Tagged: MLB

Tampa Bay Rays Grades For Every Player in July

This past July was a month to remember for the Tampa Bay Rays. They posted a franchise-best 21-5 record in the month, hitting for a 115 wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) as a team (3rd in MLB) and combined for seven complete games from four different starters in the rotation.

The Rays’ hot stretch has not only put them into playoff position, but it gives them the second-best record in the AL (best before last night’s loss) entering August.

Let’s take a look at how each player contributed to the Rays’ remarkable July run.

 

The Infielders

James Loney: A

James Loney continues to give the Rays consistent production at first base. He posted an impressive .325/.356/.422 slash line in July while playing terrific defense at first.

Ben Zobrist: A

Zobrist had a huge month offensively in June and didn’t dissappoint in July either. He put up a very strong 119 wRC+ (which equals Loney’s mark) and—like the rest of the team in the past month—was rock solid defensively.

Sean Rodriguez: A-

Rodriguez enjoyed what was the best statistical month of his career in July, batting .326/.383/.419 over 49 plate appearances. The strong numbers from S-Rod are likely nothing more than a fluke (his .467 BABIP is a key indicator), but hopefully it’s a sign of things to come for the Rays’ utility man.

Yunel Escobar: A+

Yunel Escobar has been such a valuable player for the Rays all season, but he has really broken out offensively in the last month. Escobar’s .351 wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average) in July is second best amongst all AL shortstops. When it comes to defense I think it’s pretty clear how great Escobar has been this month, as well as all year long.

Evan Longoria: D+

It’s amazing that Tampa Bay managed to go 21-5 in July with their best player slumping the way he was. Longoria hit .194 with just 11 RBI, but the Rays were still somehow able to score plenty of runs. I do, however, think Longo earns a D+ here because of his usual Gold Glove caliber defense at the hot corner.

 

The Outfielders:

Kelly Johnson: A

After an ice cold June, Johnson responded in a big way in July. He had just 57 PA’s, but really made the most out of them, posting a 172 wRC+.

Sam Fuld: D+

I was a pretty unproductive month in what has been a rather unproductive season (-0.3 WAR) for Sam Fuld. He had 30 PA’s in July and hit .250. The game-saving play he made last week in Fenway Park was a memorable one, though.

Desmond Jennings: A

Desmond Jennings’ production at the top of the Rays’ lineup was a huge part of the team’s July success. He hit for a 117 wRC+ and went 7 for 8 in stolen base attempts.

Wil Myers: A+

Wil Myers’ June call-up to the big leagues is really what triggered this great run for the Rays. He leads the league in batting average post All-Star break (.447) and enjoyed an outstanding July, putting up a 166 wRC+ and knocking in 18 runs.

Matt Joyce: D-

Things have gone downhill for Matt Joyce in the second half of the season. His numbers for July aren’t pretty; a .222/.344/.241 line without a single home run and just two RBI.

Luke Scott: A+

Luke Scott’s red-hot bat really carried the Rays earlier in the month and won them a handful of games. Scott posted a 160 wRC+ in July with nine extra-base hits (four home runs).

 

The Starting Rotation

David Price: A+

David Price came off the DL July 2nd looking to return to his 2012 Cy Young form. He appears to be even better now, as he was nothing short of incredible in July. In six starts, he tossed three complete games and five quality starts to go along with a 1.68 ERA, a .199 opponents’ average and an unrealistic 35.00 K/BB rate.

Jeremy Hellickson: B

In his five July starts, Hellickson went 3-1 with a 3.49 ERA and delivered three quality starts. He appeared to lack command in his last three outings, though, combining for seven walks.

Chris Archer: A+

Along with teammate Wil Myers, Chris Archer is making a great case for American League Rookie of the Year. He won all five of his starts in July, pitching two complete-game shutouts (the first two CG’s of his career) and posting a minuscule 0.73 ERA.

Matt Moore: A

Matt Moore also started five games in July, and besides for his last outing in New York, he was fantastic. He finished the month 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA and a 2.72 FIP which included a complete-game shutout in Fenway park. A sore elbow bothered Moore in his latest start, which has landed him on the 15-day DL

Roberto Hernandez: B

With his job in jeopardy—and likely still in jeopardy—from Alex Cobb’s return, Hernandez put together a solid performance in July. He posted a 3.94 ERA in five starts, which included a complete-game win Tuesday night.

