very patient this off-season. Then again, it was the end of November last year when the Rays sent Delmon Young to the Twins for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett. We would not be surprised if a deal is made before the new year, but it seems like the Rays would rather play this hand slow and see what others do first…OVER

Number of players currently on the 40-man roster that will be traded prior to opening day: 2.5

The Rays have some decisions that have to be made. Jason Hammel, JK Ryu, Edwin Jackson, Jeff Niemann and Jonny Gomes are all out of minor league options and few remaining roster spots. And while there are a number of people that think the Rays will keep both Andy Sonnanstine and Edwin Jackson, the addition of David Price would mean Jackson would have to be moved to the bullpen. Keep in mind Jackson is arbitration eligible and will be a very expensive middle reliever if he is kept. If Jackson stays, that is one less spot available for Hammel, Niemann and Ryu to compete for. The biggest question is whether there is a market for Hammel, Ryu or Gomes. We guess there is, but don’t expect much in return…OVER

Starts for David Price in the first week of the regular season: 0.5

The Rays kept Evan Longoria in Durham for two weeks prior to his promotion. Of course, he had yet to make his big league debut. It will be interesting. Price still only has 20 professional starts and only 5 above double-A. But how many rookies already have a game 7 ALCS save under their belts? While 4-5 starts in Durham would not surprise us, we think Price will be the #4 starter come opening day…OVER

Rays opening day payroll: $60 million

We have a feeling that $60 million is the number the Rays are trying to stay under. If we ignore Rocco Baldelli’s $4 million buyout, the payroll projection as of today is about $54.5 million. That includes our best guestimations on arbitration cases. That leaves some room to add a free agent right fielder or relief pitcher and we don’t see either of those costing more than $2-3 million. There is also room to free up some space if a player like Carl Crawford or Edwin Jackson is moved…UNDER

[Rain delay: queue The Baseball Bunch]

NINTH INNING (Putting out the fire)…
Joe Magrane is leaving the Rays for the MLB Network…Who is most likely to take his place in the TV booth?

The two biggest candidates are Todd Kalas and Brian Anderson. Both subbed for Magrane when Magrane participated in the Olympic baseball coverage. Kalas seems more like a play-by-play guy to us. Anderson is certainly rough around the edges, and we suspect he would step on a few of Dewayne Staats calls (there is nothing more annoying in broadcasting than when a play-by-play guy is making a call during a dramatic moment of the game and the color guy tries to insert his two cents at the same time). Still, Anderson is probably the leading in-house candidate…BRIAN ANDERSON

The Bucs are 8-3…Is there any chance they miss the playoffs?

If the playoffs started today the Bucs would be the 2-seed. Even if the Bucs lose to the Panthers and lose the division, they still have a 1-game lead on the next three teams for the Wild Card (Was, Dal, Atl). The Bucs also have the tie-breaker over two of those three teams (Was, Atl) and a better conference record than all three. Those teams would have to win two more games than the Bucs in the last five. The Bucs are in the playoffs. The only question now is “what seed?”…NO



  1. Jason in PA says:

    I am curious to see what we will do in Rf, I personally would like to see us make a run at Ethier or Kemp (less likely)- It would be sweet to have a true run-producer in RF though-

    Also love the Bucs update, good to see ole Cadillac back on the field-even though he was pretty rusty...

  2. Anonymous says:

    wtf is tra? Don't tell me you are joining nerd squad...

  3. The Professor says:

    nerd squad? long time member. i just usually don't want to bore the readers unless i feel it is absolutely necessary.

    stats make up about 90% of my day-job. i love stats and the different stories they can tell. i just feel that 99% of the time bloggers don't use the stats correctly or nitpick stats or throw out obscure stats when traditional stats tell the story just fine.

    As much as I love stats, i love baseball more.

  4. Anonymous says:

    You didn't even answer my question, Joe Morgan.

  5. The Professor says:

    my apologies. i thought from the second part that the entire comment was sarcastic.

    tRA is basically ERA but taking into account the ballpark and the defense. if a pitcher pitched in a home run happy ballpark with a shitty defense, he is naturally going to have a higher ERA than the same pitcher pitching in Yellowstone (very big park) with 7 gold glovers behind him. tRA takes that into consideration.

