It’s been a rough start to the year for the Tampa Bay Rays. Anemic offense has been the theme of the first two weeks of the season, which shows in the Rays’ 5-9 last-place record.
But of course, it’s still very early, and anything can happen in the next 149 games. Life in the AL East is never easy, however, as the Rays have plenty obstacles to overcome in duration of the season if they want to be crowned division champs in October.
Without further adieu, here are the four biggest barriers for the Rays standing in the way of a division title.
The Rays have their work cut out for them this year, as they compete in what is maybe the toughest divisions in all of sports.
The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles are all potential playoff teams in 2013. Each one of them is a definite threat to a division title, but the Rays have a good enough team to compete with all four of these talented clubs.
There are a few things we’ve learned about Tampa Bay’s competitors after the first two weeks of the season. If one thing’s for sure, the Yankees are no team to overlook. Despite having a huge chunk of their roster out with injury, the Yanks stand at a surprising 8-5, as they’ve been finding ways to win ballgames while on the mend.
Once they get the rest of their team back—which includes Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Michael Pineda—they should be very dangerous.
The Red Sox didn’t come into the season with high expectations at all, but have started off the season very strongly with a first-place 10-4 record. Boston’s rotation was supposed to be the team’s main weak spot, but has shockingly been outstanding thus far. Their rotation has been by far the best in the division and probably the best in the American League, posting a 2.30 ERA and a 3.45 FIP.
The Orioles have began to prove that their 2012 success was not a fluke. They’ve played solid baseball and appear to have a pretty well-rounded team. The O’s are a team to watch out for if Chris Davis continues to put up big-time numbers at the DH spot.
As for Blue Jays, it’s been a disappointing start for them. As bad as they look right now, they’re a team that can turn things around quickly with that star-studded roster. Jose Reyes’ ankle injury, however, will be a big blow for them until he returns after the All-Star break.
The Rays’ offense has been flat-out awful in the first two weeks of the regular season. With a wOBA of .277 and a wRC+ of 77, they are currently the worst hitting team in the American League.
Outside of Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Kelly Johnson, who’ve all had solid starts to the year, nobody in the lineup has given the Rays any kind of significant production offensively.
Lack of power is one of the main issues for Tampa Bay, as they’ve posted just a .113 ISO. Another major concern is the how much runners the Rays are stranding on base. They’ve had a very tough time getting the man in, hitting just .192 with RISP.
Although the offense is very worrying for Rays fans at the moment, there is an optimistic way of looking at it: It will more than likely only get better from here.
Designated hitter Luke Scott has been out with a calf injury since spring training and has yet to play this season. Once he gets back, the lineup will surely be more potent with Scott in and Sam Fuld out.
As the season progresses, the Rays will also get a boost from their minor league system. Wil Myers should be terrific addition later in the year, and Brandon Guyer could also contribute.
In 2012, the injury bug was the largest barrier that stood in the way of a third division title for the Rays. Evan Longoria’s hamstring tear highlighted a plethora of injuries suffered by a very banged-up ball club.
So far this season, the Rays have done a pretty good job avoiding the DL. Luke Scott is the only player who has missed any time at all this year due to injury.
For this team to function properly, the entire team is going to have to stay relatively healthy throughout the season. I don’t see the Rays winning the division as a possibility if they’re hit with injury issues again.
Tampa Bay has a handful of prospects who could be a key part of the team later this season.
Wil Myers, who is arguably baseball’s top hitting prospect, may be the Rays’ X-factor once he’s called up to the majors. He appears to be about ready for The Show, but it’s possible he won’t make his MLB debut until July due to financial reasons.
Whenever he is called up, his immediate impact will be crucial, especially with the lineup as weak as it is.
Outfielder Brandon Guyer and middle infielders Hak-Ju Lee and Tim Beckham are other position player prospects who could all see big league action this year. All three have the potential to bolster both the Rays’ offensive and defensive depth down the stretch.
the Rays have probably more pitchers on the verge of breaking into the majors this season than they do hitters. Chris Archer—the organization’s top upper-level pitching prospect—looks to be ready to take over a spot in the rotation once the time comes. This time, he’ll likely stay there for good.
The development of these Triple-A prospects will definitely come to play in this year’s pennant race. They Rays might need as many minor league contributions as they can get in order to win the AL East.
After destroying the Phillies for 15 runs with a minor-league filled lineup Saturday, the Rays had a hard time hitting Boston’s bullpen with a better lineup Sunday afternoon.
The offense compiled a total of just five hits and two runs.
