DM3229FIRST INNING (A look back)…
Matt Joyce has been named to the opening day roster as a replacement for BJ Upton…Can Joyce impress enough to stay with the Rays, or is he automatically on his way to Durham when Upton returns from the DL?

The biggest question with Joyce is whether or not he is ready to handle left-handed pitching. If he is not, the Rays want him in the minor leagues to work on that aspect of his game. So we will know the Rays intentions the first time the Rays face a left-handed starter. If Joyce is in the lineup, the Rays at least want to see if he can handle the everyday duties. But if Joyce is on the bench and Ben Zobrist is in center field, then we know the Rays do not yet have the confidence in Joyce’s ability to hit lefties and he will be on the first flight to Durham the day Upton makes his 2009 debut…..WE’LL FIND OUT SOON

SECOND INNING (Headlines)…
The Rays appear to have three arms for two spots with Jeff Niemann, Jason Hammel and Lance Cormier…Are the Rays in a bad negotiating position with other teams knowing they have to trade one of those guys or lose one for nothing?

Yes and no. On the one hand, the Rays could just dump Cormier and keep Niemann and Hammel. But Cormier has been great this spring and the Rays are not going to want to lose Cormier and his salary for nothing in return. And other teams know that. On the other hand, there might only be two starting pitchers on the market right now and the Rays have both. And with 6-7 teams looking for an extra arm, that puts the Rays in a good position. So at this point, it depends on how well Andrew Friedman plays his cards, and dude knows how to play cards…..THE SITUATION IS DELICATE

THIRD INNING (Headlines)…
Spring training is now over…What was the most pleasant surprise of the spring?

This is a toss-up between Jason Bartlett and Carlos Hernandez. Bartlett got on base, stole bases, played great D. With questions being raised as to what the Rays can expect from Reid Brignac down the road, it would be nice to see Bartlett step his game up to a new level and help solidify the bottom of the order. As for Hernandez, we knew he looked good late last season, but that was at single-A. We figured he might not be ready to even think about jumping back to the big leagues until after the all-star break. But we wonder if he is ready to help out in the bullpen right now…..BARTLETT AND HERNANDEZ

FOURTH INNING (Headlines)…
On the same note…What was the biggest disappointment of the spring?

Either Gabe Kapler or BJ Upton, depending on how you look at it. Kapler looked awaful all spring. He is a veteran, so he may know how to turn it on when the games start to count, but until he does, we are worried about the situation in right field until Matt Joyce is ready to play everyday. As for Upton, there has been no word recently on how much being hit in the hand by a pitch has set him back. But his playing time still seems limited with opening day only a few days away. Will he be ready for the home opener? We have our doubts…..KAPLER AND UPTON

FIFTH INNING (Headlines)…
With Gary Sheffield being released by the Tigers earlier this week, there was some talk about whether there was some room on the Rays roster for his menacing bat…Is “menacing” an accurate description for Sheffield at this stage of his career?

Would a Gabe Gross-Gabe Kapler platoon be more valuable than Sheffield at this point in their careers? Maybe. But if the Red Sox have a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 9th with two outs and a man on first, which bat is Papelbon more afraid of? And which bat would you rather see at the plate for the Rays? Sheffield’s and it is not even close. We are not saying the Rays should sign Sheffield, but that is the epitome of “menacing.”…WE WOULDN’T WANT TO FACE HIM IN THE 9TH

SIXTH INNING (A look outside the box)…
There has been some recent chatter about the Rays demoting David Price to save money…Even if it were the only reason (it is not), is this necessarily a bad thing?

