hangoverYesterday we linked to a story by Jon Heyman of SI.com that said the Rays were looking for a closer, but do not want to add payroll. Something he called a “tough task.”

Now Jayson Stark of ESPN.com is spinning a different tune. One that makes a heck of a lot more sense. Stark says the Rays are not looking for a closer.

Contrary to what we (and others) have been reporting, we’re now hearing that the Rays aren’t necessarily shopping for bullpen help. Clubs that have talked to them say they’re shopping for “upgrades.” And those upgrades aren’t exclusively bullpen upgrades or even big-league upgrades. They’d also prefer long-term upgrades over short-term upgrades. So what they’re looking for in the bullpen, in other words, is the next J.P. Howell, not the next Eric Gagne. And they’ve been asking about the potential availability of young corner outfielders, as opposed to the Jermaine Dyes of the world, an indication they clearly think they can live, for now, with the .805 OPS and excellent defense they’ve been getting from their Gabe Gross/Gabe Kapler/Ben Zobrist rotation in right.

The first part does not surprise us at all. The Rays have always been about long-term value as opposed to short-term fixes.

The second part is a little more telling. With the recent addition of Matt Joyce as the future right fielder, Stark’s report suggests that the Rays are now looking for somebody to play left field for the next 5-6 years. If true, it suggests that the Rays are looking to a future without Carl Crawford, who is due $10 million if the Rays pick up his option.

It also suggests that the Rays are not completely enamored with some of the in-house options they have in the minors to replace Crawford (Fernando Perez, Justin Ruggiano) and maybe this means that Desmond Jennings is not as close to the majors as some might want to believe.

Focusing on baseball’s many mysteries [ESPN]



  1. Charles says:

    It would be interesting to see what Crawford could fetch at the deadline. With the team option (assuming it doesn't go away if he's traded, not sure about what his contract says), a team would be trading for a year and a half of Crawford. That should be worth a significant chunk of value. I could see a team trying to build itself on pitching & defense or a team with a lot of outfield ground to cover (Padres, Tigers, Oakland) making a play if Crawford is made available. Even teams not winning this year who think they're close might be willing to add a piece like Crawford for a run next season.

  2. bobrittner says:

    It has never made sense to speculate that the Rays are looking for a closer. It is a role that renders a bullpen less flexible and more inefficient.

    First, when someone becomes a designated closer, his salary goes up. There is no reason for the Rays to spend extra money for a player who has no more value than any other reliever.

    Second, if the designated closer is actually the best reliever on the staff, his usefulness is limited by the "requirement" that he be reserved for 9th inning duties. This is based on the fallacious assumption that very few pitchers are able to get the 27th out regularly, an assumption demonstrably wrong by data, experience and history.

    Since Isringhausen went down, the Rays have not lost even one game when leading in the 9th inning. They have preserved 1 run leads, 2 run leads and 3 run leads, since then only with Choate and Howell but earlier with Nelson as well. Why then the urge to spend more on a designated closer?

    Many fans are enamored about the glamor associated with the gaudy save numbers of closers, but they are not terribly meaningful. Certainly if the Rays can acquire a reliever who is better than the worst current member of the bullpen, that would be a plus, but it would be counter-productive were that reliever designated a closer.

    I know this sounds crazy, but I would prefer having a pitcher like a healthy Brian Bruney on the Rays than Mariano Rivera, and I agree that Rivera is a legitimate first ballot HOFer while Bruney is likely a soon-forgotten reliever, but aside from being far cheaper, Bruney would allow Maddon to use all his relievers most efficiently while he would have to keep Rivera only for 9th inning duties or possibly partial 8th innings.

  3. Brett says:

    Well said Bob. I'm really tired of hearing about the closer situation. People have been talking about this since the middle of last year and its getting old. Common sense tells us that the on field results are more important than slapping a title on one of our bullpen guys and the rays are getting results with the "closer by committee" system.

  4. Ray says:

    With Desmond Jennings coming up next year (mid-2010, probably), would it make sense to trade for another young corner-outfielder? We have BJ, Joyce, and DJ, along with Perez. If we can net a very young OF who projects to have massive power potential, I say go for it.

  5. Brixology says:

    I'm also surprised we haven't heard anything about a solid middle infield prospect. I don't see anyone that we should be in love with in the pipeline, and even if they like Brignac there, we have Bartlett and band aids. Unless of course, they are seriously considering Zobrist as a long-term every day second baseman. And I just sort of doubt that.

    • Don says:

      Brix..you have got to be blind or know nothing about baseball talent...
      Give me ONE reason why Zobrist WOULDN"T be a long term every day 2nd baseman...Please!

  6. Don says:

    Carl Crawford IS the Tampabay (Devil) Rays .....If he is DUE 10M next year pay Him....Get the money from Purcivel, Bradford, Burrell or the rest of the bums who do not earn the money they are being payed!


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