Tampa Bay jumped out to an early lead in this game, scoring a pair of runs off a Yunel Escobar RBI single and an Evan Longoria sacrifice fly.
Matt Moore started the game for the Rays, hoping to get on track after having rough outings in his first two appearances. Moore pitched 3 2/3 inning, and gave up three runs thanks to one bad pitch: a three-run homer off the bat of David Ross.
The other three Boston runs were given up by Juan Sandoval, who hasn’t made a good case for a spot in the ‘pen thus far.
Here’s a full boxscore of yesterday’s ballgame.
Rays News and Notes:
- Ben Zobrist went 3-5 yesterday in the United States’ do-or-die victory over Canada in World Baseball Classic. Team USA now advances to the championship round of the tournament.
- Fernando Rodney collected his second save of the tournament Sunday with the Dominan Republic, who also advanced to the championship round.
The Rays came through with another Grapefruit League victory Monday afternoon, defeating Boston in Port Charlotte by a score of 6-3.
Alex Cobb got the start for Tampa Bay, and didn’t look sharp in his two innings pitched. Cobb allowed two runs on four hits and one walk in his spring debut.
A trio of relievers expected to make the Opening Day bullpen, on the other hand, strutted much better stuff. Jamey Wright, Cesar Ramos and Jake McGee combined for four scoreless (and hitless) innings.
The Rays got the job done offensively as well. Yunel Escobar and Ryan Roberts both hit two-run doubles early in the game. Ben Zobrist tacked on another run with an RBI single in the fourth inning.
Prospect Hak-Ju Lee remained hitless, going 0-2, and committed both of the teams errors on the field.
Here’s a full boxscore of yesterday’s game.
The Rays are set to kick-off a three-game series in Fenway this weekend, which got me thinking about the rivalry they have built over the past years. Considering the two teams have been playing each other for just the past fourteen years now, the Rays and Red Sox have one of the most intense rivalries in baseball. The Rays and Sox have never liked each other one bit, but now they’re not just enemies; they’re also serious contenders.
Ever since the Rays’ miracle 2008 season, these two clubs have battled it out ’till the end, and have been the spotlight of sports’ biggest playoff races in recent years. The rivalry only seems to be getting stronger, as Boston was victim to one of the worst collapses in baseball history in the midst of the Rays’ historical comeback.
Here are the five most memorable games ever in the history of Major League Baseball’s fastest growing rivalry:
5. August 29, 2000: Pedro Martinez Throws One-Hitter at the Trop, Starts Outing with Bench-Clearing Brawl
Although the Rays-Red Sox rivalry really didn’t start to heat up until the ’08 season, many believe the bad blood began as long ago as the Devil Rays’ awful early years. Back in 2000, then Boston ace Pedro Martinez started what would be a masterful outing with a beanball at outfielder Gerald Williams. Williams charged the mound, and the benches cleared. After the delay, Pedro retired 24 straight and struck out 13 batters, taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning which was ended by a John Flaherty leadoff single. It was one bad day at the Trop that Tuesday night, as eight players and coaches were ejected in the 8-0 loss—many of them resulting from the four hit Boston batters in retaliation for the first-inning incident.
4. 2008 ALCS, Game Two: Rays Walk-Off in Extras to Tie Series
If one thing was for sure, the Rays needed to win Game 2 of the 2008 AL Championship Series if they wanted to keep their pennant hopes alive. They did it in walk-off fashion, beating the Red Sox 9-8 in a six-home run, back-and-forth slugfest in extras. The nearly five-and-a-half-hour marathon was started by Scott Kazmir and Josh Beckett, who both—surprisingly—were hit hard. After a scoreless ninth and 10th, B.J. Upton had a chance to tie the series with the bases loaded and nobody out. He blooped a soft pop-up to short right, which scored the speedy Fernando Perez, who slid home safely, sending the Tropicana Field crowd into a frenzy. The thrilling victory not only kept the Rays very much alive in the series, but it also gave them the momentum they needed going to Boston for Games 3-5.
3. 2008 ALCS, Game 5: Red Sox Comeback at Fenway to Stay Alive
When the Rays were leading 7-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning, it seemed the Rays were going to complete the Beantown sweep, beating the Red Sox in three straight blowouts at Fenway Park to win the pennant. Boston refused to go down without a fight, as the Rays bullpen—which had been dominant all season—saw one of the biggest singe-game playoff collapses in baseball history. The Red Sox tied the game in the eighth inning and then capped off the incredible comeback with a walk-off base hit from J.D. Drew.
