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Tampa Bay Rays

AL East Preview: 5 Team Toss-Up

If the Tampa Bay Rays won the division, would you be surprised? With reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price towing the line, TB does what they’ve done every year since 2008: reload, relock and fire all over again. Starting pitchers Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Roberto “Don’t Call Me Fausto….Wait, I Made Up a Fake Name and I Chose Fausto?” Hernandez do what Matt Garza, James Shields, Wade Davis, and a half dozen others have done before them–step up, fill the new free agent void and dominate. The offense cobbles together enough runs with 3B Evan Longoria providing the middle order pop and OF Desmond Jennings and OF Wil Myers enjoying breakout seasons. The bullpen is put together with spit and dental floss (again), but somehow, pitching coach Jim Hoey and King Emperor manager Joe Maddon make it work. The Rays win their fourth playoff berth in six seasons, and their third division title.
 
If the Boston Red Sox won the division, would you be surprised? After a winter expunging the locker room sewage that took down a 90-win 2011 season, the Sox ride a resurgent Jon Lester, Clay Bucholz, Ryan Dempster and John Lackey to the AL East crown, in spite of a offense that’s slightly above average, at best. The reason for it being even above par? OF Jacoby Ellsbury and 2B Dustin Pedroia look like a MVP candidates again, rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is the ROY and 3B Wil Middlebrooks enjoys a fully healthy season. Yes, the Red Sox miss DH David Ortiz, OF Shane Victorino and 1B Mike Napoli for large chunks of time to the DL (at their age, is it unexpected?), but the younger performers are able to keep them afloat. Despite the baggage of 2011 and 2012, Boston remembers they’re not too far removed from a 90+ win season, September collapse aside. They’re not heads and shoulders better than the other teams, but good enough to survive the gauntlet of the AL East.… Read more...

(Not So Instant) Trade Analysis: James Shields to the Kansas City Royals

Tampa Bay Rays get: OF Wil Myers, SP Jake Odorizzi, SP Mike Montgomery, 3B Patrick Leonard

Kansas City Royals get: SP James Shields, SP/RP Wade Davis

“This could be the deal that brings Moore’s time in Kansas City to an end”–Keith Law, ESPN

“Hell yeah this was a desperate trade. More than a quarter-century of irrelevance tends to foster desperation.”–Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports
“The Royals got owned on this one,” said an NL executive, who marveled at Friedman’s huge haul of young talent.”–Jerry Cranick, ESPN.com
Just three out of hundreds of opinions that suggested that the James Shields-centered trade from late Sunday night was nothing more than a heist for the Tampa Bay Rays. In many ways, how could you argue that? The Kansas City Royals look like Randy Travis–a drunk, pantsless victim of larceny.
The Rays dealt a fine, fine pitcher, who’s averaged 33 starts, 222 innings, a 3.80 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP for the past six seasons. He’s an extremely healthy player, especially considering that he’s such a prolific strikeout artist, sitting down 7.8 batters per nine innings. Shields placed third in Cy Young voting last season, which combined with this season, count as a great right-hander settling into his prime. He’s started 33 games each of the past two seasons, with a 3.15 ERA, 8.5 Ks per nine, a 3.64 SO/BB ratio and giving up just 403 hits in 477 innings pitched. In other words, Shields has emerged into a rotation work horse, capable of taking on big innings matched with premium results. He’s not a bonified “ace”, but he’s close.
His fellow ex-Ray Davis isn’t a slouch either. As a starter, he averaged 176 innings and 29 starts over two seasons, throwing 4.27 ERA ball, with a 1.36 WHIP. However, his fatal flaw was that in stretching his arm out, he hardly struck anyone out, with a paltry 5.6 Ks per nine innings. Davis was converted to a reliever last year with much deadlier results–70 innings, 2.43 ERA, 87 strikeouts to only 29 walks and a remarkable 1.09 WHIP. Going forward, Davis is probably better off as a reliever, though his contract makes him paid as a starter. It’d probably be a mistake to put Davis “out of position” to “justify” activating his three team options after 2014 (for $7, $8 and $10 million), but the Royals currently plan to have Davis start. Perhaps his true destination is to end up at closer, but for now, he’ll hit the mound every five days.
Kansas City probably got better with this deal in the short term, though if Odorizzi blossoms this year into an above average young starter and Wil Myers turns into the second coming of Andruw Jones (though hopefully a better ending), it could be up for debate. In my mind, Tampa got the better end of the deal, with two premium prospects, one of which seems like a sure thing to be an impact player in the Majors, as well as two other young players whose ceilings rank them as every day major leaguers. When trading a proven, work horse arm like Shields, the Rays certainly did well. They were dealing from a place of strength in the organization, and Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Alex Torres or any number of starters could come in and fill Shields role–this season just in innings, but perhaps next in performance as well.

In many ways, this feels like the trade of two years of Mark Texeira back in 2007 to the Atlanta Braves, where the Rangers got a young Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz as their bounty. KC man

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MLB Winter Meeting Wrap-Up – New Signings, