Tampa Bay Rays Rumors
The Twins have devoted only 22.5% of their 2013 payroll to pitching (MLB average is 49.8%) and haven't exceeded the league average since 2005. Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes perhaps no statistic better illustrates the Twins' dry spell in developing pitching prospects. "It’s not by design. It’s not like we said, 'Let’s spend less on pitching and go another way,'" said Twins assistant GM Rob Antony. "When we’ve spent a lot on a contract, more often than not, it’s on players we already have, that we know. We know how they fit in the clubhouse, and we know their health situation. It makes you a little more comfortable with the investment." Miller notes several pitching investments have been wasted because of injuries including this year's highest-paid pitcher Nick Blackburn ($5.5MM), who was removed from the 40-man roster as he recovers from wrist surgery. One investment that does seem to be paying dividends is Kevin Correia, who signed a two-year, $10MM free agent contract last December. The right-hander tossed eight shutout innings and lowered his ERA to 2.31 in the Twins' 5-0 win over the Rangers. In other news and notes from the American League:
- After a four-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, the seat is becoming hotter for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman calls this a big test for Gibbons while Keith Law of ESPN.com says it's too early to think about firing the skipper (Twitter links).
- Before the game, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos met with the media, including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, and said he doesn't expect Jose Reyes back until the beginning of July "just to make sure that we do this correctly and we don’t have any setbacks." In the meantime, the plan is use Munenori Kawasaki and Maicer Izturis because Anthopoulos said the costs of going outside the organization for a Reyes replacement "don’t line up for us with what our alternatives are."
- Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg reiterated his team's ability to afford David Price in an interview with WFAN (partial transcript provided by the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin). "We can; I don't know if we'll have any team around him other than him and (Evan) Longoria."
- In the same interview, Sternberg said he expects the Rays' next TV contract to be "big relative to the size of our attendance" but "mid-sized market" compared to other teams.
- The Red Sox prefer to give Shane Victorino some time to work out his back issues rather than trying to bring Jackie Bradley back too soon, tweets the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo. Victorino underwent an MRI yesterday, which revealed inflammation in his lower back. Bradley, meanwhile, is 7-for-31 with 10 strikeouts and five walks since being optioned to Triple-A.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has posted his latest edition of Full Count (video link) and we've got the highlights..
- If the White Sox fall out of contention, they could be an interesting seller at the deadline. Paul Konerko, Gavin Floyd, Matt Thornton, and Jesse Crain are among their attractive potential free agents. Meanwhile, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy are signed only through next season. However, their pitching means that they should be in the mix for at least the second wild card spot. According to one team's internal calculations, their staff is currently the most productive in baseball.
- The Rangers could face a problem if they try to put a deal together for Giancarlo Stanton or David Price. Texas is thin on high-end pitching in the upper levels farm system, which will hurt them, particularly if they go after Price.
- Mets skipper Terry Collins is in the final year of his deal and one team official says he'll likely be judged on how much the team's young talent improves. So far, so good as Daniel Murphy, Jordany Valdespin, Lucas Duda, and of course Matt Harvey are among the homegrown Mets off to decent starts. Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis, on the other hand, appear to be question marks. In any case, Collins' status likely won't be decided until the end of the season.
- There was a lot of talk about Dan Haren's hip after the Cubs backed out of trading for him last November, but the pitcher has heard the talk and thinks its overblown. He says that his hip is the same as it was when he was in Oakland and says that it hasn't gotten any better or worse since then. He also noted that he has missed only three starts in ten seasons and doesn't plan to miss any in 2013.
One year ago Sunday, Mike Trout made his 2012 debut on the same day that Bryce Harper made his Major League debut. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports polled executives around the game and asked which player each executive would prefer to build a franchise around, if they had to choose one. While the consensus was that there was no wrong answer -- one scout told Morosi, "That's like choosing between two $1 million bills" -- 36 of the 48 participants chose Trout. Morosi goes against the majority, agreeing with one scout who notes that you can't teach Harper's intensity, historic leverage and bat speed, among other factors. Morosi also adds that Harper is more conditioned to handle pressure, having been in the national spotlight since age 16.
Regardless of your preference, Harper and Trout have given fans a lifetime's worth of debates over the past year. Here's more from around the league for your Friday reading pleasure...
- Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the last-minute Marlins pitching change in Tuesday's double-header this week came directly from owner Jeffrey Loria. The owner insisted that Jose Fernandez start the day game while Ricky Nolasco start the night game, despite the fact that the opposite was supposed to happen. The move went over poorly with both pitchers and infuriated the Marlins' players. Loria overstepped his boundaries as "no other owner in baseball would dare," Passan writes, and in doing so embarrassed and undermined rookie manager Mike Redmond.
- Loria spoke to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and flatly denied the report, stating that he was engaged in discussions regarding his business as an art dealer at the time.
- Rays minor leaguer Jose Disla was suspended 50 games for violating MLB's drug policy, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The 17-year-old was signed in March and has yet to play a pro game (Twitter links).
- A rival GM told Rosenthal that the 2013 version of the Pirates are the best Pirates team he's seen in 20 years (Twitter link).
- The Mariners can't panic yet and replace half their roster with prospects from Triple-A, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. The Mariners' front office spent an entire winter devising a plan for the season, and pulling the plug in April would be akin to surrendering. The team hasn't played close to its potential, he writes, but there is time to turn the season around yet.
On paper, the Rays are tied to a lease at Tropicana Field until 2027. In reality, there’s much more uncertainty involving the location of a franchise that had the lowest per-game attendance in the majors last year.
St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster has been adamant about not allowing the team to negotiate possible stadium sites outside the city, most notably in neighboring Tampa and Hillsborough County. Yet principal owner Stuart Sternberg told reporters during in spring training that he’s optimistic that progress can be made on the issue. The mayor said on Opening Day that since meeting with Sternberg in February, their respective staffs have been working together on the matter, as Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times notes. Whether that means the Rays could soon be looking at sites in St. Pete, Tampa or elsewhere is unclear. What is clear is that the question of where the Rays will play in the coming years continues to hang over the team like the pesky catwalks on the ceiling of the Trop.
Of course, as with any front office issue, that doesn’t mean anyone in the clubhouse is paying much attention to it.
“I honestly believe we’re beyond that being a distraction for us,” manager Joe Maddon told reporters in spring training when MLBTR asked about the ongoing stadium issue. “I mean, it’s been going on for a while now. We’ve been ridiculed nationally. We’ve been ridiculed locally. We’ve had conversations about it.”
Third baseman Evan Longoria certainly doesn’t seem worried about the team's future in Tampa Bay, if his decision last winter to sign a contract extension through 2023 is any indication. Utility man Sean Rodriguez, one of six players to speak to MLBTR about the stadium issue, believes it's possible teammates or potential free agents may take Longoria's extension as a sign that there's no cause for concern.
“You could definitely think that,” Rodriguez said. “If he’s willing to stay here, it’s obviously because he believes in what’s going on.”
Sternberg said on Opening Day that even if the team started working toward a new stadium immediately, the earliest the club could move in would be five or six years from now. If Longoria’s deal stands to ease the mind of any player considering a long-term deal with the club, the lack of immediacy makes it a non-issue for players operating on shorter timeframes.
“We know we’re going to be playing in Tropicana Field in 2013, and that’s kind of all we’re worried about,” outfielder Sam Fuld said. “Other than a select few, we’ve all bounced around enough to know not to look past the next month, let alone the next year.”
Fuld, like all but five of his teammates, is on a deal that expires at the end of the season. Ben Zobrist is one of the five who figures to be with the Rays at least a little while longer, as his contract includes team options in 2014 and 2015. Zobrist said he’s on board with whatever the organization decides to do about a place to play.
“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “They (Rays officials) make that decision. As players, especially around here, you have to be flexible. If you’re not flexible, then you’re not going to last very long in baseball, because you have to be, to be able to be successful in this profession. Things are changing all the time, and you’re always traveling, and there’s always a new situation. So it’s certainly something that you have to have some thick skin (about), and just learn to enjoy it all.”
Starting pitcher Alex Cobb said he takes a neutral stance about the stadium talks, but concedes that there are ties that would make staying at the Trop appealing to him.
“Obviously, it would be nice to have sold-out crowd every night, which is asking a lot, but I grew up coming to this stadium,” he said. “Living in Vero Beach, I drove over all the time, came to games, and chased autographs around the stadium, so there’s a big nostalgic feeling about this stadium. I live close-by to the stadium now, so it’s a nice, easy drive.”
The same roof under which Cobb watched his baseball heroes now makes his professional life a little easier.
