2008 was a spectacular year for the Tampa Bay Rays. They went from having the worst record in the MLB a year before, to going to the World Series in ’08. They weren’t satisfied with their team even after this, so they went out and made two key additions to their lineup. After deciding to move David Price into the rotation, they deemed Edwin Jackson as expendable. E-Jax was swapped to the Tigers for outfielder Matt Joyce. Joyce will be the primary right fielder for the team and adds some nice pop to the lineup. After that, they went out and signing Pat Burrell to a 2 year deal. He will be the Designated Hitter for the team, and adds a big bat from the right side of the plate — something the Rays were looking for.
The 97 win Rays have gotten better. Burrell and Joyce will improve the lineup, and Price will offer at least the same production that Jackson would. He has a lot of upside, and could be this year’s version of Tim Lincecum. The bullpen is the one area that might not be as good as the year before. They struggled through the playoffs, and many of the relievers could come back down to Earth in ’09. However, with their fantastic farm system, they could easily make a bullpen acquisition mid-season.
The race for the AL East is going to be the most fun thing to watch in baseball next year. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Rays, Yankees, or Red Sox win this division. You could pick a name out of a hat and I would believe you. I slightly favor the Yanks for the division, and the Rays for the Wild Card. I think that the acquisition of Burrell makes their lineup a very good one, and the pitching staff could be even better than last year depending on how good Price is. He is the difference maker. If he comes out and has a Lincecum type year, the Rays will be in the playoffs with a dynamic 1-2-3 punch and a great chance of returning to the World Series. If not, then the Rays might not even make the playoffs. It’s all up to him.
This is going to be a very fun team to watch no matter what happens. I can’t wait for April!
Everything had to fall into place for the Rays to be able to sign a big bat for their open DH spot. The player would need to come on a short term deal and would have to have a reasonable annual salary. Those things happened because of the overflowing market for outfielders, and the Rays are very lucky to have ‘Pat the Bat’ under contract at a very under-market rate.
This signing pushes their payroll up to the 55-60 million dollar range. I’m guessing that they are done. No major holes need to be filled, no money left. The Rays will most likely head into 2009 with their current team.
Injecting Burrell into this lineup should make the Rays offense very solid next year. They have so many players likely to improve on what they did last year, and now they add ‘Pat the Bat’ to solidify things. Carl Crawford and BJ Upton should see their batting averages come back to life. Evan Longoria should improve all the parts of his game with the more experience he is getting. Burrell is obviously going to be better than what the Rays had at DH last year. Matt Joyce will be an improvement offensively and defensively in right field. I guess that you could see Dioner Navarro come back to earth, but when you look at the lineup as a whole, it is much improved. A lineup of Akinori Iwamura – Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria – Carlos Pena – Pat Burrell – BJ Upton – Dioner Navarro – Matt Joyce – Jason Bartlett is going to be very deadly for opposing pitchers to face. The defense, rotation, and bullpen should all remain the way they were last year, and the 97-win Tampa Bay Rays look primed to contend for a playoff spot once again.
A lot of teams passed on the chance to pick up a very good outfielder. The Angels, Reds, Braves, Phillies (before they signed Raul Ibanez), and other teams could’ve easily matched this offer. This is another reason why this is such a great signing by the Rays.
Things are going to be very tight in the AL East division. The Red Sox, Yankees, and of course Rays all stand a good shot at a playoff berth. First, I will analyze the starting rotations of these teams.
The Rays have the best rotation in my opinion. A rotation of Scott Kazmir – James Shields – Matt Garza – Andy Sonnanstine – David Price is very good, and very durable. The Yankees’ rotation might have more talent, but they also have a lot of injury-prone pitchers. (examples: AJ Burnett, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes) The Red Sox rotation also has their share of pitchers with an injury history (Josh Beckett, Disuke Matsuzaka, & Brad Penny). The Rays have the most durable rotation in the AL East.
