The much-anticipated James Shields blockbuster has finally happened, and it was even bigger than most of us expected. Tampa Bay also added another MLB-ready starter in Wade Davis and a player to be named or cash to the deal in exchange for a haul of talented prospects from Kansas City.
The Royals’ official Twitter page broke the news last night:
#Royals acquire RHPs James Shields, Wade Davis and player to be named or cash from Tampa Bay for Myers, Odorizzi, Montgomery and Leonard.
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) December 10, 2012
The main acquisition for the Rays in this trade is obviously 22-year-old OF Wil Myers, who was the club’s top prospect and arguably the best hitting prospect in all of baseball. Myers was named the Baseball America Minor League Baseball Player of the Year in 2012, putting up an impressive .304/.378/.554 line with Triple-A Omaha this season. He finished second in the league in home runs (24), fourth in the league in RBI (79) and third in slugging. Rays fans are really going to enjoy seeing power like this from Myers in the future.
The Rays also received right-handed pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi, who seems seems like a guy with frontline starter potential in the majors. The 22-year-old former first-round draft pick had a great season in the minors this year, going 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA and a 8.4 K/9 through 145.1 IP in AA and AAA ball. He also made his his MLB debut (two starts, 7.1 IP) with the Royals.
Check out a full scouting report on Odorizzi over at MLB.com.
The Rays lost two quality starters in Wade Davis and James Shields, but they got at least one back in this trade by acquiring Odorizzi. Jon Mayo of MLB.com ranks Myers and Odorizzi as the organization’s top 2 best prospects.
Tampa Bay got another top-ten ranked prospect in this deal with LHP Mike Montgomery. The 23-year-old was in the Royals’ organization for five years, and has struggled ever since reaching Triple-A two seasons ago. Montgomery posted an ugly 5.69 ERA in 17 starts with Omaha this year. However, with very good stuff and a high upside, the Rays may be able to work their magic and transform yet another talented arm into a refined Major League pitcher.
The fourth and final prospect that the Rays received in this blockbuster is 20-year-old third baseman Patrick Leonard. Leonard batted .251/.340/.494 with 14 homers and 46 RBI through 62 games in Rookie League ball this season. He has a long way to go before he reaches the big leagues, but his power potential makes him someone to keep an eye on in the coming years.
To recap this 6-7 player megadeal in a nutshell, I believe that the deal is a win-win for both clubs. Kansas City’s rotation (and team) just got a whole lot better with two key additions, and Tampa’s future is now brighter.
I personally would have liked to see the Rays add a little more to their offensive depth rather than just restock on arms again, but all-in-all Andrew Friedman and the front office still got the job done here.
One positive about the deal was that the Rays now have a lot more cash on their hands by trading away two pricey salaries in Shields and Davis. The Rays would have owed Shields over $22 million ($10 million in 2013) in the final two years of his contract and Davis would have been payed over $6.5 million for the next two seasons (which is a lot considering how the Rays use him) before three years of expensive team options.
Hopefully the Rays will use some of the money they save to sign somebody productive this offseason off the free agent market to fill in needed positions that are still empty on the roster (RHH 1B/DH, catcher, relief pitcher).
Here’s GM Andrew Friedman and president Matt Silverman on the blockbuster below:
The Rays added some infield depth Wednesday, signing 2B/3B Mike Fontenot to a minor league contract. The 32-year-old has posted a .265/.332/.401 line over his seven years in the league. He spent his 2012 season in the Phillies’ organization, where he posted a .299 wOBA in 105 Major League plate appearances.
Tampa also signed five other players to minor league deals during their busy Wednesday, including re-signing OF Rich Thompson. Thompson, 33, had just 22 PA’s with the Rays this year and served mostly as a pinch-runner. Here’s the link to the complete report on all the signings.
In much bigger free agent/hot stove news, B.J. Upton has made his anticipated decision, signing with the Atlanta Braves for a 5-year deal worth $75.25 million. The colossal contract was the largest free agent signing in Braves franchise history.