“I love the stadium,” he said. “I know every time I’m getting the ball that it’s going be 72 (degrees) and no wind. I know the conditions I’m going to get.”
Rays fans might not show up in droves at the ballpark, but many of them show their support in other ways, as Maddon observes amid the specter of a stadium issue that feeds the perception of the team’s lack of appeal.
“While that’s all going on, the thing that I think gets overlooked, from our perspective, is how much we respect our fans,” Maddon said. “Our fans have been great to us. You walk up and down in the Tampa Bay area, you’re going to see a lot of Rays gear. I live up in Tampa. I see it all over the place, right on Bayshore (Boulevard). People are talking about us. We’re well-watched on television. We’re well-listened-to on radio. So, the thing about the ballpark — of course we want a better ballpark. Of course we do. In the right spot. But it’s not a distraction.”
Rays local television broadcasts drew a 4.89 rating in 2012, up about 28% over 2011 and almost squarely in the middle of local ratings that ranged from a high of 9.13 for the Tigers to a low of 1.02 for the Astros last season. The Rays cite data from the Scarborough Research firm that showed the number of fans who attended one of their games, watched one on TV, or listened on radio was greater than any other team in the Tampa Bay area in 2011, including the NFL’s Buccaneers.
The numbers suggest that the local market isn’t the problem, and that the team’s attendance woes could be solved with a stadium in a better location within the area. Such a move might make Cobb’s commute a little longer, but it would mean less upheaval than if the Rays left Tampa Bay entirely, and perhaps a more certain future for a club looking to build on the success of the past five years.
The Rays have received undisclosed amounts of cash, rather than players to be named later, to complete the Stephen Vogt and Robinson Chirinos trades, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter).
The Rays traded Vogt to Oakland back on April 5. The 28-year-old catcher made his MLB debut for the Rays last season but went hitless in 25 at-bats. He's had considerably better fortune at the Triple-A level, where he owns a .302/.363/.503 batting line -- thanks in large part to the video game numbers he's put up for Oakland's Triple-A affiliate so far (though those numbers do come with the PCL caveat).
Chirinos was traded to the Rangers on April 8 after being designated for assignment at the end of Spring Training. The 28-year-old was part of the Matt Garza trade between the Rays and Cubs. He has a career .281/.362/.422 batting line at Triple-A. Chirinos is a rare catcher who has extensive experience at both shortstop and second base, though he's worked almost exclusively as a catcher in recent years.
"You can never have too much pitching" isn't just a cliche, and the 2013 Dodgers are proof of that. The Dodgers announced today that Chad Billingsley is headed to the disabled list because of right elbow pain and the right-hander may even require Tommy John surgery down the road. The Dodgers theoretically had a pair of extra starters to dangle to teams a couple of weeks ago, but injuries to Billingsley, Chris Capuano, and Zack Greinke have put that idea on hold. Here's more from around baseball..
- Baseball officials told Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) that if Matt Garza winds up getting tied to draft pick compensation like Kyle Lohse, the advice they would have for him would be to push his negotiations early in the offseason. Because he's not a Greinke-type of talent, Garza will want to sign before teams have already settled in around spring training.
- Olney recently suggested that the Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Rangers could be frontrunners if the Rays move David Price, but Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times doesn't see Tampa Bay doing business with Boston unless it's at a significant premium.
- Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, and other new Yankees are rejuvenating their careers in New York, writes John Harper of the New York Daily News.
Several Rays players told MLBTR that the departure of mainstay James Shields in an offseason trade was easier to take than it might have been if the deal had happened in the middle of the year. That’s not the only way timing could play a significant role in determining how successful the transaction will become for Tampa Bay.
There’s always been judgment involved when a team calls up a prospect, like the four whom the Rays acquired as part of the Shields trade. Now, as teams try to balance their needs of the moment with worries about heading to arbitration a year too soon with a player they project as a star, there’s often a layer of decision-making that transcends on-field performance.
Rays manager Joe Maddon expressed confidence during spring training that the team’s front office would let baseball acumen alone determine when 22-year-old Wil Myers, the most coveted prospect in the Shields deal, makes his major league debut. Rays executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman didn’t directly say whether that will be the case, but when MLBTR asked whether Maddon’s belief is correct, Friedman repeated comments he made recently to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com indicating that competitiveness and baseball readiness are his chief concerns.