Quite the opposite. We call it being smart or at the very least, a nice ancillary benefit. The Rays will never have a payroll in the vicinity of the Yankees or the Red Sox, so if they are going to keep as much of their talent as possible, for as long as possible, they need to save money everywhere they can. So every time the Rays do something that saves payroll dollars, that ultimately means a more talented team down the road…..IT IS SMART BUSINESS

SEVENTH INNING (Oddsmakers)…
Odds Jason Hammel is traded by opening day

So far, Hammer is the only name that seems to be a specific target of another team (Rockies), and with the Rays holding Hammel and Niemann back this weekend, it is clear they want to move one. Right now we feel there is a better chance it is Hammel…50.1%

Odds Jeff Niemann is traded by opening day

On the other hand, by name and size alone, Niemann will likely command a more valuable package of prospects in return. If the Rays feel Hammer and The Giraffe are interchangeable, then Niemann is the one they want to move…49.9%

Odds both Hammel and Niemann are traded by opening day

This is the argument to be made if you think the Rays are ready to go ahead and put David Price or Wade Davis in the rotation to start the season. And if one is ready and the Rays can get prospects for both Niemann and Hammel, then maybe. But trading both starting pitchers actually dilutes the market a little and the total package might be less than if they wait to trade the second piece…2.9%

Odds David Price is in the rotation by the all-star break

Well, you have heard us argue that Wade Davis may be more polished right now, and there is a chance that whomever is the 5th starter to start the season has a great year. But ultimately, Price will get his shot at some point. But before the all-star break? We actually think, just on the other side seems more likely…49.8%

EIGHTH INNING (On deck)…
The Rays figure to have three outfielders (Fernando Perez, Matt Joyce, Justin Ruggiano) in Durham this season, all of whom could be major leaguers in a different organization…What do you see as the starting outfield for the Rays in 2010?

Unless Joyce’s development takes a horrendous turn, he will be in right field next season along side BJ Upton. The Rays will almost certainly try to trade Carl Crawford and his 2010 salary of $10m in the off-season. And seeing what the Pirates received for Jason Bay last season, if the Rays fall off the pace this season, the Rays will move Crawford in June or July. That will open the door for Perez to take over in left. The benefit is the Rays can get 80-90% of Crawford at one-tenth the cost in Perez and they might land 2-3 top prospects. As for Ruggiano, we have long thought he was nothing more than a fourth outfielder in the majors. Think Shawn Riggans, minus the tools of ignorance….PEREZ, UPTON, JOYCE

NINTH INNING (Putting out the fire)…
David Chalk has finally concluded his annual list showing why every other team “Ain’t S#!t” compared to the Devil Rays. The final team on the list was the Phillies (WFC*) and comes with bonus image that explains the asterisk on our use of WFC*…Got a problem with any of the comparisons?

You gonna argue with Chalk?…NOT ONE PROBLEM

There appears to have been little progress on your new contract with Rays Index…Is there any concern about this becoming a distraction during the season?

I sure hope this doesn’t become a distraction. In fact, we have already made it clear to RI that we will not negotiate during the season. If there is no deal in place by Monday, we will have to wait until after the season to see if I will be back for a fourth season in 2010. Of course, if RI falls off the pace this season, I could be traded to a contender before the deadline….THIS WILL GET UGLIER BEFORE IT GETS BETTER

Reid Brignac has been downright awful this spring…At what point do we stop looking at him as a top prospect?

He showed flashes of brilliance, but we need to see something from his bat soon or he could become an afterthought all-together…YESTERDAY

The Rays are playing a two-game set in Philadelphia this weekend…Got a problem with that?

It is a bit weird. As always, the Rays are very tight-lipped about how they make money and how much they make. Our calls to the offices went unanswered on this subject, but we have to imagine the Rays are getting a cut of the gate receipts or else why do it?…OUTSIDE OF MONEY, NOTHING TO GAIN FROM A WORLD SERIES REMATCH

It is well-known that you pick your gameday beverages based on the opponent…What will be your opening day beverage?

A buddy from north of the border sent us a case of THIS. There is only one next step this season…LIONS LAGER

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16 Comments

  1. KirbYour Enthusiasm says:

    How the heck does a guypost a picture in the comments section? I have a picture of a certain professor lookin quite dapper in a Minnesota Twins Jersey last Friday at the Tamp (don't call em Devil) Rays Massacre in Fort Myers.