Rays News and Notes:
- The 2013 Hall of Fame ballot features two ex-Rays in 1B/DH Fred McGriff and closer Roberto Hernandez (first time on the ballot). Here’s a link to the full ballot, which features some big [and controversial] first-time names such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, etc.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times looks at the details of Evan Longoria’s new contract. Rather than making $6 million in 2013, Longo will make just $2 million. The remaining $4 million was converted into a signing bonus.
- The MLB players’ union also weighs in on the new extension (per Ken Rosenthal).
- DRaysBay.com looks at some potential Rays targets in the upcoming Rule 5 draft.
As expected, B.J. Upton—as well as all eight other MLB eligibles—declined his $13.3 qualifying offer from the Rays Friday, officially making him a free agent. With B.J. Upton now surely not returning to Tampa Bay next season, there’s a lot of speculation of the Rays potentially making a serious run at younger brother Justin via trade.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the Rays could potentially emerge as front-runners for Upton since the Texas Rangers continue to insist that they’re not willing to trade a shortstop (Jurickson Profar or Elvis Andrus) to the Diamondbacks in a trade for him. Rosenthal also suggests that the Rays could offer either Jeremy Hellickson or James Shields in addition to prospect Hak-Ju Lee if they were to deal for Upton.
More Rays News and Notes
- I personally like the idea of the Rays trading a pitcher and a prospect for a player at the caliber of Upton’s, but a recent article over at DRaysBay.com voices some legitimate concern over the 25-year-old star outfielder.
- Jim Hickey talks Rays starting rotation on WDAE.
- David Price continues his eventful fall, winning a PGA Pro-Am tournament (Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic) Friday. Below is his victory speech:
Entering the offseason, James Shields was expected to be the No. 1 trade rumor name of the Rays’ plethora of starting pitchers. Right now it doesn’t appear that way, however, as Jeremy Hellickson has drawn more interest than anybody else in the rotation so far (per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com). No team has yet to publicly announced that they’re pursuing Helly, but things could get interesting at the GM meeting this week.
As the MLB award season continues, more Rays players continue to take home hardware. David Price—who makes a strong case for the AL Cy Young Award (announced next week)—was chosen as the AL’s top pitcher by the players (Players Choice Awards) on Monday.
Also in award news, Jose Molina was named the Rays’ top defensive player by Wilson.
More Rays News and Notes:
- As expected, the Rays made their one-year qualifying offer ($13.3 million) to B.J. Upton last Friday.
- The Rays re-signed Joel Peralta for a two-year deal worth $6 million. The agreement includes a $2.5 million option for 2015.
- Bleacher Report looks at five potential teams that could trade for Hellickson.
- Minor League free agents have been announced. A handful of Rays players are featured on the list.
Contract extensions are where Andrew Friedman and the Tampa Bay Rays shine. The Rays have done a terrific job in recent years locking up young talent with very reasonable contract deals. Past young stars such as Evan Longoria, David Price, James Shields, Carl Crawford, and Ben Zobrist were all signed to long-term contracts with the Rays. The club kept the trend going this offseason, signing phenom pitcher Matt Moore to an eight-year extension. As more talented youth continues to emerge from the depths of Durham, more names continue to be recognized as extension candidates. Let’s take a look a look at the Rays’ most probable contract extension candidates.