I prefer Yankees and Red Sox lineups over the Rays, but not by much. If players like Upton and Crawford bounce back they’ll have a great hitting team. I guess that with those two players rebounding, and with Longoria advancing his batting skills with more experience, the Rays might have the best offense. I still lean toward the Yanks and BoSox, however, because those teams have more power.
The bullpens should all be near the same. The Rays might see some of the relievers come back to earth, but it should still be a solid group. It is pretty much a toss up between all 3 teams.
I know that defense doesn’t make a big impact on a teams’ win-loss record, but the Rays have the top one. Maybe it will tack on a couple wins over a team like the Yankees, who have a terrible defense.
The AL East race is shaping out to be the most competitive division in the MLB next year. I don’t know who I will pick, but I know things will be very close throughout.
In a stunning move, the Yankees have signed Mark Teixeira to an 8 year, 180 million dollar contract with a full no-trade-clause. Wow! With this move, the Yanks now look like the frontrunners to win the World Series. They have spent over 400 million this offseason on 3 players. CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and now Mark Teixeira will be the next faces of the New York Yankees.
I can’t believe that the Yankees are raising payroll so high. They said that they wouldn’t be going above the 215 million they had committed last season, but this might change that. 140 million dollars was committed coming into the offseason. Arbitration raises will probably add on another 10 million or so. That left them with 150 million. The Nick Swisher trade tacked on about 5 million. After signing Sabathia to a contract worth 23 million per year, it left them with 178 million dollar payroll. Burnett’s 16.5 million and Teixeira’s 22.5 million bring totals to 217 million; more than last year. I don’t have any idea how they can add payroll in this kind of economy. This whole offseason, GM Brian Cashman has been saying that the team won’t raise payroll, but they just did. They don’t have any tradable pieces aside from Hideki Matsui. There’s no doubt that he will get traded to accommodate this move. Swisher will move from first base to left field, Johnny Damon will move from left field to DH, and Matsui will be dealt somewhere. The Yanks will have to eat probably about half of his contract to move him, however. His knees are all banged up, and his bat is slipping. I don’t know of anyone who would want him unless they have an open DH spot. I guess the Mariners could make an inquiry, but I don’t think that they would want to add a player like that for only one year. I could see them buying low and then possibly selling high at the trade deadline if Hideki establishes his health. If not Seattle, then maybe the Rays could pursue him. They would have to miss out on all their other free agent options, though. Plus, the Yankees probably don’t want to trade within their division. I can’t think of any great fit for him, but there’s bound to be some team willing to take him on for only around 7 million.
If they can dump Matsui it looks like they’ll just head into the season with a 110 million dollar payroll. It was possible they would do this anyway. Mike Cameron and Andy Pettitte could have been aquired for near 10 million each. Now that Tex is a Yankee, neither option seems likely. They Yanks will have to go into the season with Phil Hughes as the fifth starter and with Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera platooning in center field. Still, I would much rather have that to go along with Tex instead of Matsui, Pettitte, and Cameron. I have no idea where Pettitte will go now that the Yankee door is shut. Maybe he’ll retire if he cannot find a place he’s comfortable. The Dodgers, Brewers, and Cardinals could make some sense, at least for the team.
So, since Tex will wear pinstripes instead of Red Sox, who will where Sox? Boston will not look for a hitter anymore; they feel that Tex would be the only upgrade significant enough to trade Mike Lowell for. I agree. For the defense and leadership Lowell brings to the table, I would rather keep him instead of getting a small offensive upgrade with a player like Adam Dunn or Pat Burrell. The starting pitching looks like the position to address, now. You’d have to think that Derek Lowe is the happiest man not named Teixeira that the latter will be in New York. That will open up a spot for Lowe in Boston, or at least make them bid against the Mets. Still, I would say that Lowe is most likely to sign with the BoSox now that Tex won’t.