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  2. bobrittner says:

    "So every time the Rays do something that saves payroll dollars, that ultimately means a more talented team down the road…..IT IS SMART BUSINESS"
    __________________________________________________________________
    I wish more people would understand this. It is not just good business; it is the way to have a better team. You cannot separate payroll and costs from the product as if seeking to save money means the team is cheap. Not if they continue to invest in the team to maintain the talent base.

    I would also add that I think a lot of people (including C. Kahrl and K. Goldstein at BP) are overestimating the gap between Niemann (and even Hammel) and the current David Price. I am not convinced that Price is a legitimate major league starter yet, and I am quite certain that he cannot provide an average of 6 or so innings per start right now. (At Durham last year, he managed 18 innings in 4 starts.) My guess is that Niemann or Hammel are more likely to do that, and that has to be taken into account when considering who contributes more to wins.

    Finally, I am also not convinced that Perez is even 50% (or whatever figure you choose) of the hitter that Crawford is. Defensively and on the basepaths he is probably close (although his minor league SB% is not that good), but he looks helpless batting left handed and does not have the pop that Crawford has. It may be a sound idea to deal Crawford, but I am not quite so optimistic that Perez would be an adequate replacement.

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    • I agree with u on Niemann and Hammel. As for Perez, I guess I should say his potential is 80% of Crawford. And I am projecting a year from now after Perez has another year under his belt. Remember, he is new to batting left-handed. Also his basehit rate on bunts from the left side were astronomical last year. I don't recall the number but it was big

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    • Brixology says:

      It doesn't happen often, but I agree with Bob! Wholeheartedly on the financial and pitching fronts and mostly on the Crawford/Perez comparison.

      Nando definitely doesn't have Carl's power, and I would agree that he is something like half as good at the plate. As far as defense and baserunning, Carl's performance this year will be the key to the comparison. Based on last year, I would say that Nando is an upgrade in those two areas, but Carl's legs are apparently back a little, so the jury's out. The percentages are obviously a convenient way to simplify the discussion, but the issue is: what do we get in return? We know that putting Nando in left robs us of a homerun threat and likely reduces the team batting average a little, but if we got a quality arm and/or an upgrade at another position (second?) and saved $10 mill in the process, I would be on board if they pull the trigger.

      Or, they could keep Carl and pay for him by moving Kaz for a similar quality prospect. Fine with that, too, since I love Nando as a 4th outfielder/pinch runner (I think we will miss having a true, quality pinch runner this year). We also have a couple big dollar relievers that we will hopefully be able to move without suffering from a quality perspective.

      And while I'm agreeing with Bob, I would like to submit my vote for staying competitive long term versus mortgaging the future for a one-year run. I totally disagreed with Goldstein's comment to Tyler Hissey about taking a shot this year regardless of the consequences. Let's be in the conversation for the next decade.

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  3. Kevin says:

    Perez won't have another year of experience under his belt, he's expected to miss at least most of it with the injury.

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  4. themarksmith says:

    I have another point to add about Price. People talk about wins and how little players actually add to the team individually. Price is probably, at most, worth 5 wins as he stands now. If he misses one or two months, the Rays lose out on 1, maybe 2, wins. Am I correct in that? That one or two wins may end up being the difference, sure, but what about future success? The Rays are in a unique position of being built to win for the next few years. Already, they are in position to win (not considering Price) the division. But taking into consideration the next year (2010), Price could be better able to make a huge jump in production with a few starts in AAA just to make sure, then let him come up for experience and production, and by the start of next season, he's ready to rock and roll. I know we don't like thinking about next year when one can win this year, but I don't think the Rays have killed their chances for winning this season.