2. June 5, 2008: Benches Clear in Boston
This bench-clearing brawl from June 2008 is one incident that will never be forgotten by either Tampa or Boston fans. It was the day that everyone in the baseball world realized that the Rays-Red Sox rivalry was for real. After starter James Shields predictably threw at Coco Crisp, he charged the mound, starting what would be one wild fist fight on the diamond. Three were ejected, but a total of eight players from the two teams served suspensions. The Rays have had their share of brawls with the Red Sox in the past, but this one stands atop them all. The best thing that came out of this quarrel during Boston’s 7-1 win was that it made beating the Red Sox later that year in the ALCS even sweeter for the Rays.
1. 2008 ALCS, Game 7: Rays Win the Pennant
October 19, 2008: The greatest night in the history of the Tampa Bay Rays franchise thus far. The Rays shocked Red Sox Nation with a 3-1 pennant-winning victory at the Trop, led by an ace-like performance from Matt Garza. Garza would later win the much-deserved MVP award for the series. Rookie David Price came on to close out the game and send the Rays to their first World Series. He finished off the Sox with a ground ball off the bat of Jed Lowrie to Akinori Iwamura, who stepped on second base to start the biggest celebration ever at Tropicana Field. It was the highlight of their magical season, as their incredible run was ended by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Fall Classic.
For small-market teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, the trade market is the key to filling in holes on the roster. The Rays are in desperate need of hitting, particularly a first baseman and a DH, which means they will likely need to trade away some of their excellent starting pitching. Fellow starters Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann are probably more likely candidates to be traded away, but James Shields trade rumors haven’t totally disappeared. With Shields entering his first club option of his contract coming into the offseason, rumors starting heating up since last season’s trade deadline. After Shields was optioned by the Rays back in October, the trade possibilities started to gradually cool down. However, there are still plenty of teams in need of starting pitching help that they couldn’t find from free agency. Trading James Shields seems to be more like ‘food for thought’ at the moment, rather than a serious possibility. There might not be many clubs who are willing to offer enough for Shields, and the Rays themselves may want to hang on to him. The exciting part about a potential Shields trade is that the Rays would get some serious offensive production out of the deal, while hoping that rookie Matt Moore can replace Shields at some point in the future. The question is, what kind of deals can teams offer to make the Rays bite? Take a look at ten different trade possibilities that may be enough to send the Rays’ ace out of Tampa Bay.
If any team is looking to add a big-time starting pitcher, it’s the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto has been in many discussions to acquire a starter since the offseason began, including being barely outbid on Japanese prodigy Yu Darvish. As far as we, the Jays haven’t been looking into a James Shields trade yet. However, it wouldn’t be a shocker if they show interest in him at some point in the future. What would it take to get the Rays to send their ace out of Tampa Bay? Veteran first baseman Adam Lind could potentially be a start to a deal. With the Rays in desperate need of a first baseman, Lind could be a great addition for the club. The left-handed slugger owns a lifetime .267 batting average and has established himself as a consistent 20+ homer-type player. Blue Jays’ No.1 prospect Travis d’Arnaud would essentially be the center of the trade package. The 22 year-old first-round draftee is one of the best position-player prospects in the American League. He hasn’t reached AAA yet, but his .311 batting average with 21 homers and 78 RBI’s in Double-A last season show that he isn’t far from moving up. d’Arnaud is a catcher, which would be his most attractive asset if the Rays were to pursue him. His defensive skills are pretty impressive, lead by his great arm behind the plate. The most interesting part about the possibility of d’Arnaud being traded is that he may not have a bright future in Toronto. Rookie catcher J.P. Arencebia appears to be emerging as the team’s main catcher. Outfielder Jake Marisnick is one minor leaguer you’ve probably never heard of. Marisnick is also considered one of Toronto’s better prospects, and clearly for a good reason. Marisnick has the ability to a be a five-tool outfielder in the majors. The 20 year-old possesses great fielding and throwing ability, excellent speed, and rapidly rising hitting skills. Marisnick hit .320 along with 14 homers, 77 RBI’s and 37 stolen bases through his 118 games in Class A Lansing.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for 1B Adam Lind, minor league C Travis d’Arnaud, and minor league OF Jake Marisnick.