The Nationals will also look into backup plans. It seems as though the Nats will now turn their attention to Adam Dunn and Orlando Hudson. They will probably bid aggressively against the Angels for Dunn’s services, but I wouldn’t mind signing Hudson instead. There has been no interest at all shown for O-Dawg, so the Nats could get him at a rather cheap price. The Cardinals, Indians, and Giants just don’t make sense anymore. If Washington can sign him for, say, 3 years, 18 million, it will be a great deal. Much smarter than giving away 50 million+ to Dunn, or 180 million+ to Teixeira. I wouldn’t fault the Nats for waiting until next offseason to make their splash. In fact, that’d be the way I would go if Hudson doesn’t come cheap.
Now that the Yanks have added CC, Tex, and AJ, are they the best team in the MLB? Or even in the AL East for that matter? In my opinion, New York has a better rotation than the Rays, but not the Red Sox if the latter add Derek Lowe. New York probably has the best offense now with the addition of Mark Teixeira. There are some major question marks, though. Jorge Posada was hurt last year, and Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano are coming off of terrible years. The center field situation still isn’t sorted out, either. I could see Swish and Cano bouncing back, and the Yanks still could get some solid offense out of Posada. The defense will be bad, but you can live with that. The Red Sox have some question marks in their lineup, too. Mike Lowell was just hurt, and Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie weren’t great. Plus, Ortiz is coming off an injury and doesn’t have the big protection he used to. With no Manny Ramirez or no Mark Teixeira batting behind him, you might see Ortiz’s bat fall off a cliff. The catcher situation remains unresolved, and it looks like they’ll have to go back to Jason Varitek. So both teams have question marks in their lineups. It is going to be very close this year, but I give the edge to the Yankees for the division, and the edge to the Red Sox for the Wild Card. The Rays are one of my favorite teams, but I don’t like their chance of repeating.
By the way, the Yankees should take the field to Darth Vader’s theme song.
To open up a spot for stud prospect David Price while filling their right field void, the Rays have traded Edwin Jackson for Matt Joyce. I like this trade for both teams.
The Rays did amazing on this. They kill 3 birds with 1 stone by making this deal. Tampa Bay opens up a spot for David Price, fill their right field void, and clear salary for a potential aquisition of a DH through free agency. Milton Bradley and Jason Giambi are some attractive options. Joyce was a surprise last year, but he put up some very nice numbers while showing some impressive power. He is clearly the answer to their right field hole for now and for the future. Plus, Joyce is cheap for 6 years while Jackson was getting more expensive and is only under team control for 3 years. I don’t see how the Rays could’ve done any better on this trade.
Although I like this deal better for the Rays, the Tigers also did very well. They aquire a solid
#4 or #5 starting pitcher to add some much needed depth to their rotation. Matt Joyce is a high price to pay, but the offense was clearly not the problem in Detroit. They have some other options to replace him with, anyway. Marcus Thames and maybe a cheap free agent could make a nice platoon. It looks like the Tigers rotation will be looking like this: Justin Verlander – Jeremy Bonderman – Armando Galarraga – Edwin Jackson – Nate Robertson / Dontrelle Willis. That’s not bad if certain players have some bounce-back years. Plus, top prospect Rick Porcello would be ready sometime during the year. I like this trade a lot for the Tigers.
This is a very solid deal for both of these teams, but I give the edge to the Rays on this one.
I haven’t done a player market in a while. Bobby Abreu seems like a pretty popular name so far. Let’s take a look at where he might end up.
Cubs (frontrunners) Now that Ryan Dempster is resigned and Kerry Wood won’t be back, the remainder of the Cubs’ money will go toward a left handed bat for right field. The Cubs are in a financial predicament, however. 130 million is already tied up in contracts, and arbitration raises could push them another 5 million or so. If it’s true that payroll won’t go past 140 million, then salary must be moved in order to aquire Abreu. Marquis could be traded. I think they’ll do that to clear at least 7 million, and then with the 12 million made available, they’ll sign Abreu. But that’s just my prediction.