Matt Joyce is currently the club’s most renown extension candidate. With Carl Crawford gone and B.J. Upton possibly leaving sometime within the next year, Matt Joyce could be a big part of the outfield in the years to come. Joyce is exactly the type of player the Rays want in their future. At just 27, Joyce already provides a big left-handed bat in the middle of the lineup. Last year in his first full MLB season, he was the only Rays position player elected to the All Star Game in Phoenix. Joyce finished the season with a .277 average and 75 RBI’s, and showed major improvement in both his defensive and running game. A contract extension is probably an attractive option for both the Rays and Joyce. Joyce is a young player seeking long-term financial stability, while the Rays are a team looking for effective power hitters like him. I definitely see a contract extension for Matt Joyce as a possibility for the Rays, and I’m hopeful the team can work out a deal with him. I believe that signing Joyce to an extension this offseason is the right move for the Rays. Offensive production is vital for the Rays’ future, and a decently-priced deal could also be in line here. In a past article from ESPNFlorida.com, analyst Tommy Rancel brings up an intriguing idea on how a Joyce extension might work out. He states that Ben Zobrist’s contract, $18 million through four years plus two club options, could serve as a blueprint for a potential extension with Joyce. A recent article via MLBTradeRumors.com mentions some more points that could favor a contract extension. It suggests that Joyce could offer a discount, being a Tampa native. The article also talks about how Joyce’s lack of a big draft signing bonus could make him more interested in signing the extension. Hopefully, both Joyce and the Rays see the same golden opportunity here that I do. Andrew Friedman is on a roll, and we’ll see if he can pull off another masterpiece yet again.
Rookie outfielder Desmond Jennings is one of baseball’s young stars ready to take flight. Unlike most of the Rays’ talented young stars, Jennings isn’t a pitcher. He’s a wanted commodity in Tampa Bay, and he’s player the Rays really need to get a grip on. In his anticipated rookie season in 2011, Jennings was everything the Rays had expected and more. His great speed, defense, and contact hitting was already acknowledged by scouts everywhere, but his electric power that he displayed was a bit of a surprise. Like fellow candidate Matt Joyce, Jennings is also a huge part of the team’s future in the outfield. He is the complete package, and the Rays are really excited about this guy. Considering how much the Rays would love to have a player like Jennings in their future, a long-term extension with him could be very possible. Jennings is under team control for six more seasons, which is good news. Interestingly, Evan Longoria and Matt Moore are the only other Rays players ever to be extended for all six years of their team control. Longoria was guaranteed six seasons and Moore was guaranteed five season. Both were given three years of club options. The reason for the Rays’ larger commitment towards Longoria is because Moore (being a pitcher) is at a higher risk for injury. If the Rays decide to offer Jennings a contract extension, it will probably be more like Moore’s. The reason for this, is that the 25 year-old has already experienced a number of injuries in his professional career. Jennings’ health issues are obviously something that will go against the chance of an extension. However, the likeliness of B.J. Upton leaving the Rays next year is something that definitely favors a long-term deal. At the end of the day, I think it’s a no-brainer to extend Jennings’ contract. We’re talking about the future leadoff hitter of the team here, and someone who I believe will be essential to the Rays’ offense in the coming years. Locking up Jennings for the long-term will come with a price, but it’s well worth the money.
2011 AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson, by no surprise, is an appealing extension candidate. After winning the prestigious ROY Award, making efforts to negotiate some sort of long-term deal with Hellboy seems inevitable. Of course the Rays and all their fans would love to see Hellickson pitching in Tampa for as long as possible, but a contract extension would be pretty pricey. After such a stunning rookie season, Helly can obviously make a good case for a salary. The money is really the only thing that would get in the way of an extension. If the Rays and Hellickson work out a deal, it would be something like the contract agreements of fellow starters Wade Davis, James Shields, and Matt Moore (click here for a chart via DRaysBay.com). That means it would be somewhere in the range of 4-5 years guaranteed, with probably three years of club options. Considering the Rays’ surplus of starting pitching right now, I don’t see a long-term deal with Hellickson as much of a necessity as a Desmond Jennings extension. Still, keeping Hellickson in Tampa Bay is something the Rays should work on this offseason.
As the first two months of the Rays’ offseason comes to a conclusion and the Winter Meeting pass, the Rays have made progress on their Winter to-do list. Entering the offseason, the Rays had some work to do in order to address areas of need. First base, bullpen, catcher, and the DH spot were all holes that needed to be filled coming into the winter. There also were, and still are, big names at risk of leaving the team. Johnny Damon, Joel Peralta, Kelly Shoppach, and Casey Kotchman are all on the free agent list. James Shields, Kyle Farnsworth, and B.J. Upton are others that may not be playing for the Rays next year.