 

The Bullpen

Alex Torres: A

Ten scoreless innings for his month of July—can’t ask for much more than that. Torres ERA drops to 0.27 as his innings pitched total reaches 33.0.

Cesar Ramos: D

Ramos pitched just seven innings in July and allowed five earned runs. He only made one appearance that wasn’t low leverage and actually picked up a win in extra innings.

Kyle Farnsworth: D-

The end of Kyle Farnsworth’s 15-season MLB career appears to be very near. Farnsworth pitched only 5.2 innings in July and gave up four earned runs.

Jamey Wright: D-

Wright is another low-leverage reliever in this Rays bullpen who struggled in July. He allowed five runs in just 7.1 IP.

Jake McGee: B-

McGee surrendered three earned runs in 8.2 IP last month. He did post an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of 12-2, though.

Joel Peralta: B+

Outside of one lead-blowing three-run homer given up in Houston early in the month, Peralta hasn’t allowed a single run. He also picked up seven holds in July.

Fernando Rodney: A

Things have really come together for Rodney since June. Tampa Bay’s closer was nine-for-nine in save opportunities in July and let up just two runs.

Who’s on the ‘Raydar’ now?

Here we are in late December and the Rays still have some work to do for the offseason. With Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon testing free agency, the Rays are in need of a first baseman and a DH. New names have emerged among Hot Stove rumors that the Rays may be interested in to bolster their offense. Of course, the Rays are also in pursuit of help in the bullpen. They have already picked up Burke Badenhop and Josh Lueke via trade, and sources say they are looking for more relief pitching. With the plentiful young talent that the Rays have, the trade market will probably be the way to go this winter. Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, Alex Cobb, and even David Price have spotlighted Rays trade rumors lately. Although the Rays have been quiet in the midst of all the Hot Stove action, it shouldn’t be too long before they strike. When it comes to the offseason, the Rays are silent but deadly.

Star outfielder Carlos Beltran brings some new excitement to Rays rumors. The 34 year-old veteran had another great offensive season last year, and was elected to his sixth All Star Game. Despite battling a nagging knee injury throughout the season, Beltran still managed to hit .300 and knock in over 84 runs. According to the most recent update on Beltran’s status, many teams are interested in getting the free agent. Unfortunately for the Rays, the St. Louis Cardinals continue to show strong interest in Beltran. The Cardinals obviously have more money to spend if they want him, but the Rays are right behind them if they lose interest for some reason.

Anthony Rizzo of the San Diego Padres is another name that has recently headlined Rays rumors. With the recent Reds-Padres blockbuster trade, the Rays have a golden opportunity to snag the minor league first baseman. Yonder Alonso, who was part of past Rays trade rumors himself, was sent to San Diego in a five-player deal. Now that the Padres have Alonso as their first baseman, Rizzo becomes an immediate trade possibility. A recent Tweet from CBS’s John Heyman reported the predictable news; that the Rays and Cubs are both expressing interest in Rizzo. Being a larger-market team and having first base questions themselves, the Cubs could really get in the Rays’ way here. Hopefully, Chicago will find someone else to fill in at first base (maybe Prince Fielder), and the Rays will have their shot at Rizzo. I believe that Rizzo is the guy to get for the Rays this offseason. Although he’s only played one season in triple-A, his terrific stats show he could be ready for big league success. With the Cubs seeking a star first baseman, I think it’s very possible that this deal might work out.

Luke Scott was one of the biggest bats amongst the notable non-tenders. Scott is not really a star-type player, but he can hit. He has power, and has established himself as a consistent 20-homer guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rays aggressively go after Scott this winter. After an underachieving 2011 (mostly because of constant injury problems), Scott will probably not be a hit with the big market teams and won’t be asking for a large salary. A combination of this and his impressive power is what makes him very attractive for the Rays. I definitely would not be shocked if the Rays reel in Scott sometime in the following months.

 

Joel Zumaya is another player that can’t be scratched off the list just yet. The Rays are looking to get at least one more arm to add to the bullpen, and Zumaya is looking for a job. There’s a chance Zumaya might work out in Tampa Bay. The 27 year-old fireballer has been busy this offseason, throwing in front of hundreds of scouts. The Rays were one team to participate in the Zumaya showcases, a source reported about two weeks ago. The chances of getting Zumaya have gradually decreased as the offseason has progressed, though. The recent injury to Detroit Tigers’ reliever Al Alburquerque, makes Zumaya’s former team a very possible candidate to re-sign him.

