Scott Kazmir, the staff ace and arguably the second best lefty in all of baseball is going to miss a good chunk of spring training. While warming up yesterday, Kazmir felt some soreness in his arm at the very end of his warm up. He will undergo an MRI to check it out. So for now the Rays are saying he will be out for two weeks. If the MRI comes back negative and he’s good to go then he’ll probably just have a slower start to the season. However, if it comes back and it’s revealed that there is something wrong I would have to guess that the Rays will take every precaution.
Kazmir is only 24 and led the American League in strike outs last season.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the Rays being a possible landing spot for the unemployed Barry Bonds. You may know Bonds’ name for being the single season home run record holder and the career home run leader. Bonds who has played for only Pittsburgh and San Francisco in his career is currently a free agent.
Bonds, 43, would clearly make just about any team better. He still hits for power, gets on base at a other worldly rate and would be a terrific hitting influence on the young Rays hitters. The main concern with Bonds is all of his baggage. There is all of the steroid talk and his problems with the law. He faces a long year of court hearings and constant speculation that he might be a cheater. There are also questions about his health. Bonds has bad knees and they are not getting healthier with age. If he were to join the Rays he would almost always DH.
According to baseball-reference.com, Bonds made a shade over $15 million last year and has made right around $188 million for his career. That could be the one hold up in his unemployment. If he’s not willing to play for $3-5 million a year he may not find work and would certainly not find work with the Rays. I have to believe, should Bonds take $4 million a season, that the Rays would find this to be an acceptable amount.
This story just really broke yesterday so keep your eyes peeled on the news as this plays out over the coming days and weeks.
As Spring Training game begin this week more and more focus will fall onto baseball. One of the main topics amongst baseball fans is that of escalating payrolls and salaries. The Rays are unfortunate enough to belong to the same division as the two biggest spenders in all of American sports. The Yankees and Red Sox are in constant battle with each other and that carries off the field and into front office strategy.
Both the Yankees and the Red Sox have began spending more and more money in player development. Now that they are spending this money they can not only lure any free agent but also have some of the top young talent in the game. There are very few teams with more young talent that the Red Sox and Yankees but almost everyone will tell you that the Rays are one of those teams. However, their young talent is not developed yet and while this results in a lower payroll, it has not resulted in wins. Here’s a quick look at what AL East teams paid in salaries in 2007:
Yikes. I knew it was a pretty big gap, but this is pretty unbalanced. This is not a level playing field. However, the Rays are going to be in the position where their payroll will start escalating. As talented youngsters like BJ Upton, Scott Kazmir, and Evan Longoria enter arbitration and free agency years, the Rays will be faced with some tough decisions. Aside from Carl Crawford the Rays haven’t really had to handle many contract situations involving their young players. This offseason the team handed a very generous contract to SP James Shields. If the club’s handling of the Shields is any indication of how the Rays management will deal with contracts the Rays payroll will move up the ladder quickly.
So get all the mileage you can out of the payroll argument because it won’t work much longer.
With the exception of possibly only Jay Bruce, no rookie will be expected to star more than Evan Longoria. The Rays former first round pick is apparently ready for the big leagues and will have a chance to win the third base job during spring training. During his two years in the Rays minor league system (time at A, AA, and AAA) Longoria has shown tremendous power and hit for average to boot.
The Rays have opened up their third base job by shifting Iwamura to second base and giving Longoria the chance to win the job this spring. You to like the guys chances. However, you shouldn’t blow the guy away with high expectations. Last year there were two high profile rookie third basemen. Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Braun played out of his mind at the plate but played himself off of third base in the process. Braun will almost certainly spend the rest of his career in left field. Gordon on the other hand will probably be a third baseman for the next decade. Gordon had similar expectations with the Royals as Longoria will have the Rays. Gordon struggled at the plate, especially early in the year, and finished the season with a .247 average.
Will Longoria be more of a Braun or a Gordon in 2008? Rays fan should be patient with Longoria no matter what. There will undoubtedly but ups and downs. Hopefully he can progress as the season moves along.
Last year the Rays played a series of home games in Orlando instead of in Tampa. Building on the success of last years event, the Rays decided to do it again. The April 22-24 series against the Toronto Blue Jays will be played in Orlando. Needless to say, the environment in Orlando will be better than the domed games played in Tampa Bay.
The April series against the Blue Jays should be a very good series. The Jays are underrated by most in baseball and the Rays are clearly on the up and up. The Jays have a lot of strong pitching while the Rays showcase young talent at most positions. Hopefully the event in Orlando will be well attended and the Rays can pick up more and more fans. I’m sure it is the Rays hope that as their team improves more and more that they will actually draw more fans to home games. Special events like this are designed to drum up more interest in teams and with any luck, the series will be a success.
With Spring Training starting on Thursday the Rays will report to camp with the highest expectations the team has ever had. So far in the teams ten seasons they have finished in last place in the AL East nine times. Heading into 2008, as we start to see prediction on television, website, magazines, and newspapers, most will have the Rays out of the cellar.
With the Baltimore Orioles getting trading off their veteran talent in Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada they seem to be heading for a pretty bad season. The Rays on the other hand are an organization stocked with more young talent than any other team in baseball. They are at a point where the youth is starting to mature and play a bigger and bigger role with the team.
The rotation this season will led by Scott Kazmir (24 years old), James Shields (26) and Matt Garza (24). The batting order will be bolstered by Carl Crawford (26), BJ Upton (23), and Evan Longoria (22). Throw in a veteran like Carlos Pena at 1B (46 HR last season) and this team is looking really strong.
The key to 2008 will be in the health and maturation of the youngsters. If Upton and the pitching staff can build on their success in 2007, they are a mortal lock to stay out of last place, they may even compete for third place. Make sure to keep an eye on the spring training box scores to see how well the young fellas are playing.
Late last week the Rays signed Eric Hinske to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. Hinkse played a valuable role and a bench player for the Red Sox. Hinske on the Rookie of the Year award with the Blue Jays during his first year with the Jays in 2002. From 2002 to 2004, Hinske played third base exclusively. Hinske began to struggle after his rookie season and has bounced around the league since then.
Last year with the Red Sox Hinske showed his versatility by playing left field, right field, and first base. Given the youth of the Rays and some injury problems, picking up Hinske at this price is very reasonable. Hinske hasn’t had a season as good as his rookie season but his veteran leadership and playoff experience could be very valuable to the Rays.
Should Hinske make make the big league roster he will probably start from time to time when players need rest and should do some pinch-hitting. Here’s a peek at his numbers from last season:
On February 1, the Rays signed left handed pitcher Brian Anderson to a minor league contract invited him to Spring Training. Every spring it is fun to look over the invitations to big league camp and catch some of the names. Guys like Anderson are what make it fun.
Anderson has had some success in the big leagues but was just never able to stay healthy. He is a low risk/high reward signing. If he can be anywhere near the pitcher he was in 2003 when he won 14 games he will be well worth it for the Rays. A big league can never have to many affective left handed pitchers. He could also be a nice bridge until the Rays are ready to play all of their young pitchers.
Keep an eye on him this spring to see how he performs.
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