2011 was another disappointing season for the New York Mets, and poor starting pitching has been a big part of their struggles. The Mets simply need at least one more good starter to become a competitive team again. James Shields would give the Mets’ rotation the boost they need, and they may have some offensive players to offer. Daniel Murphy, a first baseman who also can play other positions around the infield, could very possibly be in the interest of the Rays. As Ike Davis appears to be the future first baseman of the ball club, Murphy probably has a much better job opportunity in Tampa. Former star outfielder Jason Bay just hasn’t been the same in the past two years like he was in his glory days with Boston and Pittsburgh. The slugging leftfielder is still only 33, and many wonder if he can put up the ridiculous run production that he did in the past. Bay’s big bat joins Murphy in the main focus of a potential James Shields trade. However, just Murphy and Bay would still probably not be a good enough offer for the Rays to take. A talented offensive prospect like Wilmer Flores is someone the Mets can throw in there to make this deal possible. Though I would think that it would really be a blow to the team to give away a young shortstop like that after losing Jose Reyes this offseason. Flores, who is the Mets’ top hitting prospect, has a while to go before he hits the big leagues. At just 20 years old, Flores still managed to drive in over 80 RBI’s in a full Single-A season. The youngster is progressing in all parts of his game, but his exceptional hitting skills are what could ring bells in Tampa.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the New York Mets in exchange for 1B Daniel Murphy, LF Jason Bay, and minor league shortstop Wilmer Flores.
The New York Yankees are really one good starting pitcher away from being the best team in the MLB. If the Yanks had a arm like James Shields in their rotation in the last two years, they probably would of won the pennant in both of those seasons. New York is very aware of that, and it’s no surprise that they have been seeking starting pitching this offseason. It doesn’t seem like they’re heading towards any sort of blockbuster trade to get a starter, but they have some young talent that makes a potential swap an interesting idea. Catcher Jesus Montero, who is the Yankees’ top prospect and baseball’s No.1 catching prospect, would be the guy to lead the young trade package for Shields. Montero has very impressive hitting abilities and he is a catcher; something that should obviously attract the Rays. Montero, who hit .328 during his first brief stint in the MLB, has all the tools to become a star slugger in the big leagues. Outfielder Chris Dickerson possibly would be another piece to the trade. Dickerson is nothing special quite frankly, as he spent most of his time with the Yankees down in AAA. The Yankees would need to offer more to make this deal work, and they do have a couple of exciting prospects deep in their farm system. First round draft pick Slade Heathcott and prodigy Mason Williams are two more young outfielders that the Rays would love to add to their minor league system. Both are just in Single-A right now, but their left-handed hitting abilities plus their good defense could be enough to complete a potential trade package for Shields.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the New York Yankees in exchange for C Jesus Montero, OF Chris Dickerson, minor league OF Slade Heathcott, and minor league OF Mason Williams.
The Texas Rangers made it all the way to the World Series in both of the past two years. I think it’s fair to say that starting pitching is what was the difference between a AL Champion Rangers ball club and a World Champion Rangers ball club. Their starting pitching was simply not adequate to prevail on baseball’s biggest stage. The Rangers would surely love to pick up an ace like James Shields, but the question is whether they are able to give away some of their outstanding offense. First baseman Mitch Moreland’s name pops up right away as a player the Rays could definitely use on their roster. The 26 year-old power-hitting lefty is in just his second year in the big leagues, and he already plays the first-base role pretty nicely. Speedy outfielder Craig Gentry had his first year of decent MLB playing time last season, and he could likely be a trade piece for Texas in the future. Gentry is emerging as someone who could be a solid MLB player. His excellent base-running skills and above-average defense are already very impressive, but he’s also improving as a hitter. Don’t be too shocked to see either (or both) Gentry or Moreland be traded away sometime in the future, as Texas may not have too much need for them on their squad. Both David Murphy and Julio Borbon can take over in the outfield, while Mike Napoli could probably fill in at first base. If the Rays were to work out a Shields trade with Texas, they would likely also get pitching out of the deal. With Neftali Feliz and Shields (if they are to make a trade) joining the rotation next season, southpaw Matt Harrison probably won’t have a consistent spot in the rotation, making him another trade piece. The Rays are certainly not looking to add to their starting pitching, but they have been seeking bullpen help throughout the offseason. The Rays would love to use Harrison as an effective left-handed reliever out of their bullpen. Still, I think that the Rangers are going to need to throw in another prospect into the pile to make a deal possible. First-round draft pick Jake Skole, a member of the Rangers’ top 10 prospects, is a thought. The 19 year-old outfielder has plenty of pop in his left-handed bat, which would be a great addition to the Rays’ farm system. Adding Skole as the final player of the trade might be close to enough to pry Shields away from Tampa. Below is the final deal that I think would get Texas the deal.
Trade Possibility: James Shields to the Texas Rangers in exchange for 1B Mitch Moreland, OF Craig Gentry, LHP Matt Harrison, minor league OF Jake Skole, and cash.