Jose Mijares is one non-tendered reliever that may attract the Rays. The 27 year-old left-hander pitched four seasons for the Minnesota Twins, and served as their ‘lefty specialist’ out of the bullpen. The Rays were in need of a lefty for their ‘pen coming into the offseason, but they took some stress off the issue after acquiring Josh Lueke. Still the Rays would like to maybe add another experienced lefty in there for a bargain deal.

Hello Burke Badenhop, Goodbye Andy Sonnanstine

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This Monday was a busy day for Rays. During the same day the club’s tender decisions were due, the Rays traded for another bullpen arm. Andrew Friedman picked up right-handed Burke Badenhop from the Miami Marlins, in exchange for minor league catcher Jake Jefferies. Like the earlier trade for Josh Lueke, this one was also a surprise. Another mediocre catcher traded for another mediocre reliever. It’s obvious now that the Rays are heavily emphasizing on reinforcing the bullpen. Badenhop went 2-3 with a 4.10 ERA for the Marlins last year. The 28 year-old has a career 4.34 ERA through his four big league seasons. The stats are nothing special, but Marlins fans still seem to love the guy. “The Hopper”, as he is nicknamed, has been a fan favorite in the Marlins community. Hopefully he’ll also be a hit with the Rays; on and off the field.

Besides negotiating the Badenhop trade, the Rays also had some tender options to make. B.J. Upton, David Price, Joel Peralta, Jeff Niemann, J.P. Howell, and Andy Sonnanstine were all arbitration-eligible before the deadline. As expected, Upton, Price, Peralta, and Niemann were all tendered. Both Sonnanstine and Howell on the other hand, were projected to be non-tendered.

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Howell posted a lopsided 6.16 ERA last year, and Sonnanstine put up a high 5.55 ERA. At the end of the day, the Rays decided to tender Howell and part ways with Sonnanstine. Both were ineffective pitchers last year, but the Rays see much more value in Howell because of their efforts to rebuild the bullpen. I wasn’t surprised by any of the Rays’ choices at the tender deadline. It was clearly time for Sonnanstine to go, as he’s just not the same pitcher that he was back in ’08. Though Rays fans should never forget how much Sonny meant to the team’s magical run in ’08. As for Howell, I think the Rays still have hope that he’ll be able to recover from his big shoulder injury.

Rays Top Prospects: #1-5

The Tampa Bay Rays have always been a team forged by young talent. Most of the big faces of the franchise today are homegrown stars; such as Evan Longoria, David Price, James Shields, Ben Zobrist, and others that were brought up through the Rays’ prestigious farm system. The list of young stars doesn’t look like it’s going to shrink anytime soon, as the Rays have a wave of high-grade rookies upcoming in these next few years. A few of the exciting top prospects have already seen big league playing time in 2011. Some of those names include Matt Moore, Alex Torres, and Brandon Guyer. MLB.com has ranked the top 10 Rays prospects. Here are the evaluations of the top 5 prospects:

1.) Matt Moore– Out of all the late-season call-ups that made a splash this season, phenom Matt Moore made the biggest. Moore’s brief 2011 lived up to all the hype that was built up. His regular season stats included 9.1 IP, a 2.89 ERA, 15 K’s, and a scoreless start (win) in Yankee Stadium. But the Postseason is where Moore really had his chance to shine, when he was called to start game 1 of the ALDS. Moore shutout the Rangers in Arlington through seven innings in just his second career start. He would end up with a astounding 0.90 ERA through 10 innings for the postseason.

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There’s no secret of why the flame-throwing lefty is so effective in the big leagues. His arsenal includes a blazing fastball, plus an effective curveball and changeup. Moore’s outstanding fastball can reach up to 100 MPH, and he’s very capable of going deep into games maintaining speeds up in the high-90’s. The command of his heater is the most important ingredient to Moore’s success, and the improvement is clearly noticeable. The left-hander also has an above-average curveball, which has plenty of movement and break to it. The changeup is another pitch Matt uses to keep hitters off balance, and is a big part of his success versus right-handed batters. The player that Moore most resembles is his teammate David Price. Price was also a top-prospect rookie just like Moore in 2008. He too was called up later in the season and made his impact in the playoffs. Both Moore and Price are fireballing lefties, with future Cy Young-type talent. The 22 year-old already has a collection of accolades; including a Futures Game selection, #3 ranked prospect, the MLB.com Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year award, and the 2011 Spink Award (Top Minor Leaguer). The Rays are very lucky to have young arm like Matt Moore in their bright future.

