Tampa Bay Rays (29 days until pitchers and catchers report)

The Rays came to an agreement with Dan Wheeler on a one year contract for $2.875 million, avoiding arbitration. The salary will give Wheeler the 5th highest salary on the Rays in 2008, behind only Carl Crawford ($5.25 million), Troy Percival ($4 million) and both Scott Kazmir and Carlos Pena whose salaries have yet to be settled, but will certainly be greater than $2.875 million. In 2007, only four players on the opening day roster had salaries greater than $1 million, including Crawford ($4 million), Casey Fossum ($2.2 million), Ty Wigginton ($1.3 million) and Jae Seo ($1.2 million)*.

Wheeler’s deal leaves the Rays with three arbitration-eligible players (Carlos Pena, Scott Kazmir and Jonny Gomes). The remaining arbitration-eligible cases must be resolved by Friday or the player’s 2008 salaries will be settled by an arbitrator.

With three salaries yet to be determined, the Tampa Bay Rays opening day payroll (40-man roster) now projects to be just under $41 million.

*Both Pena and Reyes had base salaries less than $1 million but earned incentives during the season that pushed their salary above $1 million.

RHP Dan Wheeler and Rays agree to 1-year contract. [Yahoo! Sports]


  • Rays of Light breaks down six things that must happen for the Rays to post their first winning season in 2008. The biggest point is the first and one that we believe too many people are ignoring when they speak of the Rays new and improved bullpen. That is: Troy Percival and Al Reyes are both old and have a history of injuries. To expect a full season out of both is expecting a lot. Maybe too much. [Rays of Light]

There’s no doubt that Al Reyes and Troy Percival can throw, but there’s also no doubt that at ages 37 and 38 respectively and each with a history of injury, they are much closer to their last pitch than their first.

  • Baseball Prospectus lists Dioner Navarro as one of their 2008 “Breakout Candidates”. [Baseball Prospectus]

Navarro has been a completely different player since being traded to the Devil Rays in 2006. At the time of the deal, Navarro had a career OBP of .360. With Tampa Bay, his OBP is .292. That kind of drop-off at 22 and 23 is alarming, and deserves investigation. When you look deeper, you see that Navarro’s decline has been concentrated in his strikeout rate, up about 15 percent, with a concomitant drop in his walk rate… Navarro was one of the worst players in baseball in the first half of 2007, batting .177/.238/.254, with a 36/13 K/BB in 229 plate appearances. To the Rays’ credit, they didn’t bury him, allowing him to remain the regular catcher throughout the season. They were rewarded with a significant improvement in the second half: .285/.340/.475, with a better K/BB (31/17 in 209 PA) and the best power of his career…As a switch-hitting catcher with good defensive skills and the ability to post a .360 OBP, however, he’s a tremendous asset. Navarro, still just 24 years old, is in line to be an above-average player, a five-win guy, for the next three seasons.

  • Inside Vandy is running a 32-athlete “tournament” to find Vanderbilt’s biggest star. Why do we care here at RI? Because not only is there a “David Price Bracket”, but Pedro Alvarez is the #1 seed in the David Price Bracket. Alvarez is a power-hitting third baseman that may very well be the Rays selection as the top pick in the draft this June. [Inside Vandy]


  1. Devil Ray Guevara says:

    Navi will be fine. If he hits .270-10-60 he will be acceptable. I would just like to see his throw-out rate in the 40% range. That would make me very happy.

    As for the bullpen. You have brought up Reyes being traded and ROL brought up Percy getting traded. But Wheeler is also a free agent at the end of the season. There is a real chance the Rays will trade two of the three and if things bounce right, they could trade all three. It would be a coup in terms of acquiring talent, but the bullpen for the last two months could be AWFUL.

  2. Sean G says:

    my guess is that trading or keeping Wheeler will depend on the progress of some of the other guys, especially Salas.

  3. Anonymous says:

    i know it is sometimes silly to draft based on current needs, but with Longoria ready to make his debut, why Alvarez? Certainly the Rays would hope for him to be in the majors in the next 2-3 years and Dirtbag won't even be arbitration eligible yet.

    would the Rays automoatically move him to first base. Any chance this could hurt negotiations once drafted?

    Are there any other potential top picks?

  4. The Professor says:

    the idea is that Alvarez would move to first base. Not sure if the Rays would want to make that move immediately. I have no idea how good his glove is. Is it better than Longoria's?

    As for other options. No way to know at this point. Prior to last season, Andrew Brackman was considered an option to go #1, and then he fell all the way to the end of the first round by the time the draft came around.

    Also, we dont know who will be representing each of these guys. A Boras signing could affect Alvarez' draft position

  5. Kevin from Future Considerations says:

    I'll be doing an early draft analysis on my site soon(*cough*) but right now Alvarez is far and away the favorite. He's perhaps the best hitting prospect of the decade, and he can cement that status as long as he doesn't decline sharply his junior season(FWIW, Matt Wieters' numbers fell slightly from sophomore to junior year, so if Alvarez doesn't improve on his or if they even fall a bit, it's not really a concern).

    If Alvarez continues to hit in pro ball the way he has in college, believe me, we can find a position for him. He's not Ryan Braun-bad at third base, but Alvarez is likely going to have to move off there. 1st base and left field would be possibilities, and if he really can't hack it in the field, we have the DH spot.

    Other possibilities at #1: College 1B Justin Smoak, but only if he really has a monster year and outshines Alvarez. College pitchers Brian Matusz(lefty) and Aaron Crow(righty), but I don't think either is as good as David Price was last year. The only high schoolers with a shot at going #1 are SS Tim Beckham, who'll have to show he's made strides with his bat to be considered, and RHP Gerrit Cole, who's been shooting up draft boards. He's projectable with a great arm, but there hasn't been a HS RHP taken 1st overall in the history of the draft.

  6. The Professor says:

    well, I was going to try and answer the questions, but compared to Kevin's response mine would have sounded more like I pooped myself.

  7. Marc says:

    I think he'll do well - but he's getting paid a ton of money for what he's worth.

    My blog, at raysbaseball.blogspot.com, covered this today!


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