The first mission the Rays had this offseason was to deal with their three club options. Kyle Farnsworth, Kelly Shoppach, and James Shields were all asking for multi-millions for 2012. With the team’s ace and closer on the line, the Rays accepted both Farnsworth’s and Shields’ option. Kelly Shoppach, however, was declined and is now testing free agency.
The acceptance of Shields’ and Farnsworth’s options highly increased their chances of staying with the team next year. It was a huge sigh of relief for Rays fans everywhere to hear that their “Big Game” James is safe, unless traded. As for Farnsworth, he was a big part of the Rays’ bullpen in 2011. Keeping Farnsworth is essentially one less step in the bullpen’s rebuilding process. In Shoppach’s case, I guess the Rays just didn’t see any reason to overpay him after an awful 2011 season. Although considering the Rays’ catching situation, I was a bit surprised with the choice.
The Rays’ issue behind the plate was the main focus of their next offseason move. With Shoppach likely not returning in 2011, the Rays went out to look for catching on the free agent market. They found themselves a low-priced and experienced veteran in Jose Molina. It was a move that needed to be done, and took a lot of stress off the issue. After signing Molina, the Rays still weren’t done dealing with their catchers yet. Suddenly out of nowhere, the Rays acquired reliever Josh Lueke from Seattle in exchange for John Jaso. The trade was the biggest surprise of the Rays offseason so far. Being a catcher, nobody expected to see Jaso go anywhere. The trade forecasts that the Rays are probably looking for more catching in the following months. Already rumored names have emerged, such as 40 year-old Ivan Rodriguez.
Catcher isn’t the only position that the Rays have been targeting. With Kotchman and Damon free agents, the first base and DH roles are questionable for Opening Day. The Rays made their first efforts to find a first baseman last week, when the picked up Juan Miranda. Miranda was one of four minor leaguers who were invited to Spring Training by the Rays at the Winter Meetings. The 28 year-old Cuban native has played five professional seasons, showing scouts everywhere his raw power. He hasn’t had much success in his previous MLB stints, but the Rays see a bright future in his big bat. There’s been some trade rumors of other first basemen that the Rays may pursue, but Miranda is the only deal they’ve done so far. The other three players who received the Spring Training invitation along with Miranda, were Matt Mangini, Ricky Orta, and Johnny Nunez. Like Miranda, I believe the Rays made a great move signing Mangini.
The third/first baseman hit an impressive .336 in Triple-A Tacoma last year. I think he can also help give the offense a boost, even though he doesn’t have the power that Miranda has. Ricky Orta and Johnny Nunez are two young relievers that the Rays picked up as part of their bullpen rebuilding process. The Rays reportedly have been seeking more bullpen arms. Veterans that are more likely to contribute to the team in 2012. Joel Zumaya, Luis Ayala, and Andrew Bailey are all names that have come up in rumors lately. With the DH and first base positions a problem now, many overlook the Rays’ bullpen issue, which is also vital in the club’s success. The Rays are definitely better off seeking hitting during the winter. Being so deep in starting pitching, the Rays will probably be able to make something work for next season.
The most recent news of the Rays’ offseason is the contract extension of Matt Moore, which also happened at the Winter Meetings in Dallas. The rookie southpaw guaranteed his contract for a minimum of five years (up to 8 years including options) for $14 million. The contract extension was great news for Rays fans, and another clever offseason move by Andrew Friedman.
It’s a nice feeling knowing that a pitcher like Matt Moore is here to stay for a while. Hopefully, other young stars such as Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson will follow in Moore’s footsteps. Those are two guys that the Rays need to get a grip on, and a contract extension should be in the conversation this offseason. Besides handing out four Spring Training invitations and locking up Matt Moore, the Rays were pretty quiet at the Winter Meeting. With all the big-market action happening in Dallas last week, the Rays probably see a better chance to strike later in the winter. I believe the team’s main goal before spring should be to re-sign Casey Kotchman and Joel Peralta, as well as find at least one more good hitter. At the end of the day, DH and catcher are the Rays’ two main priorities. As of now, Jose Lobaton/Robinson Chirinos is the Rays’ second catcher, and Sam Fuld is the Opening Day DH. Obviously, there’s still plenty of work to be done. The Rays have made forward progress in the first two months of the offseason, but luckily there is another two and a half months to make things right.