First of all, the chances the Arizona Diamondbacks acquire a starting pitcher before spring training are close to none. Even though the D’Backs would like to improve their starting rotation, there are some obvious reasons why a future James Shields trade is unlikely. They already made a big trade for Trevor Cahill earlier this winter, and also used some of their spending money on Jason Kubel. Also, it seems as if rookie first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is making a name for himself in Phoenix. Being a young first baseman, Goldschmidt would probably be the main trade target if the Rays were to discuss trade talks with Arizona. The problem is that the Diamondbacks aren’t looking to give away their future first baseman. What the D’Backs do have to offer is leftfielder Gerardo Parra and third baseman Ryan Roberts. Parra, who won a NL Gold Glove Award last season, is clearly on an upward rise in his three year-old career. The 24 year-old left-hander hit .292 last year and stole 15 bases (caught only once), and was a big part of the Diamondbacks’ successful 2011 season. Ryan Roberts didn’t exactly put up the same numbers as Parra, but he probably should get more credit. 2011 was the best of Roberts’ career, belting 19 homers and 65 RBI’s while batting .249 and stealing 18 bases. You’re probably asking why the Rays would want a third baseman when the have Evan Longoria. The fact is that Robert can actually play at second base and in the outfield. So Roberts could be a fit on the Rays, but in reality the D’Backs would way rather trade away Parra. Two additional top prospects should be enough to make a discussable deal with the Rays. If they were to negotiate a trade, the Rays would probably have a keen eye on both first/third baseman Matt Davidson and outfielder A.J. Pollock. Both sluggers are considered among the organization’s top prospects. Davidson smashed 20 homers and 106 RBI’s in Single-A ball last season, showing off is outstanding power. Pollock spent the whole season in AA Mobile, and batted a high .307 with 73 RBI’s and 36 stolen bases.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for LF Gerardo Parra, 3B Ryan Roberts, minor league 1B/3B Matt Davidson, and minor league OF A.J.Pollock.
Like the Diamondbacks, the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals also don’t have high odds of a James Shields trade. With the team’s ace Adam Wainwright returning (who missed all of last season due to injury) and the same starters from last year, the Cards’ rotation looks pretty set. It seems as if St. Louis will enter the spring with Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Jake Westbrook. To reel in James Shields to St. Louis, the Cardinals would need to sacrifice much of their talent that they would use to replace Albert Pujols. Right off the top, Allen Craig’s name comes to mind. Craig, who plays in the outfield and first base, batted an impressive .315 average in his second big league season. Craig would probably be someone the Rays would like to add to their roster, but his offseason knee injury could have them thinking otherwise. The Rays have emphasized their focus on strengthening the bullpen this offseason. Considering that, right-handed reliever Fernando Salas could be a player that the Cards could add to the trade package. The 26 year-old Mexican-native posted a 2.28 ERA last season through 75 innings pitched out of the ‘pen. Craig and Salas are a pretty good start to a potential Shields trade, but the Cards would probably need to throw in a couple of high-ranked prospects. 19 year-old phenom Oscar Taveras would be an exciting addition to the Rays’ system. The left-handed outfielder has just started his venture in professional baseball, but he has proven that he can flat-out rake the baseball. Prospect first baseman Matt Adams is also a big left-handed bat. The 23 year-old slugger has some big-time raw power, which he displayed in AA Springfield by smashing 32 homers with 101 RBI’s and a .300 average. With the loss of Pujols, the Cardinals are most likely going to want to get a grip on Adams rather than trade him away. That’s another reason why this trade seems unlikely. The Rays would probably demand a first baseman, and Adams would be vital to a possible deal.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the St. Louis Cardinals for OF/1B Allen Craig, RP Fernando Salas, minor league OF Oscar Taveras, and minor league 1B Matt Adams.
