Blog Entry

Futures of several Rays a question mark

Posted on: November 21, 2010 6:28 pm
The Rays aren't alone in that they are in the middle of a busy offseason and have many directions to go, but they may be the most compelling team to follow all winter.

That's because the club seems certain to lose star Carl Crawford and slugger Carlos Pena on offense, while having to rebuild an entire bullpen and slash payroll to $60 million or less from 2010's franchise-high $72.8 million.

As a result, it is widely considered the Rays will deal some costly veterans where the team has solutions behind them. That includes Jason Bartlett, subject of a MLB Facts and Rumors trade profile .

Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times expects Bartlett to exit stage left to make way for Reid Brignac and clear up roughly $5 million in salary. There's no shortage of candidates who could use Bartlett, with middle infield depth thin leaguewide. The Cardinals, Giants and Orioles have been most closely linked to the ex-Twin.

Upton Topkin also discusses B.J. Upton (pictured, left), coming off a disappointing season and who is headed to arbitration for the second time. Upton is slated to make about $4 million or more, and that's a lot to give someone coming off back-to-back poor seasons. While his .237/.322/.424 line in 610 plate appearances in 2010 was a major improvement over 2009's .241/.313/.373, it's still a major letdown.

However, Upton is still the same guy who slashed .300/.386/.508 with 24 home runs in 2007, then went bananas in the ALCS against the Red Sox in 2008. His 2011 season will be played at just age 26, so there's plenty of time left for Upton to turn his career around, and he's still capable of stealing a ton of bases, as his three straight seasons of over 40 steals indicate.

Given Upton isn't slated to be a free agent until after the 2012 season, it may not be prudent for Tampa to deal the youngster. After all, the club is still in desperate need of offensive playmakers, and Upton can help keep Tampa in contention. In addition, if Upton bounces back, his trade value skyrockets. Trading him now would mean selling low, and there's just no reason for the Rays to take that risk.

Topkin also points out that Upton was only one of two players in 2010 to have at least 60 extra-base hits (38 doubles, four triples, 18 home runs). The other person was none other than Carl Crawford, so losing two players with that distinction may be too much for Tampa to handle.

Upton and Crawford also impacted the game in a big way on defense, so even with Upton's struggles at the plate, he would create a major void in the lineup where there is already enough gaping holes.

Lastly, Topkin tackles the future of the starting pitching. With a full rotation and Jeremy Hellickson banging on the door, the possibility exists that Tampa could trade Matt Garza or James Shields, the two making the most money on the staff.

Shields Alas, Topkin is concerned about the depth of the rotation. While the club is deep in pitching prospects, Topkin says the top starting prospects are still a ways away, so if a starter was to get hurt and one of Shields (pictured, right) or Garza was traded, Tampa would be scrambling for depth.

However, he seems to have forgotten about Andy Sonnanstine, a starter who worked out of the bullpen in 2010. He could easily transition back to a starting role if needed. Secondly, Jacob McGee is also hanging around, and he's certainly ready for the majors after appearing down the stretch drive as a reliever. In addition, Baseball America 's top prospect list has Matt Moore and Alex Torres on the list. While asking them to be ready for 2011 is a stretch, they could make their big-league debut in September. If they're that close, they could step in and fill the breach if needed.

Depth is not an issue.

What may be an issue is the play of Shields, who finished with a 5.18 ERA in 203 1/3 innings. While his xFIP was 3.72, clubs may try to buy low on Shields given the ERA. That may not be tenable for the Rays, but if the alternative is trading Garza, the team may opt to bite the bullet on Shields.

With the winter meetings just a week away, we may soon know what direction Tampa intends to go. Will that include shipping away Bartlett, Upton, Shields or Garza? Stay tuned.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.


Since: Jun 19, 2007
Posted on: November 23, 2010 9:40 am

Futures of several Rays a question mark

2 on the Rays, read the article.

Since: Mar 30, 2009
Posted on: November 23, 2010 8:39 am

Futures of several Rays a question mark

Shieldsy?  Really?