2.) Hak-Ju Lee– Hak-Ju Lee is not a household name among Rays fans, but it won’t be too long before he gains recognition in professional baseball. The 21 year-old Korean was acquired in the Matt Garza trade, and is on the top 50 Prospect list at #48. Lee was one of three players that represented the Rays at the MLB Futures Game this July. He was promoted in August to class AA after spending most of his 2011 season playing for the Charlotte Stonecrabs (class A+). Lee’s 2011 combined Minor League stats included a .292 average, 30 RBI’s, and 33 stolen bases. Lee is still adjusting to AA baseball, as he batted a low .190 through 100 at bats up in Montgomery. Lee is a left-handed batting shortstop (throws right) that is still improving in all parts of his game. His plus attributes include great speed, good contact hitting, and the ability to have quality at bats. Although Lee will probably never be a hitter with power, there are other weaknesses in his game that can improve. His defense at shortstop is probably the biggest thing that needs to be worked on. 20111125-131727.jpg

Like most young Minor League shortstops, Lee played some rather sloppy defense. His error total was too much considering his high expectations as a defensive player. His gradual improvement in the field is noticeable though, and many scouts see Lee as being a good defensive shortstop in the future. Baserunning is another area of improvement for the speedy infielder. Although Lee has great wheels, his decisions on the basepads are not so intelligent yet. He was caught stealing 16 times out of 49 attempts this year in the minors. Just like on defense, these faults are not a rarity at all for 20 year-old prospects. Experts believe that he will get much better in the following years, and baserunning will be one of Lee’s fortes during his big league career. Overall, Hak-Ju Lee is work in progress with a bunch of potential.

3.) Chris Archer– Chris Archer has been one of the biggest names amongst Rays prospects. Archer was another top prospect that was included in the Matt Garza trade, and is ranked at #38 in the top 50 list. With all the pitching talent in the Rays farm system, Archer leads the pack of right-handed arms. He features an impressive fastball, with great movement as well as velocity. The hard slider is the next good pitch in his arsenal, which he also throws very well. Then there is the changeup, which is a pitch that Archer is still developing. Like Matt Moore, Archer’s fastball command is the key to his big league success. 20111125-132449.jpg

The command was the only main issue Archer had this year, but it is clearly improving as he gains experience. Archer’s stats for the year (in AA Montgomery and AAA Durham) include 4.09 ERA, a 9-7 record, and 130 strikeouts. Archer started 27 games in 2011, two of them in Durham. The best news about Chris, is that he ended the season strong on a high note. After being promoted to Triple-A late in the season, Archer posted an ERA of 0.69 in 13 innings pitched . Archer could be a big help to the Rays bullpen at some point in next season, as that will probably be his best chance to contribute to the team in 2011. With the stable and talented rotation that the Rays have, the ‘pen may be Archer’s best opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation anytime in the near future. Chris Archer is a player destined for a career the MLB, and his potential is sky-high. This is definitely a guy Rays Republic should be excited about.

4.) Alex Torres– Torres is another impressive young arm on the Rays’ prospect list. The 23 year-old lefty was acquired from the Angels in the Scott Kazmir. In his first full season in the Rays organization, Torres started 27 games for the Durham Bulls and pitched 8 innings for the Rays. His minor league numbers in 2011 were pretty good, as he went 9-7 for Durham with a 3.08 ERA and 156 Ks. Torres didn’t do bad in his first crack at the big leagues this year. He posted a 3.38 ERA through 8 innings pitched out of the bullpen. Torres’s main arsenal includes a solid and live fastball, a pretty decent changeup, and a developing curve. 20111125-131742.jpg

The curveball has been sort of his ‘x-factor’ pitch in the past. When he has a feel of the curve, opposing batters are doing a lot of swinging and missing. Like Moore and Archer, Torres is good at striking out batters. Unfortunately, his command issues are worse than Moore and Archer. Not only does Torres have problems placing his fastball where he wants it, but he also walks far too many batters. Torres knows that his command is not adequate for an effective Major League starter, and is working hard to fix it in Venezuelan winter ball. Torres is preparing to pitch another season in a terrific Durham rotation, but there’s also a chance he’ll be pitching out of the bullpen for the Rays.