It’s this time of year again. Four full months of waiting to hear that sound of the crack of the bat. Before the Rays and their young stars take the field in March, the Rays have some work to do. There are some tough choices they know that they must make this winter. Here are the top five main questions on the Rays Hot Stove:
What’s B.J. Upton’s fate? Let’s start with maybe the biggest topic on the Rays Hot Stove. B.J. Upton has been in the mix of baseball rumors since last year’s Trade Deadline. Today, he’s known as one of the premier trade pieces in the league. With Upton up for arbitration again, it is very possible that he could be traded away. Keeping Upton, who hasn’t reached his potential in the last few years, would mean paying him about $7 Million in 2012 (experts predict). The debate here is wether he is worth keeping or not, and who can he be traded for. Upton has underachieved so far in his career, but many believe that the best years are ahead of him. What I think the Rays should do, is only trade Upton if they know they can get someone good for him. The Rays could really use this opportunity to use B.J.’s phenom-talent to their advantage on the market.
One good thing about possibly losing Upton, is that the Rays good outfield depth will be able to replace him in centerfield pretty well. Desmond Jennings is probably the top candidate to take over there if Upton is gone. Even with all this, B.J. Upton’s terrific defense in CF will be dearly missed. Whatever the Rays decide to do with B.J., I’m very confident that Andrew Friedman will make sure there will be incoming talent if Upton is leaving Tampa Bay. It will really be interesting to see how this one plays out.
Will “Big Game” James stay? James Shields was really the team’s MVP this year, leading a terrific pitching staff with a 2.82 ERA and 11 complete games. After an incredible Cy Young- caliber season, Shields will have a high price tag for the 2012 season. The Rays seem like they’re going to make some efforts to keep Shields on the roster, as they just recently have picked up the club option on him. Shields will be making $7 million next year if he stays. His situation is similar to Upton’s in some ways. Like Upton, he won’t be testing free agency this year and is a potential blockbuster-trade piece (the highest trade value on the team). When it comes to James’ situation, I think it will most likely end up as a win either way. I think that trading Shields is the best opportunity to fill in the offensive holes they need. A trade to the Marlins for Logan Morrison and other good hitters is a big rumor at the moment. Centerfielder Grady Sizemore is another possibility up in the air.
I think trading Shields may be the best choice for the team here. Last year’s Matt Garza trade was a great example of how this could effect the Rays. If Friedman can pull another one-sided trade like that out of his magic hat, we could be looking at a really well built team in Tampa. Last year the Rays acquired Brandon Guyer, Chris Archer (top prospect), Sam Fuld, Russ Canzler (AAA MVP), and more just for Matt Garza (who did nothing this year). Not only did that not hurt the great pitching rotation, but it even boosted the offense and fielding. If Shields is traded, the Rays still have Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Alex Torres in their future. When you have four arms like that in your farm system, you can easily replace an ace down the road. Overall, the Rays have a real tough decision to make in the following months. I believe it’s a matter of how much the organization trusts their young pitchers. If they think that the young guns can ultimately replace Shields, than they should trade him. On the other side of things, if Shields stays on the team it’s also great news. I’m pretty optimistic that only good will come out of this one.
