Saturday, February 14, 2009

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Monday, January 19, 2009

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The Professor


Friday, January 16, 2009

Projected 2009 Tampa Bay Rays 25-Man Roster
Earlier today we projected the 40-man roster and payroll. Now let's take a look at the 25-man roster and lineup.

25-Man Roster Projection and Lineup
(notes and explanations on the projection can be found following the roster)...

Notes on the 25-man roster projection
  • Projection is based only on players currently in the organization. The projection will be updated when players are acquired via free agency or trades.
  • Lineup: With Gabe Kapler now in the mix, it now appears set that Matt Joyce will begin the year in the minors unless he does something extraordinary in Spring Training. Right field will now be a platoon with Gabe Gross. However, Kapler could be in center field the first week if the Rays decide to keep BJ Upton out of the cold weather games. If Upton is on the DL, look for Fernando Perez to be added as a fourth outfielder to start the season.
  • Batting Order: At this point we expect Joe Maddon to stick with his basic top of the order utilized in 2008. However, we do wonder if he will now toy with the idea of leading-off with BJ Upton. Maddon could then move either Evan Longoria or Pat Burrell up to the three-hole. The line-up could then look like:
  1. Upton
  2. Crawford
  3. Longoria
  4. Pena
  5. Burrell
  6. Iwamura
  7. Gross
  8. Navarro
  9. Bartlett
  • Saucy indeed! If Maddon does not alter the top of the order, 6-7-8 would be Burrell-Gross-Navarro. That would be Dusty Baker's ultimate "clogging the basepaths" combination.
  • Bench: Gabe Kapler will start against lefties in right field. Willy Aybar and Ben Zobrist figure to see plenty of playing time at various positions. Shawn Riggans seems safe, as he looked solid with the bat. But he needs to show marked improvement behind the plate. Base stealers were 24-25 against Diesel, and the one caught stealing was on a pitch out.
  • Rotation: The only question remaining is whether David Price is deemed ready in spring training. We have already made a case for King David starting the year in triple-A. If he does, the last spot will go to Jason Hammel, Mitch Talbot or Jeff Niemann, with Niemann having the edge.
  • Bullpen: With the signing of Lance Cormier the Rays now have 8 arms for 7 spots, and that is not counting Jeff Niemann. Percival will likely start the season on the DL, but that only delays an inevitable decision. Somebody needs to be moved. Niemann and Jason Hammel are out of minor league options, and one figures to be the long reliever. The other could start the season in the rotation or be traded. At this point, the Rays' lefty-specialist appears that it will be one of the right-handers, Joe Nelson or Lance Cormier. Only the Rays.
  • As a Rule 5 draft pick, Derek Rodriguez must be on the major league roster or be offered back to his original team. We don't see a spot for Rodriguez, but we think the Rays will work out a deal to keep Rodriguez in the organization. It would likely cost the Rays a low-level minor leaguer or cash.



Rays Sign Lance Cormier
Marc Topkin is reporting that the Rays have signed relief pitcher Lance Cormier to a one-year, $675K contract. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Rays designated Dewon Day for assignment, whom was just claimed off of waivers last week.

We have updated the 40-man roster projection to reflect this signing.

This move means one of two things:
  1. The Rays expect Troy Percival to start the season on the DL. As of right now, all spots in the bullpen are spoken for and there are no candidates for demotion. The low-man on the proverbial Totem Pole is Jason Hammel and he is out of minor league options. Or...
  2. The Rays are expecting one of their bullpen arms to be traded prior to opening day. The likely candidates are Chad Bradford, whom the Rays have tried to trade, Jason Hammel, who is out of minor league options or Jeff Niemann, if the Rays start the season with David Price in the rotation. If the Rays can move Bradford (or Dan Wheeler), signing Cormier would save the Rays over $2 million on the 2009 payroll.
Cormier appeared in 45 games (1 start) for the Orioles last season, posting a 4.02 ERA while striking out 46 and walking 34 in 71.2 innings.