The Colorado Rockies have been aggressively seeking help for their starting rotation this offseason, and have even had interest of Rays pitchers. James Shields would be dream acquisition for Colorado considering their situation. The Rockies’ have two outfielders, Seth Smith and Charlie Blackmon, who would make a a decent start to a deal. The Rockies don’t seem to mind parting ways with Smith, as he has already been a hot topic amongst MLB trade rumors for a while now. Smith had probably his best season of his career last year for Colorado, batting .284 with 59 RBI’s and 15 homers. Rookie Charlie Blackmon would be every bit as much valuable as Smith in this trade. The 25 year-old only has 27 games of MLB experience under his belt, but his great minor league numbers can’t be overlooked. Blackmon played his first season of AAA baseball last year, hitting .337 through his 243 at-bats. It’s debatable, but I think one really good prospect could complete the trade package. Colorado’s No.1 prospect Wilin Rosario is a name that should surely light up eyes in the Rays’ front office. The 22 year-old phenom catcher has all the tools to be a successful big league backstop. Rosario doesn’t hit for a high-average like Smith and Blackmon, but he sure has plenty of power. His great arm behind the plate is also impressive. Rosario spent most of his season in Double-A last year, where he hit 21 home runs with a .249 average in his 102 games. Despite not experience AAA baseball yet, Rosario still earned himself 16 MLB games with the Rockies last season. In his brief 54 AB’s, Rosario was able to knock out three homers and drive in eight RBI’s.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for OF Seth Smith, OF Charlie Blackmon, and C Wilin Rosario.
A trade for a James Shields would likely put the Detroit Tigers over the top. The Tigers have been seeking a starter to complete a pretty good rotation lead my AL MVP Justin Verlander. I doubt they are looking for an ace-type pitcher like Shields though, but rather a fifth-spot starter. Detroit probably wouldn’t want to trade away a chunk of their young talent, but they have the right players to make a big deal work. Former Ray and outfielder Delmon Young could be a potential trade piece for Detroit. Last season in his first year as a Tiger, Young didn’t meet the expectations that were brought upon him after the blockbuster Tampa-Minnesota trade before the 2008 season. Young did a pretty good job producing runs, but his .268 average was the lowest of his career by 16 points. Also, his RBI total dropped 48 runs from the previous year. All reasons way a future Delmon Young trade is by no means impossible. Rookie outfielder Andy Dirks seems to have a bright future in the big leagues. Dirks played 78 games in his first season last year, batting .251 with seven homers and 28 RBI’s. Dirks holds a career AAA average of .343 (2010 and 2011) with 41 RBI’s and 11 homers through his 63 games in Toledo. Young and Dirks would make up the offensive part of the trade package, but the Tigers would probably also have to sacrifice their No. 1 prospect Jacob Turner. The first-round drafted right-handed pitcher has been surrounded by scout hype for years now. To acquire an ace like James Shields, that would mean giving up a potential future ace like Jacob Turner.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for OF Delmon Young, OF Andy Dirks, and minor league SP Jacob Turner.
The Washington Nationals have been the center of offseason excitement this winter. They came into the offseason in search of starting pitching help, and may of found their guy when they acquired Gio Gonzalez in a trade. The Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo are definitely not a team that shies away from big moves, but getting James Shields to Washington seems unlikely. If a trade were to work out, the Nats would probably have to send their slugging outfielder Jayson Werth to lead the trade package. The Rays could use his offensive production, and it’s possible he would be a demand in this deal. Even though Werth had an off-year last season batting .64 points lower that 2010, I doubt the Nationals would be willing to trade him. They signed him for a mega seven-year contract last year, and they probably don’t see any reason to give him away while they’re looking for as much outfield talent they can get. This trade possibility is more of a “what if” situation, rather than a trade rumor. Shortstop Ian Desmond and relief pitcher Henry Rodriguez would be the additional pieces to complete the trade package. Ian Desmond would be a very intriguing acquisition for the Rays. It’s amazing how well Desmond could fit in Tampa; he’s an absolute textbook Tampa Bay Rays player. For starters, Desmond is a speedy infielder (25 steals last season) who plays well defensively and does all the little things right on the baseball diamond. He puts his best efforts into the game every night, which was acknowledged when he won the Nationals’ Heart and Hustle Award. These are all traits of a Rays ballplayer. In addition to all this, Desmond was born and raised less than an hour away from Tropicana Field. Henry Rodriguez, the final piece to the potential deal, is a key part of the Nationals’ bullpen. The 24 year-old right-hander was a MLB Futures Game Selection and posted a 3.56 ERA through 65.2 innings last season. As I mentioned earlier in the article, the Rays are still continuing their bullpen rebuilding process and wouldn’t mind adding some relief help in their ‘pen.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Washington Nationals in exchange for OF Jayson Werth, SS Ian Desmond, and RP Henry Rodriguez.