Braves (frontrunners) If they miss out on other outfield possibilities, Abreu could make a lot of sense. It would give them the flexibility of demoting or trading Jeff Francoeur without having to put someone in right field that shouldn’t be there. He had very good stats last year, and would be an all around a great aquisition for any team to make.
Reds (frontrunners) He could solve their left field problems. Great American Ballpark should attract Abreu, and the Reds could use a high OBP player to replace Adam Dunn. If they can get a few big years from various young players, this team could compete for the Wild Card and maybe even the NL Central.
Mets (possible) The Mets have been saying all along that they view pitching as their offseason priorty. They would still be upgrading their pitching by signing Abreu, though. For example: The Mets trade Ryan Church to the Rays for Edwin Jackson, sign Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Fuentes, and sign Bobby Abreu. That all can fit into their payroll, and they improve the bullpen and offense while keeping the rotation the same. Abreu would take over in right field, replacing Ryan Church. I think this idea could work.
Rays (dark horse) I know that they’re running low on money, but if they want to stretch the payroll a tad, Bobby Abreu could make sense. He is a middle of the order bat that plays right field; Abreu would fill all of their holes in just one aquisition. This one is a dark horse only because of the possible salary it would take to lock him up.
I was thinking about the potential outfield surplus of the Dodgers if they resign Manny Ramirez, and I came to the conclusion that Andre Eithier should at least be made available. The Rays would be the top bidder; they’d love to get the young, powerful Eithier into their lineup. The Dodgers’s holes are left-side-of-the-infield help along with starting pitching. Their pick of Andy Sonnanstine or Edwin Jackson could be part of a deal, but the Rays need to add another piece. Brignac would be too much. The Dodgers probably wouldn’t want Jason Bartlett since they have their own bad hitting, great defending shortstop in Chin-Lung Hu. I still think they sign Rafeal Furcal or Orlando Cabrera to fill the shortstop hole. It would be hard to fit all of their free agents into the payroll, however. But if you take away the 10+ million needed to sign a starter and replace that with the cheap Andy Sonnanstine, they would be able to afford Manny, Blake, and Furcal. So a 1 for 1 swap seems reasonable, but there has to be more to the deal. How about the Rays add Jeff Niemann? The Dodgers rotation would then be Chad Billingsley-Hiroki Kuroda-Clayton Kershaw-Andy Sonnanstine-James McDonald/Jeff Niemann. Not an awful rotation, and they could even skip Kershaw every once in a while and start Niemann. It may be smarter for them to just keep Eithier and then sign a Randy Johnson type of starter. The above mentioned deal could happen, though.
The Braves are out of the Jake Peavy bidding, or at least for now. They were unsatisfied by the price. Peavy demanded that the club option for the fifth year be picked upon any trade. That would make it a 5 year, 80 million contract. It’s still a huge discount, but the Braves apperantly thought it would be a smarter idea to sign a free agent like Derek Lowe or AJ Burnett to a cheaper contract while hanging on to their top prospects. Too bad because I was just about to write about how the Braves would pursue Rafeal Furcal in the event of a Yunel Escobar trade. It’s still possible they deal him, but I doubt it happens.
The Padres will have to move on to other teams, but there were never many good fits. I still think the Rays make sense. Wade Davis, Edwin Jackson, and Reid Brignac makes a whole lot of sense. The Rays would have by far the best rotation in the AL and maybe even the MLB. Their team would be unstopable. They would still have Andy Sonnanstine as a trade chip, also. Could you imagine a rotaion of Jake Peavy-Scott Kazmir-James Shield-Matt Garza-David Price! The latter is a huge breakout candidate on top of all that. Evan Longoria will continue making strides, Rocco Baldelli could come back to have big year if the Rays give him the full-time DH spot. Most people think that once the Yankees add pitchers like Sabathia and Burnett, and if the Red Sox add Mark Texiera and/or a starter, the Rays will be completely out of it. I disagree because of all their break-out candidates.