He also posted a career-high 56.8% ground balls in 2008 which could go a long ways towards a solid season with the Rays solid infield defense. And for the last three seasons, Cormier, a right-hander, has actually been harder on lefties. In 2008, his OPS against lefties was .667, 95 points better than his mark against righties (.772).

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Projected 2009 Tampa Bay Rays 40-Man Roster And Payroll
[Update: 2:12pm] The Rays have signed Lance Cormier to a one-year, $675K contract. To make room on the 40-man, the Rays have designated Dewon Day, who they had just claimed on waivers last week. With the addition of Cormier, this tells us that the Rays now expect Troy Percival to start the season on the DL as all spots in the bullpen are spoken for.

[1:42pm] With the recent addition of Gabe Kapler, the Rays 2009 roster may be set. After the recent contract agreements with Gabe Gross and Grant Balfour, the payroll is also much clearer. Let's update the 2009 40-man roster projection. We will be back later today with a look at the 25-man roster and lineup.

40-Man Roster Projection
(notes and explanations on the projection can be found following the roster)...

Notes on the 40-man roster projection
  • Ages are as of today.
  • Shaded players are projected to be on the 40-man roster, but not on the 25-man roster.
  • There are currently 40 players on the 40-man roster.
  • The Rays have reached agreements with two of their arbitration-eligible players (Gabe Gross, Grant Balfour). That leaves 3 arbitration players remaining (Dioner Navarro, Jason Bartlett, Willy Aybar). Salaries for those players are educated guestimations based on contracts of similar arbitration-eligibles in the past few years. The salaries are also based on one-year deals. If any of the players sign long-term extensions, their 2009 salary could be considerably different. So far we have been within $150K on the first two deals.
  • The 40-man roster now projects to have 26 players on the 25-man roster. This is due to the belief that Troy Percival will begin the season on the DL.
  • Troy Percival's 2009 salary was bumped up by $445K due to escalators in his contract for appearing in 50 games and finishing 38.
  • The Rays appear to be stuck with Troy Percival and Chad Bradford. Their $7.95 million combined salaries stick out like a sore thumb. One of those cartoon thumbs after somebody smacks it with a hammer.
  • As a Rule 5 draft pick, Derek Rodriguez must be on the major league roster or be offered back to his original team. We don't see a spot for Rodriguez, but we think the Rays will work out a deal to keep Rodriguez in the organization. It would likely cost the Rays a low-level minor leaguer or cash.
  • The opening day payroll now projects to be $61.7 million, but we also need to include Rocco Baldelli's buyout ($4 million). While not technically part of the payroll, it is a cost that cannot be ignored. That brings the projected payroll up to $65.7 million.
  • $61.7 million would have ranked the Rays 25th in payroll on opening day last year. The Rays opening day payroll in 2008 was $43.8 million.
  • $60 million is most likely at the high-end of where the Rays want their payroll to be and may even be above the threshold. The Rays tried moving Chad Bradford but could not find any takers. Other possibles would be Carl Crawford and Gabe Gross.
  • A year ago, the Rays projected to have 7 million dollar players. That number has now more than doubled to 16.

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Kazmir And Howell To Pitch In World Baseball Classic
A couple of quick programming notes...We will be back later today for our weekly look at the 2009 roster lineup and payroll projections. After that we will be working on some changes around here. As a result, at some point this weekend, we will be offline for a few hours. Fear not. We think we know what we are doing. If not, and you never hear from us again...well, it has been a fun ride.