Just like the Boston Red Sox regular season last year, Boston’s offseason with new GM Ben Cherington has been a failure so far. The Sox have some good starting pitching, but there’s no arguing that they need to improve their rotation. Although the Sox will likely want to sit tight with their rotation for the rest of the offseason, they may have enough young talent to pry Shields from Tampa Bay. Ryan Lavarnway and Darnell McDonald are two interested names that probably would be thrown into a trade for Shields. Lavarnway, who played 17 MLB games in his short 2011 stint, is catcher/DH with outstanding hitting skills. Through 116 games in the minors last season (AA and AAA), Lavarnway batted .290 with 93 RBI’s and 32 home runs. Darnell McDonald, who’s played five seasons in the majors, might not have a future in Boston anyway. The 33 year-old corner outfielder struggled hitting .236 for the Red Sox last year, but hit .270 in 2010. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks is unanimously ranked the top prospect in the Red Sox organization. Middlebrooks has the ability to be an all-around excellent baseball player, which he displayed while making huge amounts of progress in the minor leagues during 2011. Because third is the only position he plays, I’m not sure what kind of future he would have alongside Evan Longoria and the Rays. First baseman Lars Anderson may not be a big name, but he would be a crucial part of this deal. As the Rays are in search of a first baseman, the big left-handed slugger would be an attractive asset in the deal. Anderson batted .265 with 14 homers and 78 RBI’s last season for AAA Pawtucket.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for OF Darnell McDonald, C/DH Ryan Lavarnway, 3B Will Middlebrooks, and 1B Lars Anderson.
When it comes to excitement, the Tampa Bay Rays do not disappoint. The Rays have done truly incredible things in their short history. Wether they’re winning the pennant against the defending World Champs or walking off to the postseason, the Rays have some unforgettable moments. Here are the top 10 moments that every Rays fan must relive.
Note: MLB.com videos are not compatible with WordPress. So I decided not to use Youtube’s fan-taken videos and just put pictures instead. If you want to see ‘The Top 10 Moments’ video slideshow, click here to check it out on TheRaysWay.com.
10.) Rays Win Their First World Series Game
The 2008 Fall Classic was probably the Rays’ worst memory during their magical season. After defying all odds and winning their first ever pennant, the Rays run came to an abrupt end against the Philadelphia Phillies. Although the series was not one to remember, the Rays will never forget the franchise’s first World Series victory. They won Game 2, to tie the series at one apiece. James Shields got the win in the 4-2 victory, and rookie David Price came in later to close out the game. Hopefully, October 23, 2008 won’t be the last World Series game at Tropicana Field.
9.) Rays Clinch the 2010 Postseason
Rafael Soriano’s strikeout of Adam Jones got the Rays back into the playoffs in 2010, closing out a 5-0 win against the Baltimore Orioles. The star of the game that night at the Trop was David Price. Price pitched eight scoreless innings in an absolutely stellar outing. 2010 was a great regular season for the Rays, as they also won their second AL East Division Title. Unfortunately, their impressive season ended after losing to the Texas Rangers in the ALDS.
8.) Matt Garza Tosses the Rays’ First Ever No-Hitter
July 26, 2010: the day Matt Garza threw the first no-hitter in team history. Garza’s memorable outing was one of six no-no’s of 2010’s “Year of the No-Hitter.” Garza pitched an unbelievable game that night versus Detroit, facing no more than the minimum 27 batters and only giving up a single baserunner. It was a great complement to a terrific season for Garza, and a great season for the Rays’ pitching staff.
7.) Wade Boggs Joins the 3000 Hit Club
August 7, 1999: the first great moment in the franchise’s history. It was also the most memorable moment in the Devil Ray era. Hall of Famer Wade Boggs got his long-awaited 3,000th hit that day. Boggs reached his historic milestone by blasting a home run into the seats of Tropicana Field. It was more of a career moment for Boggs than a franchise moment, but it gave Devil Rays fans a lot to be excited about. Boggs was the first franchise star, playing in Tampa Bay for both the ’98 and ’99 seasons. It was just the second year of the franchise when Boggs joined the 3,000 Club, and Rays fans were thrilled to see the big hit happen in Tropicana Field.
6.) Rays Advance to the 2008 ALCS
October 6 was one of many memorable fall nights for the Rays in 2008. Grant Balfour struck out future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. to defeat the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS. It was the Rays’ first ever playoff series, and they didn’t seem to have too much of a hard time moving on to the next round. The Rays finished off the White Sox in Chicago, winning the series in four games.
5.) Dan Johnson’s Game-Tying Shot
September 28, 2011: one of the most incredible days of baseball ever. If you’re a baseball fan at all, you can not forget this unbelievable night at the Trop. It was game 162 of the regular season, and the Rays were tied with the Red Sox after an amazing wild-card comeback. The Rays were playing the Yankees that night, who jumped out to a 7-0 lead. The Rays, as they had done all season, had come all the way back to almost tie the game in the late innings. In the bottom of the ninth, with two strikes and two outs, Dan Johnson was up to bat. As Rays Republic was wishing for yet another miracle, Johnson ripped a screaming line drive off the foul pole. Just like that, the game was all tied up. We all know the rest of the story, but that moment was absolutely unbelievable.