What will result in Kotchman’s and Damon’s free agency? What a terrific comeback year it was for Casey Kotchman in 2011. After stunning everyone with a great year, the Rays are really looking forward to re-signing Kotchman who is a free agent. Kotchman will obviously be asking for a raise here, as last year’s offseason contract was virtually nothing for a MLB first-baseman. To me, it’s a no-brainer to re-sign Casey. The Rays are truly not going to get a better deal on a first-baseman than this slick-fielder. Besides that, Kotchman is a perfect fit for the club. He’s a hometown boy that completes a terrific infield, plays with heart and hustle, and hits more for contact rather than power. Sound like Tampa Bay Rays player to me. Johnny Damon is a whole different situation. Also a free agent, Damon will be payed more than Kotchman if he stays on the team next year. Even though I think Damon suits the team well and is a great clubhouse-guy, he’s simply not as valuable as Kotchman. For an American League DH, Damon is not really up to par. Johnny is in the final years of his great career and is not a contributor in the outfield anymore; and not much either on the basepads like he was. At the end of the day, I think what the Rays should do is let Damon walk. The newest member of the free agent group, who just joined yesterday, is Dan Johnson. Johnson hasn’t played much baseball in his years in Tampa, but he’s probably hit two of the biggest clutch hits in the franchise’s history. Yesterday, the Rays designated Johnson for a minor league assignment. Dan declined it, and now he’s a free agent. I was a bit surprised to hear this because the Rays don’t exactly have the first base depth like most teams. Johnson’s future in a Rays uniform doesn’t look good at all, and I have to guess that he unfortunately won’t be a Ray anymore.
How will the bullpen be addressed again this offseason? The Rays bullpen is still a work in progress. Last year’s pretty good ‘pen surprised a lot of people, as almost none of the relievers had any high expectations. This winter, Friedman’s going to have to do a lot of arranging once again with insecure relievers. Juan Cruz and Joel Peralta are both free agents, and closer Kyle Farnsworth was just recently exercised his 2012 option. First I’ll start with the pair of free agents. Let me make it simple and clear: Let Cruz go, sign Peralta for a multi-year deal. Cruz didn’t do a bad job last year, but the Rays need to build their ‘pen with young arms. Peralta is a great young reliever, who I believe has the best future out of any of the Rays relief pitchers. With the potential I see in him, I think there’s a good chance that he’s the future closer.
Farnsworth is a different story, and is more at risk for leaving the team. The Rays did pick up the club option for him, increasing the chances of him staying. Farnsworth will be paid $3.3 Million next year. The Rays have a tough choice in deciding wether that’s worth it or not, and I’m not really sure on this one myself. Farnsworth is not exactly a young player and ended last season with injury problems. Re-signing Farnsworth could be a big risk, even after the terrific season he had in 2011. With Farnsworth, I think it’s mostly a matter of his health status. Whatever the Rays chose to do, I still think they need to search the market this winter for some available relievers. The main source for bullpen relievers will be the farm system though, as the Rays have some good arms up in Durham. If the Rays can utilize their minor league pitchers well in the bullpen, I don’t think there will be too many issues next year.
What will be done to fill in open holes? Besides the bullpen, the Rays do have some other areas of need to tend to this offseason. Probably the biggest issue is the catching situation. Unlike Farnsworth and Shields, Kelly Shoppach was declined his 2012 option. Even though Shoppach was the team’s best defensive catcher last year and got some big clutch his down the stretch, I don’t think the Rays are willing to pay him $3.2 Million next year. With Shoppach gone, the Rays could have some serious catching issues. John Jaso, Robinson Chirinos, and Jose Lobaton are all options. Unfortunately, all three of them still need a lot of developing to do defensively. Out of the three, only Jaso can frankly hit at the Major League level.
With the Rays farm system not abundant in catchers, it looks like turning to the free agent market or making a trade will be necessary here. The second area of need is first base. If the Rays re-sign Kotchman it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. But besides Casey, there isn’t anyone that is a true everyday first-baseman. Sean Rodriguez can play there, but that’s not the guy you want playing first base everyday. The free agent market isn’t really an option for the Rays to pick up a first-baseman. That’s why I think signing Kotchman is pretty much necessary. The third main area, is Designated Hitter. The Rays haven’t had a solid DH for years, and have always had issues at that spot. Once again the free agent market is not much of an option. Some names like David Ortiz are probably too expensive to afford. If the Rays lose Johnny Damon (their 2011 DH), than they might have to deal with makeshift Designated Hitters throughout the season.