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    • that is exactly the difference between the Rays and most organizations. the Rays will never sell the future for a chance to win today. it is more important to the Rays to remain consistently competitive. the counterargument is that the Rays may end up always being the bridesmaid and never the bride. so, would you rather guarantee a 2nd place finish every year, but never be the favorite? or would you want to be the favorite one year and not have a chance at all the remaining years. i think in the former you give yourself a good chance because things might break your way once or twice. whereas in the other scenario you only get that one shot and if something goes wrong you are screwed.

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  5. Gus says:

    I don't see why the consensus seems to be that Crawford isn't going to be worth $10M next year. On the contrary, if Pat the Bat signing at $8M is considered below market, $10M for the best defensive left fielder in the game, a guy who still runs well and is the franchise's marquee player for the past 6 years seems about right.

    Crawford's 2008 obviously leaves some questions. But I expect him to have his best season ever in 2008 now that he his legs back. And for a team that thinks defense first, allowing its best defensive player to walk at 29 seems crazy, even at $10M.

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    • It is not that I dont think CC will be worth $10m. It is that the Rays are going to need to cut salary next season. A few more of the young players are going to start hitting arbitration and/or need longterm deals. and the Rays have already said that it is unlikely they will be able to maintain a $60m payroll. So if we look around and see where the Rays can save some money, CC's $10m is a lot. So is the $5m that Aki will make. So then the question becomes, what will it take to replace those players and how much will it cost. The Rays have in-house replacements for both. Nando for CC and either Aybar or Brignac for Aki. In both cases you risk taking a step backwards, but it beats having to trade Scott Kazmir or Pena or Howell or Balfour or Navarro. And if the Rays do trade both players, they save $15m and replace them with decent players that make about $1.5m combined. Right there the Rays are down to $45m and they have added 3-4 prospects to the system and now they can maybe afford to give another player (Garza, Upton) a longterm deal.

      The point is, i dont want to lose CC anymore than anybody else, but we have to look at the big picture and realize that moving CC can help the Rays keep two or three other players. I honestly think it is a longshot that CC is with the Rays next season unless the Rays win the World Series. Then the revenue streams may allow the Rays to afford him.

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      • Gus says:

        Well then the Burrell signing better prove to be good. For a guy who can't play defense and is extremely streaky, I think that may have been a big mistake for a team with limited resources. I know they needed right handed power, but Crawford is the canary in the coal mine. If they dump him in his prime, what kind of message does that send. Aki is a hired gun and I get that. But CC has produced more than any player from their minor league system. A bad, bad message if they don't renew.

        I guess I'm begining to be worried about Sternberg's financial commitment (and how much he has been crushed in the Wall Street collapses) if that $60M number is going to stick. That still puts them in the bottom 5 on payroll doesn't it? Between revenue sharing, increased attendance and a sweet lease, he better be able to cover a $60M payroll easily, don't you thinK?

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  6. Dirtbag Fan says:

    Where did this notion that CC was/is the best defensive LF-er in the league originate? and his offensive numbers haven't been mind-blowing either. I think a lot of you are using sentimentality instead of common sense again (ie. Rocco)

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    • I have always been a little perplexed about the notion that CC is a great defender. I think his advantage is that most left fielders are slow and have weak throwing arms. Crawford is very fast with a weak throwing arm. I always say that from the time the ball leaves the bat to the point that Crawford gets to the ball, he is the best left fielder in baseball. But catching the ball and especially throwing the ball, he might be one of the worst.

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    • Dirtbag Fan says:

      I should've ie.'d Gomes instead of Rocco, because i've got a feeling that Rocco is gonna do very well from here on out in his career...

      BTW- there's very little chance at this point in their careers that CC is faster than Mr Perez-ident, and even if he is- it won't be for much longer... hammies and knees are fairly important to running last I checked, and I have no reason to believe that CC's will hold out.

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    • bobrittner says:

      I think that various sabermetric measurements have identified him as the best defensive left fielder in the league. And I think that was pretty consistent in the different means of measuring.

      I am not certain that the evaluation techniques are entirely reliable yet, but apparently they are developing a lot more credibility than just a few years ago.

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