The day has arrived; the day we have all been waiting for. Many of you have this day circled on your calendar – the day that pitchers and catchers report to camp.
This has been, by many accounts, the most active off-season in the history of the Tampa Bay Rays. With so much activity, it’s hard to narrow down the top five – but that’s what I’m here for.
Top Prospect Wil Myers
The Rays traded a pitching workhorse, James Shields, in an effort to improve the lackluster offense. It is no secret that the Rays think very highly of Wil Myers and expect him to pay immediate dividends. The problem lies in the business side of the game. The Rays stand to gain an extra year of arbitration eligibility if they start him in Triple-A and wait until some time in June before calling him up. Sure, the Rays may be a last place team come June 1, it’s a possibility. At that point, is it even worth bringing him up so soon? If the Rays are able to stay with the rest of the AL East for the first 60 games of the season, Myers could help boost them into the post season over the remaining 100. Remember, the Rays won 90 games last season. And that was with Evan Longoria playing in just 74 games. The Rays were extremely impressed when Longoria was promoted in 2007, and the similarities between the two are worth reviewing…read more. I expect to see Myers in uniform for the Rays on June 10, against Boston.
David Price Saga
There are two things to look at here. One, David Price has made it clear that he is not open to a “home-team discount”; he doesn’t think it is fair to the players or the league. Two, the recent Felix Hernandez contract puts a baseline dollar value on elite starting pitchers. Seven years – $175M is not something the Rays can afford to do. Since it appears as though his days in Tampa are numbered; how will the Rays part ways with David Price?
There are really only two options. They can trade the reigning Cy Young Award winner or receive compensation if/when he walks at the end of the 2013 season. Most people would argue for a trade, giving the Rays prospects in return. Here in lies the problem; if the Rays have a top five record in the American League entering mid-July, you don’t want to throw away a shot at 2013. Remember, baseball is about winning. If the Rays have a shot at winning this season, it’s worth holding on to Price. They may not get as much in return but they’d still receive a first round compensation pick. A pick that could turn out to be more valuable than any prospects received at the deadline; teams don’t like to give up much for “rental” players. If a team isn’t going to be able to sign him to an extension, they may not give up much for three months of David Price. I expect the Rays to be competitive but I imagine they will be sellers at the trade deadline and thus part ways with Price .
The #4 and #5 Starters
Alex Cobb, Jeff Niemann, Jake Odorizzi, and Roberto Hernandez seem to be the top four choices. At the age of 24, Cobb won 11 games in just 136.1 innings. Plus, his 7-1 record over his final 11 starts of the season show that he got better as the year went on. In those 11 outings, he allowed three runs or less in 10 of them. Don’t be surprised if he takes the mound on April 5, against the Cleveland Indians.
As for the rest of this bunch; it may be determined in March. If Niemann, Odorizzi, or Hernandez is able to separate themselves from the other two candidates, I expect they will be given the opportunity. Niemann won 36 games as a starter for the Rays from 2009-2011. He started only eight games in 2012, due to injury. Hernandez, or as you may remember Fausto Carmona, was an all-star with Cleveland in 2010 but has since seen his ERA inflate over the last two seasons – 5.25 in 2011 and 7.53 in 2012. That must improve if he is going to win a rotation spot with this organization. Odorizzi is the high upside guy here; lack of experience may ultimately be what keeps him from securing a rotation spot. As you may remember, he came over along with Myers in the deal that sent James Shields to Kansas City. He comes highly regarded – he was the third rated prospect in the Royals system.
Evan Longoria’s Health
The Rays won 90 games in 2012, and most of it was without the help of Evan Longoria – playing in just 74 games. It’s worth noting that if you look at his trend and stretch it out over 162 games, he would’ve had a career high 37 HR and 120 RBI. The Rays need him on the field for at least 140 games this season.
With the added infield depth, it appears that the Rays are focused on more frequent off-days for their star third baseman. Longoria is heading into his age 27 season; the age where many experts feel a player hits peak performance.
Also keep an eye on:
Three new infielders, James Loney, Kelly Johnson, and Yunel Escobar
Fernando Rodney can’t possibly repeat his 2012 performance, can he?
I want to see your comments; what are your top headlines for the Rays entering Spring Training?