2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays

A few of you have reminded me that I’ve ignored the Nats and D-Rays in the 2007 Team Outlooks.  No offense intended.  Check out Rays Index for your D-Rays blog needs.

Andrew Friedman’s contract obligations:

C – Dioner Navarro – $0.38MM
C – Josh Paul – $0.475MM + raise
1B – Ty Wigginton – $0.75MM + raise
2B – Jorge Cantu – $0.38MM
SS – Ben Zobrist – $0.38MM
3B – Akinori Iwamura – $1.8MM + $1.1375MM posting fee = $2.9375MM
IF/OF/DH – Greg Norton – $0.8MM
LF – Carl Crawford – $4MM
CF – Rocco Baldelli – $0.75MM + $0.45MM bonus = $1.2MM + incentives
RF – Delmon Young – $1.16MM
OF – B.J. Upton – $1.3MM
DH – Jonny Gomes – $0.38MM

SP – Scott Kazmir – $0.38MM
SP – Jamie Shields – $0.38MM
SP – Jae Seo – $1.2MM
SP – Casey Fossum – $2.2MM (September shoulder surgery, should be ready for spring training)
SP – Brian Stokes – $0.38MM
SP – Jason Hammel – $0.38MM
SP – J.P. Howell – $0.38MM
SP – Jeff Niemann – $1.68MM

RP – Dan Miceli – $0.65MM
RP – Shinji Mori – $0.7MM (torn labrum rehab, should not be ready for spring training)
RP – Seth McClung – $0.38MM
RP – Edwin Jackson – $0.38MM
RP – Ruddy Lugo – $0.38MM
RP – Chad Orvella – $0.38MM
RP – Tim Corcoran – $0.38MM

Non-roster invitees:
1B – Hee Seop Choi – $0.975MM

This payroll should be under $25MM, even with some raises, incentives, and the possible inclusion of Choi or Neimann.  And that even includes Iwamura’s posting fee broken up over four years, which may not count against payroll.  It’s a great core, and if built up carefully the D-Rays could make the AL East a very interesting division towards the end of the decade.

The catching situation is set, with Navarro the main man.  The Rays only had to give up a couple of unwanted vets to get Navarro and Seo.

As of right now, Wigginton is the favorite to play first.  He could have two challengers in Choi and Elijah Dukes.  I don’t have Dukes listed above because I don’t see how he fits in at the moment.  But given a 12-man pitching staff there is room for one more position player, one of these two.

Despite his clunky defense and lost 2006, some teams should have interest in Cantu.  Moving him would free up some much-needed space in the infield.  Iwamura can bounce to second if needed, but it seems unlikely that the B.J. Upton-at-third experiement would resume.  Right now Zobrist is the only shortstop candidate, but the Rays might try to upgrade via trade.  As long as it’s not an outfielder, I get the impression Friedman will just try to get the best available player(s) in a deal.

Norton will split some time with Gomes at DH, though I could see Gomes running away with it if healthy.

The outfield is set at Crawford/Baldelli/Young.  That leaves no room for Upton or Dukes if they are viewed as outfielders.  Both deserve starting gigs, so something has to give.  I know the team doesn’t want Upton on the bench with the big club but he’s had enough time at Triple A.

Trade rumors have swirled around Upton, Cantu, and even Crawford, but Baldelli is the name everyone’s talking about currently.  If the Marlins really offered Scott Olsen, the Rays should take it.  Looks like Friedman will just sit back until a team bowls him over with a couple of top shelf prospects.  John Schuerholz, for one, has never been afraid to deal his.  Nor has Kenny Williams. 

Kazmir, Seo, and Shields are locks for the rotation.  Same for Fossum, if his shoulder is OK by spring.  That means one vacancy goes to Stokes, Hammel, or Howell.  Niemann probably needs a half season in the high minors before forcing his way in.  The Rays could still sign a vet off the scrap heap to fill a spot, especially if they don’t have faith in Fossum’s recovery.

The bullpen probably needs one veteran signing, but targets Russ Springer and Octavio Dotel are off the market.  David Riske, perhaps?  The team doesn’t want to go into spring training with McClung closing.

Right now the D-Rays are cheap and supremely talented but at least a year off from competing.  Management seems intelligent now, with some decent trades in the books and reasonable veteran signings.  If guys like Norton, Iwamura, or Wigginton are playing well they could be dealt off for more youth in coming years.

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