“With any potential move there are a lot of factors to consider — the fit on our roster, what it means for our depth, and so on,” Friedman said. “We also have to be really mindful that our goal is to compete year in and year out in the toughest division in baseball with almost no margin for error. The AL East will expose very quickly any weaknesses that you have. So when we bring someone here, we need to feel that he’s ready to step in and help us win right away. As Joe has touched on already this spring, if we add someone who’s not ready, not only will it hurt the team but it can really set the player back as well.”
If Myers isn’t yet ready, it doesn’t seem like he’s far off. Last year the outfielder spent a third of the season at Double-A and the rest at Triple-A, and altogether he blasted 37 home runs with a slash line of .314/.387/.600. He opened the season as the No. 4 prospect on the Baseball America and MLB.com lists, though his 2013 performance has lacked sizzle so far. His OPS of .762 in 17 major league spring training games is similar to his .768 OPS in 10 games at Triple-A. Still, that’s significantly better than Tampa Bay’s AL-worst .569 OPS.
Ben Zobrist, one of the bright spots in the Rays lineup this year, told MLBTR he accepts the club’s decision to keep Myers on the farm for now.
“He’s going to be ready when he’s ready,” Zobrist said. “The organization’s going to make that decision. He’s obviously an exciting player. He’s done a lot of really good things so far in his minor league career, and I think if all goes well, he’s going to be an exciting player at the major league level, too, but he’s still got some seasoning to do, from their standpoint, and we’ll see what happens as the year goes on. But he’s definitely an exciting player to watch.”
Alex Cobb sympathizes with Myers. The right-handed starting pitcher improved his ERA each year in the minors after making his pro debut at rookie ball in 2006. As is often the case with young arms in the Rays organization, Cobb spent time at each level of the system, finally reaching the majors in 2011. Last season, at the age of 24, he made double-digit appearances in the big leagues for the first time. Still, Cobb came to embrace the club’s deliberate approach to call-ups, as he explained to MLBTR.
“I’ve been victim to it as much as guys in the past, but you understand it,” he said. “There’s pros and cons of being in this organization. That’s one of the minor cons of being a player in this organization. There are so many pros of just everyday life in and out of the clubhouse here. And so, when that does happen to you, you understand that you just have to pay your dues. Chris Archer’s going through it right now. It’s not a bad thing, once you’ve beaten that. It’s very discouraging while you’re going through it, and you try to put on as good a front as you can, but it is tough. But, going through it, it makes you a stronger person on and off the field. So, it’s only going to make you better between the ears when you get up here and finally do stick. You really do appreciate it.”
Cobb, who’ll be 30 by the time he’s eligible for free agency, certainly doesn’t hold any grudge against the organization for the pace of his ascent up the minor league ladder, and doesn’t think Myers or other prospects will, either.
“Initially, maybe, that’s their first instinct, is to get mad,” Cobb said. “But I think when your head cools down, you prevail from whatever the emotions you’re going through, and you realize that it’s a smart business decision. And it is, because from the outside looking in now, you realize how much they need to do those type of things to stay competitive. I think it’s become an understanding that now you pay your dues, and you do it, and you eventually become a better big leaguer for it, and you have a great career afterwards.”
Baseball, like the rest of the country, has its mind on yesterday's tragedy at the Boston Marathon. SI.com's Tom Verducci explores the role of the national pastime -- and, especially, Boston's own Red Sox -- in dealing with an event of such magnitude: "Every tragedy is ... an unwelcome reminder that life goes on for the survivors. Baseball, which, unlike any other sport, is there for us virtually every day, is entwined with what is the comfort and curse of that daily challenge. However small, however unimportant baseball seems today, the Red Sox remain a part of daily life in Boston. These Red Sox, win or lose, now play for a broken city. Whatever comfort or distraction they provide in the best of times assumes a different weight in these worst of times."
- Verducci went on to discuss the Sox' early-season pitching renaissance, crediting the club's deal with Toronto to bring back former pitching coach John Farrell as manager. In particular, starters Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have been outstanding thus far, combining for a 5-0 record and 0.88 ERA.
- While only a side note, Verducci used interesting terms to describe the Boston free agent acquisition strategy, which resulted in the signing of players like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, David Ross, and Jonny Gomes. "The analytically-minded Red Sox ... disregarded the Carmine computer program to put an emphasis on extroverted, high-motor guys who fit the Boston fishbowl."