5.) Josh Sale– The Rays picked up a big bat in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft. Josh Sale is a left-handed batter who has some great natural power, and scouts love how the ball explodes of his bat. 2011 was the first professional season for the 20 year-old. Sale played 60 games for the class A Princeton Rays, batting .210 with just 4 homers. Besides hitting, Sale isn’t strong in many other areas. His defensive in left field is mediocre but he has improved a lot as a left fielder this year, especially with his pretty strong throwing arm. Sale isn’t exactly Carl Crawford on the basepaths either, and also needs some work on his baserunning. He is only 20 though, and he has plenty of time to develop into the quality player that the Rays drafted in the 2010 Draft.

2011 Rays Team Awards

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Two Rays were honored in the BWAA’s MLB awards this offseason; Joe Maddon and Jeremy Hellickson. Also part of the baseball award season, is MLB.com’s team awards. The MLB.com team awards include Breakout Player of the Year, Player of the Year (top non-pitcher), and Pitcher of the Year. The Breakout Player award went to Hellickson, who added that accolade to his prestigious 2011 ROY award. I wouldn’t describe Hellboy’s fantastic season as a ‘breakout year’ exactly, as his 2010 previewed great things to come. James Shields’ unbelievable season was a picture perfect example of a great breakout year though. But with how the MLB.com team awards work, it is unlikely that one player wins multiple awards. The Player of the Year Award was the most anticipated of the three, and was won by Ben Zobrist. The choice for the award was mainly between Longoria and Zobrist, as both put up the best offensive production during the season. Zorilla’s consistency and ability to serve as baseball’s best utility man separated him from Longo’s great glovework and powerful bat. I strongly agree with the decision to honor Zobrist as the Rays’ top player in 2011, after such a terrific season. All season long I felt as if Zobrist was one of the most underrated players in the game, considering how much he contributed to such a successful team. The third team award acknowledges the ace of the Rays talented young pitching staff. Obviously, the 2011 Pitcher of the Year award went to James Shields, who also finished third in the Cy Young Award voting. The stats did all the talking for ‘Big Game’ James, as 11 complete games and a 2.82 ERA were simply impossible to argue with.

The MLB.com awards were not the only official team awards passed out this offseason. The Tampa Bay Chapter of the BWAA gives out three team awards of their own; MVP, the Outstanding Rookie Award, and the Paul C. Smith Champion Award. The MVP award went to Shields, which was definitely the right choice. Many people tend misinterpret the Player of the Year Award and the MVP award, and get them mixed up. Since the MLB.com team awards also acknowledge the best pitcher, the Player of the Year award basically refers to the best player that’s not a pitcher. In the BWAA team awards there is the MVP Award and no Pitcher of the Year award, giving pitchers an opportunity to win the team MVP. That’s exactly what happened in the Rays’ case this year, as Shields deservingly took home the team MVP. The third BWAA team award is the Paul C. Smith Champion Award. This award is handed to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field. The award was given to Johnny Damon, who I believe represents this award perfectly and was the obvious choice. Johnny Damon not only is a great clubhouse guy and person, but also a real winner on the field. His tremendous effort and hustle displayed on the diamond day after day is what makes him such a great baseball player, and keeps him still playing the game he loves. Those are all the Rays’ team awards for 2011, but that’s not all the accolades for Rays players this fall. The J.G. Taylor Spink Award (Minor League Player of the Year) was won by Rays’ phenom top-prospect Matt Moore. Moore earned the extremely high honor by putting up ridiculous numbers (in AA and AAA combided), including a 1.92 ERA.

The Rays’ award isn’t season over, MLB.com’s GIBBY Awards (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) feature 5 nominated Rays. Click here to vote today!

To see my choices for the 2011 Rays team awards click here.

My analysis on the MLB changes, and Jose Molina a Ray?

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Yesterday was a monumental and historic day for Major League Baseball. The Astros moved to the American League and the MLB added two more Wild Cards into their playoffs. There’s many debates on wether these two changes are necessary or irrational. Let’s start with the Astros switch to the AL West, which will take effect in 2013. This move was absolutely common sense and should of been done years ago. With Houston now part of the AL West, the MLB now consists of six divisions of five teams. The thirty-team MLB now is split into two leagues of fifteen teams each, rather than a sixteen-team NL and a fourteen-team AL. Therefore, now MLB realignment is unnecessary and unless a team is subtracted or added, the system doesn’t need to be tweaked with. Apparently, regular Interleague year-round was part of the deal with the Astros’ move. I have always been against year-round Interleague play in baseball, and I don’t understand how this is relevant at all with the Astros’ move. My main problem with it, is that it’s going to give the NL a huge advantage in their home games. AL pitchers are simply not trained to hit while NL pitchers are. When Interleague was an occasional affair, it wasn’t really a big concern. I believe that the new Interleague system was made for MLB publicity. When you think about the amount of money being made in MLB Interleague games, it’s not surprising that they would do this. The TV rates, merchandise sales, and ticket sales are all very high during Interleague games. It will be interesting to see how this will effect baseball. Year-long Interleague play will not take effect until 2013 though.