Since: Nov 2, 2010
Posted on: November 22, 2010 11:56 pm

Futures of several Rays a question mark

James Shields is simply too much strain on the bullpen. ReBuilding the Pen has to be the Rays #1 Priority. Unless Shieldsy turns it around, he can't be relied upon for more than 5 innings. What makes it even tougher is that when he goes down, he gives up 4 or 5 runs faster than anyone can even get warmed up in the bullpen, which means that the relievers have to be nearly shutdown to have any chance of soming back. That's too much to put on what will likely be a bullpen carved together with alotta very young pitchers. AND, there'll be the added pressure of Jeremy Hellickson almost certainly getting a rotation spot and being on a strict pitchcount.

James Shields needs to change up his game and add something else or expect a short career. And so far, he's shown no signs of recognizing that most of his '10 problems are him. IMO, he has some major character issues. His slide began after losing a one-run game. You could see the anger in him.  And his throwing Jaso under the bus for his pitching batting practice in a home run derby against the Blue Jays was disgusting.

The Rays are a team that is only successful when they play together as a team. When they win together, lose together, whatever they do. Do it together. They don't need MeFirst Guys like Shields and BJ Upton.

As for Matt Garza, I think they should try to sign him. Jeremy, Jake, Matt Moore and Alex Torres need some time to come along and come together.  David Price and Wade Davis will be better next year even than they were this year. jeremy should be good. But he'll still be a Rookie with all the struggles that come with that. Unless a deal too good to pass up comes along, the Rays should wait to trade Garza. Too many young players, both pitchers and position players, need to have a little pressure taken off and time to really gel as a team.

Maybe by trade deadline, depending on how the young guys have come along, trade options can be re-visited.

Since: Apr 14, 2008
Posted on: November 22, 2010 7:05 pm

Futures of several Rays a question mark

I think there were at least 20 players with 60 extra base hits, but possibly as many as 30. 

Since: Nov 9, 2006
Posted on: November 22, 2010 6:28 pm

Futures of several Rays a question mark

Sonny was moved to the bullpen for a reason.  The guy was an unmitigated disaster as a starter in 2009.  He pitched 99 innings and gave up 131 hits and 85 earned runs.  His ERA was a dreadful 6.77 and his WHIP an even worse 1.66.  He was demoted to Durham during the 2009 season.  Evan, where on earth do you get the notion that he could "easily transition back to a starting role if needed"?!  His ERA out of the bullpen in 2010 was better, at 4.44, but certainly far from great.  And his WHIP was an awful 1.36.

Since: Apr 20, 2007
Posted on: November 22, 2010 5:27 pm

Futures of several Rays a question mark

Now it will be seen what kind of an organization Tampa is. Losing all these players, it will be interesting to see if the team remains competitive. I definitely will be impressed if Tampa remains a contender in a tough A.L. East Division.

Wondering if the ownership sees the writing on the wall and ponies up and keeps a big-name player or two. If the Rays don't sign any decent players and lose all that they can lose, they surely will be in trouble for next year. And attendance? Good luck.

Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: November 22, 2010 4:54 pm

Futures of several Rays a question mark

Boo-hoo poor penny pinching Devil Dogs can`t keep players. Tough luck, tell the millionare owner to step up or shut up.  I`m so tired of hearing how hard it is for them to compete. Your genius manager can see the future with his X-Ray glasses so keep hypin him up until he leaves for more $.   

Since: Dec 28, 2006
Posted on: November 22, 2010 4:32 pm

Futures of several Rays a question mark

60 extra base hits and 40 steals......

Since: Dec 28, 2006
Posted on: November 22, 2010 4:30 pm

Futures of several Rays a question mark

I don't know what he means because Longoria had 22 HRs and 46 doubles......

Since: Jan 19, 2010
Posted on: November 22, 2010 2:08 pm

Futures of several Rays a question mark

re.. only 2 players to have 60 extra base hits.. you mean on the rays, cause i'm guessing bautusta with dingers would fall into that category as well

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