- As the Red Sox face the Indians tonight, Victorino reflected on his free agency decision between the two clubs over the winter, writes Alex Speier of WEEI.com. The 32-year-old outfielder said that there were things he liked about Cleveland but he ultimately chose Boston because of their winning tradition.
- Outfielder Curtis Granderson is as eager for his return as are the Yankees, writes Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. While he says he will go about his business the same way regardless of his pending free agency, Granderson acknowledged that it makes it hard to remain patient knowing that he will be reaching the open market after this season.
- The difficulties facing the Blue Jays in filling in for Jose Reyes may be daunting, but they are not unique, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. With the Jays finding the asking price high on possible trade targets, they seem likely to use patches rather than make a big move. If that is the case, writes Nicholson-Smith, Toronto will be following the path of other clubs that lost their shortstops early in recent seasons.
- The Blue Jays' lineup was missing one quality everyday bat even before Reyes went down, writes Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail. GM Alex Anthopoulos is not only working the phones for a Reyes stop-gap, but is interested in what Blair describes as a "significant transaction that might require several moving pieces." With Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie potentially capable of manning alternative positions, Blair says Toronto may be looking for an impact bat that it can shoehorn into the lineup rather than targeting a specific position.
- The Rays' offensive struggles make a Wil Myers call-up enticing, but the club should nevertheless stay patient, writes Jonah Keri for Grantland. Keri wonders whether the club might pursue an Evan Longoria-esque early-career extension for the young outfielder, which would resolve service time concerns if the Rays want to call him up.
- Meanwhile, we heard earlier today (in an Insider piece) that ESPN's Buster Olney believes that Rays ace David Price would likely command less than Giancarlo Stanton on the trade market. Of course, the Rays would surely bring back an impressive haul if they were to make the reigning AL Cy Young winner available. Olney's "educated guess" at the top potential suitors for Price are the Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Rangers.
The Rays acquired lefty Jeff Beliveau from the Rangers for cash considerations, according to a team press release. Jeff Niemann was placed on the 60-day DL to create a 40-man roster spot for Beliveau, noted Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
Beliveau had been designated for assignment by the Rangers on April 8th, upon their acquisition of catcher Robinson Chirinos from Tampa Bay. Beliveau is not the player to be named later that the Rangers owe the Rays for Chirinos, tweets Topkin.
Beliveau, 26, posted a 3.89 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, and 0.82 HR/9 in 44 relief innings for the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate last year, making his big league debut in July.
Sixty-six years ago today, Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier when he made his Major League debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After an 0-for-3 debut, Robinson went on to hit .297/.383/.427 with 12 home runs, a league-leading 29 stolen bases and won Rookie of the Year honors. As MLB.com's Richard Justice writes, the movie "42" introduces Robinson to a new generation of Americans and helps to immortalize the legacy of one of America's most courageous figures: "Robinson paid an incomprehensible price in the pain he endured and the responsibility he carried," writes Justice.
Baseball as we know it would not be the same were it not for Robinson's courage, talent and perseverance. Here's a look at some news from around the league on Jackie Robinson day...
- In his latest MLB.com mailbag, T.R. Sullivan writes that the Elvis Andrus extension, while risky for the Rangers, is still beneficial to the team. He credits Scott Boras for "astutely putting risk" on Texas.
- Within that same piece, Sullivan writes that the Rangers would trade a package of prospects highlighted by Jurickson Profar "in the blink of an eye" if it meant landing David Price from the Rays or Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins.
- Jim Callis of Baseball America feels that Mark Appel has plenty of leverage in the upcoming draft and will likely sign a bonus in the $6MM neighborhood. As Callis notes, teams can't risk offering something like a $5MM "take it or leave it" offer and signing the rest of their picks. Doing so could ultimately lead to paying over slot to sign Appel, costing them future picks. It's in the best interest of whoever drafts Appel to sign him first, and doing so could prove highly expensive.
- Callis also notes that Appel and Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray have established themselves as the clear-cut top two prospects in the draft.
- Major League Baseball is making progress on its investigation of the Biogenesis scandal, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. However, it appears MLB is looking for "a smoking gun" before taking what could be its only chance to question players such as Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun who have been connected to the Miami clinic. Heyman confirms that MLB has purchased Biogenesis documentation, but notes that the MLBPA will be sure to question documents that were produced after a cash transaction.