So that covers the first part of MLB’s historic day. The second part is a much larger and more surprising change. I was actually shocked when I first heard that each league was adding a Wild Card. When it comes to my stand on the playoff expansion topic, I was never a huge supporter but thought it could be good if done correctly. The best thing about the playoff expansion in my eyes, is that the Rays may end up being one of the main benefiters from this. Before I state my opinion, I probably should explain how the new postseason system works. The two Wild Card teams play each other in a one-game playoff, the winner advancing to the final eight (regular playoff format). The new playoffs will take effect possibly as early as next year; 2013 at the latest. The decision to make the extra ‘series’ a one-game playoff, is my one problem with the whole thing. After all that work and time, I thought they would be able to make it a best out of 3 series. In a one-game playoff, I believe that the better team doesn’t always advance. It’s not a real big deal, but it just irks me a little bit knowing how close they were to getting it right.

In Rays Hot Stove news now, it looks like the Rays have made their first dive into free agency. Unofficial sources say that Blue Jays’ catcher Jose Molina has signed to a 1-year deal. The deal is pretty unsurprising, as I have mentioned in past articles that the Rays are likely going to look to free agency to find a catcher. Although Molina is in the final years of his career, his defense is still an effective part of his game (well he is a Molina). I was kind of hoping that the Rays would pick up a young backstop, but this move is not such a bad one at all. For a full article at The Rays Way (The Rays Rant ‘sister blog’) on Molina joining the Rays, click here.

The Rays Hot Stove: What do you think?

Well I already said what I thought about the Rays offseason in my previous post, now I want to hear what the readers think. In this post, there’s a series of polls about different subjects on the Rays Hot Stove. 

The first poll is about the three big names that may depart out of Tampa this offseason. You probably already know who they are; Casey Kotchman, James Shields, and B.J. Upton. ‘Big Game’ James and Kotchman were both a huge part of the Rays success in 2011. Upton is a player that has very high potential in his years to come, and is again eligible for arbitration this year. 

 

Coming into the offseason, it was already clear that the Rays had to potential high-value trade pieces in Shields and Upton. Starter Wade Davis is the newest member to join the possible trade picture. Many teams can use a solid pitcher like Wade Davis, as quality pitching does not come easy these days. Wade’s 11-10 record and 4.45 ERA as the #5 starter, proved him to be a pretty effective pitcher in the tough AL East division. 

 

The bullpen was a big topic in my  recent offseason outlook article (link in the beginning of the post), and the two biggest names were Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta. Although maybe not as good as 2010’s Benoit-Soriano lockdown 8th and 9th innings, Farnsworth and Peralta had a pretty good 8-9 punch themselves. Farnsworth was very important this year as the team’s closer, and Peralta as the team’s setup-man. 

 

For the second season in a row, B.J. Upton may be the biggest name on the Rays Hot Stove. There has already been a handful of rumors of where he might land, and his chances of playing in Tampa next year don’t seem so high at the moment.

 

With all these Rays trade names out there, who are the potential players the Rays could reel in these winter. The Marlins Logan Morrison, catcher Chris Ianetta, and the talented star Grady Sizemore are all names floating around in the midst of offseason rumors. There will probably be much more rumors to come, as it is only early November. 

 

The Rays have four free agents this offseason and their names are: Johnny Damon, Casey Kotchman, Kelly Shoppach, and Juan Cruz. All four were talked about in my previous article; Damon and Kotchman obviously being the bigger names here. 

 

Another big topic mentioned in my outlook post was the Rays weak areas. The three main areas to tend to this offseason is catcher, DH, and first base. All three of these positions’  2011 starters are free agents; Kotchman (1B), Damon (DH), and Shoppach (C). The Rays do not have any strong replacements for these guys at the moment, and it seems likely that these areas will be addressed by the Rays front office this winter.