  • The Rays avoided arbitration with Grant Balfour, agreeing on a one-year, $1.4 million deal...We had projected The Mad Australian to make $1.2 million in 2009. [Rays Report]
  • Scott Kazmir and JP Howell have accepted invitations to pitch for the US team during the World Baseball Classic. Kazmir will be one of four starting pitchers and Howell is not worried about how the tournament will affect his preparation for the regular season, feeling it may actually help...Despite both players confidence, the Rays have to be concerned. Both pitchers are already dealing with a shortened off-season due to the Rays postseason run. Kazmir is coming off a season in which he battled an arm injury and never felt right with his mechanics. And Howell suffered from a tired arm down the stretch and needed to be benched for long stretches in September. [Tampa Tribune]
"I think it's good because it may be less games, but the intensity of the games will match [the regular season] more than any spring training game could," [Howell] said. "So that's a positive in that it will kind of get your brain going a little bit before April 1, maybe get a little bit of that flow going."
  • Now that we know Evan Longoria will not be playing for the US in the World Baseball Classic, we have to wonder if Mexico will once again extend an invitation. Longoria made it known that he was contacted "informally" about playing for Mexico but declined the offer because his first choice was to play for the US. [St. Pete Times]
  • The Padres claimed JK Ryu off of waivers feeling he is good enough to compete for a job on their 25-man roster. Ryu had been designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Gabe Kapler. [MLB Trade Rumors]
  • The Examiner previews Scott Kazmir. []
  • The Rays gave a tour of their new Spring Training home to the media. All reserved seats for the 16 home spring training games have been sold out. [Tampa Tribune]
  • Stacy Long found a video tour of the Rays new spring home. [Biscuit Crumbs]

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

The One Where We Discuss Upton's Shoulder, His Dog, A Gross Contract And Beef K
BJ Upton hopes to be in the opening day lineup in Boston, but cautions that he may not join the team until they return home from their roadtrip a week later. Upton has been warned that the potentially cold weather in Boston and Baltimore opening week may cause his surgically repaired shoulder to ache.

We also learn from Bill Chastain that Upton brought along his dog, Deuce, to his workout at Tropicana Field yesterday. Deuce is a Rhodesian Ridgeback. No word on whether Deuce took a deuce in the outfield or whether Justin Ruggiano would have been required to clean it up.

Upton may miss Opening Day [MLB]

  • The Rays signed Gabe Gross to a one-year deal avoiding arbitration. The deal is for $1.255 million...We had projected Gross at $1.3 million. [The Heater]
  • Kevin Gengler will be joining Tyler Hissey today at 1pm on the latest installment of the "Rays Digest Podcast". The show can be downloaded later. [Rays Digest]
  • Several Rays comment on the recent signing of Pat Burrell. [Tampa Tribune]
  • Scott Kazmir has employed a new off-season training program and has added nearly 20 pounds of muscle as a result...It will be interesting to see if Kid K now looks older than 12, and whether we should change his nickname to "Beef K"...In the same piece we learn that the new alternate jersey will debut at home on May 1. [St. Pete Times]
  • Tampa Bay Sports Blog wonders why the Rays ended up with Gabe Kapler over Rocco Baldelli. [Tampa Bay Sports Blog]
  • Several owners have jumped on the "Salary Cap" bandwagon. [Yahoo! Sports]

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rays To Unveil Alternate Jersey Today
Click on image for a larger view

The Tampa Bay Rays will be unveiling their new alternate jersey later today. Above is James Shields sporting the new threads (click here for The Duke wearing the new jersey).

Besides the new color, the sunburst is 40% larger than on the home and away jerseys. According to the team, the new jersey will be worn "occasionally at home and on the road."
“Rays apparel, marked by our signature sunburst and light blue accents, has been embraced by fans throughout the state of Florida and across the nation,” said Rays President Matt Silverman. “The amplified sunburst on our new alternate jersey represents the brightness of our organization and its growing impact throughout the Tampa Bay region and central Florida.”
All-in-all, the new jersey is not terrible. We would have liked to have seen "Tampa Bay" across the front and maybe even a new patch on the sleeve as a shout-out to the city of St. Pete.

On the other hand, at least we won't be subjected to any more "pit stain" games.