4.) 2008 ALCS: Rays Walk Off to Game 2 Victory
Game 2 was the first of a few slugfest games in the 2008 AL Championship Series. The game was pretty much a must-win for the Rays, after being shut out in Game 1. The Rays and Red Sox went back and forth that night, constantly belting homers out of the yard. Eventually, the crazy game carried into extra innings. In the bottom of the 11th, the Rays had their speedy Fernando Perez at third and the big bat of Upton at the plate. Upton’s shallow fly ball to right proved to be good enough to even the series in walk-off fashion.
3.) Rays Clinch the Playoffs for the First Time
With over 36,000 fans watching at the Trop, the Rays finally clinched the playoffs after 10 years. A foul pop to Evan Longoria off the bat of Joe Mauer closed out the historic 7-2 victory. The Rays had done what nobody thought was possible. After an incredible 2008 season, stunning the baseball nation, the Rays had proven to everyone that nine does equal eight.
2.) Evan Longoria Puts the Rays into the 2011 Postseason
Evan Longoria’s 12th-inning walk-off home run was maybe the most incredible regular season moment in MLB history. A better script could not be written for what happen that night on September 28, 2011. Almost simultaneously, the Red Sox were blowing it in Baltimore the same way the Yankees were blowing it at the Trop. Right before Evan Longoria stepped into the batter’s box, the Orioles had stunned the Red Sox with an amazing ninth-inning comeback. Now, the Rays were just a run away from finishing off the historic comeback. Just like Dan Johnson had done a few innings prior, Longoria ripped a frozen rope right down the line. This time, the home run had won the game and clinched the Rays their third postseason appearance. There’s really no words to describe an epic moment like this.
1.) The Rays Win the Pennant
October 19, 2008: the day the Tampa Bay Rays went from worst to first. Game 7 of the ALCS was a game that no Rays fan will ever forget. Matt Garza was called to start the game against the defending World Champs from Boston. Garza pitched the game of his life, and rookie David Price was later called on to secure a ticket to the World Series. The young Price, with barely any MLB experience, closed out the series, crowning the Rays American League champs. That pennant victory still stands as the all-time high of the franchise.
There are a handful of future Hall of Famers playing in the MLB today. Some of them will be debated over wether their name should be in Cooperstown or not; and Damon is probably one of the biggest names in that category. Johnny Damon has done it all in his long and successful career. Just finishing his 17th year in the MLB, the 36-year old has won two World Series titles and was elected to the All Star Game twice. But the one word that really defines Damon’s career, is consistency.
Damon’s ability to play good baseball year after year if what makes him such an ideal player to have on a team. The stats definitely back him up in that department. Damon has never batted under .256 in his whole career, and he’s never had a season where he played 140 or less games (besides for his rookie year). He also has finished top 25 in the MLB in stolen bases (14 times), hits (10 times), and runs (11 times). Clutch is another word that describes Damon well. In both his championship seasons, 2004 and 2009, Johnny had some big clutch hits to help his respective teams succeed in the postseason. This part of his game is something that really helps him in his Hall debate. On the other side of things, his stats are pretty much the only thing weighing him down. A .286 average and 231 homeruns are not your typical Hall of Fame stats. This is why reaching every milestone possible will be important for Damon’s chances. A big one was achieved this year, as Damon became the 11th player in MLB history to hit at least 500 doubles, 100 triples, 200 homers, and 2,500 hits. He joined some great HOF names on that list; including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, George Brett, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, and more. Even with this incredible feat, Johnny may need another milestone to get him into Cooperstown. Everyone knows exactly what that is; the magical 3,000 hits. Out of all the active players in the league right now, Damon is the closest.
When he (hopefully) starts the season next year, he will stand at 2,723 hits. 277 hits away, Damon and his fans hope it will take just two years to reach the magical number with time running out. At the end of the day, I think it’s going to take that milestone to get his jersey hung up in Cooperstown. As for Damon’s future, it seems questionable in a Rays uniform. At almost 37, Damon is entering free agency. The way he plays with such hustle and heart, it looks like he can easily get through two years. Whatever team he’s on, I am confident he will be able to reach the milestone if he stays healthy. But man, wouldn’t it be nice to see him hit number 3,000 with the Rays.