    I think tRA is a great stat when trying to compare across levels. Thayer and Morlan pitched in different leagues in different parks with different defense behind them.

  6. cougar says:

    Why isn't the Steve Harvey show cued up during the Rain Delay section?

  7. The Professor says:

    I wouldn't wish Steve Harvey upon anybody.

  8. Robert Rittner says:

    I don't think the question is so much why keep Thayer over Morlan as why keep Ryu over Morlan. I assume there is a reason, but cannot imagine what it is.

    The Yankees' 2009 rotation should include Chamberlain, and not Rasner who has been sold to a Japanese team. In any case, I think the Yankees are mis-diagnosing their problem by focusing on Sabathia or other pitchers. In my view, they should be looking at offense (Teixeira?). A rotation of Chamberlain, Wang, Hughes and Pettitte can be very competitive, and could be complemented by a lesser pitcher.

  9. The Professor says:

    good point about Joba. slipped my mind.


    as for the offense. i think you are correct, but the new Steinbrenners seem to be hearkening back to the Yankees of the late 90s that had players like Scott Brosius and Paul O'Neil. Pitching reigned supreme (as it should) and the offense was a bunch of so-called "gamers".

    Of course the typical Yankees fan that waxes poetic also forgets that those teams did have some great hitters (Tino, Bernie, Young Jeter). I think that is why they went out and traded for Nick Swisher, who they envision as a Brosius-type.

    But you are right. The Yankees lost two of their three best hitters and two more (Jeter, Damon) may be declining. So they do need hitting and lots of it.

    Then again, if they could land two of the above pitchers, they could get by with this offense.

  10. Doug A. Milhoan says:

    The solution for the Yankees is quite simple: sign Mattingly, kick him to the curb again, voila, AL East dominance. /Yankee baiting, nerd squadder

  11. The Professor says:

    true. but they kinda tried that last year when they bypassed Mattingly for the managers job and gave it to Girardi

  12. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone considered Hammel in the closer role? The times he was put in that position, he did amazingly well, whatcha think?

  13. Diana says:

    LOL that was the only time I was happy to see Jason Hammel pitch all season ,when we took Percy out for him in extras...

  14. Chalk says:

    First Knobbs and now you.

    Why in $@%* would you want to see Giambi in a Devil Rays uniform? If we had $10-$12 mil burning a hole in our pocket, that's really who you'd want to see them sign? Seems like we could get Bonds for less. And about 100 other better options.

  15. The Professor says:

    of the free agent class, Giambi had a better OPS+ than Dunn, Ibanez, Burrell, Abreu and Blake. In fact the only free agents better than Giambino are Teixeira, Bradley and Manny. If the Rays had $25 million burning a hole in their pocket i would take Teix or Manny.

    And my point was that the Rays don't have $10-12 million burning a hole in their pocket.

    as for Bonds...can you guarantee me that Bonds is healthy and will play 150 games? Giambi has played 140+ games 12 out of 14 seasons

  16. Anonymous says:

    for those wondering, tRA is calculated by the stats that a pitcher has control over: Strike outs, walks, hit batter, home runs, line drive %, fly ball %, ground ball %, and pop up %. Things like defense and ball parks are taken out of consideration. They use these stats to calculate (using a matrix formula) what their ERA should be based on their peripherals. Its the pitching version of BABIP, xBA, etc...

    Also, some RF options ive been thinking about: Nelson Cruz, Jeremy Hermedia, and Franklin Gutierez


  17. Goo says:

    Prof, what makes you think Willy can play the outfield?

  18. Steve says:

    Let's go get Blake. He would be a perfect fit on our team

  19. The Professor says:

    Goo, there was some rumblings last season that he could see time out there. He is athletic enough to play all 4 infield positions so like zobrist, he could *probably* handle the OF. Just emphasizes how there is not an ideal in-house option.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Plus towards the end of the season, Aybar was working with Dave Martinez in the outfield before games. Could be a very viable option in right field. Might not be as good as Gabe Gross, but definately a step up from Hinske and Gomes.



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