  • Too make room on the 40-man roster for Gabe Kapler, the Rays designated JK Ryu for assignment. Ryu appeared in only 5 games (all starts) at triple-A Durham in 2008. He was shelved most of the year with an elbow injury. Ryu was orgininally acquired from the Cubs prior to the 2007 season for a pair of minor leaguers. [Rays Report]
  • The Rays have hired their new quality assurance coach (basically the Rays scout themselves to see what other teams are seeing). It is Todd Greene, who has a long relationship with Joe Maddon. [Rays Report]
  • Game 7 of the ALCS will be reaired on Thursday at 3pm et on [MLB]
  • On third thought, Gabe Kapler's 2009 salary will indeed be $1,000,018, with the extra 18 being Kapler's lucky number and a Jewish symbol of life. [St. Pete Times]
  • Drays Bay weighs the pros and cons of keeping Chad Bradford or Dan Wheeler. [Drays Bay]
  • The city of St. Pete made it clear that they want the new Rays stadium within the city limits. Of course, they still aren't sure if they want to help pay for it, but gosh darn it, it better be in St. Pete. [St. Pete Times]
  • The Mischievous Little Badger is once again facing jail time. This time Elijah Dukes was ordered to pay $57K in back child support or face 90 days in the clink. [Rays Report]
  • The 2009 season will be broadcast on 620-AM. [The Heater]

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rays May Have Helped Red Sox Save Money
It was 41 years ago today that Johnny Cash performed live at Folsom Prison. So the iPod will be all Johnny Cash, all day. But if listening to too much Johnny Cash seems depressing, worry not. Today is also Rubber Duckie's Birthday! Too much information?

  • Rob Neyer agrees that a healthy Jason Bartlett will be much better in 2009 which should help the Rays avoid the "Plexiglass Principle." [ESPN]
  • And the Baseball Crank delivers what we have been looking for. Pre-injury and post-injury defensive splits for Jason Bartlett. It is not an exact split, but Bartlett's Zone Rating was .859 in late May. His Revised Zone Rating for the entire season was .807 (6th in AL). This suggests that his rating from June on was well below .800. [Baseball Crank]
  • Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe says the Pat Burrell contract will likely save the Red Sox money as they attempt to sign Jason Bay to a long-term deal. [Boston Globe]
  • Marc Topkin has some quotes from Gabe Kapler on his signing and notes that Kapler could play center field if BJ Upton is not ready to start the season. [St. Pete Times]
  • In the same piece, Marc Topkin notes that the Rays are negotiating with their 5 arbitration-eligible players and Andrew Friedman with the team's self-imposed January 20 deadline looming. Friedman sounds confident that all 5 players will have new contracts prior to the deadline. [St. Pete Times]
  • Gabe Kapler's 2009 salary will not be $1,000,018 as previously reported. It will just be an even $1 million. [The Heater]
  • David Chalk at Bugs and Cranks continues his countdown of the top 177 Devil Rays of all time. Today we are at #172. [Bugs and Cranks]

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Rays Sign Gabe Kapler To Be Gabe Gross' Other Half
Marc Topkin is reporting that the Rays have signed Gabe Kapler to a one-year, $1 million deal. The same Gabe Kapler who is the only player in major league history to tear his Achilles Heal while running the bases after a teammate's home run.

Right field is now going to be All Gabe, All the Time. Kapler, who had a 1.001 OPS against lefties in 2008 (87 PA), will likely join Gabe Gross to form the all-Gabe right field platoon. This signing could also be a sign of a new religious diversity initiative by the Rays as Kapler, who is Jewish, will be partnering with Gross, who is a devout Christian.

Last season, Rays right fielders posted a combined .809 OPS, which is not terrible, but as a run-producing position, that only ranked 10th in the American League. The addition of Kapler should help push the Rays up closer to league average.

With the Gabes in right field, both Fernando Perez and Matt Joyce will now likely begin the season in triple-A, with the final three bench spots going to Shawn Riggans, Willy Aybar and Ben Zobrist.

The Rays now project to have 16 players with a salary of at least $1 million in 2009.

No word yet on who is being dropped from the 40-man roster to make room for Kapler. The leading candidate is JK Ryu.

Rays sign Kapler [The Heater]
The 15-Minute Home Run Trot [Deadspin]

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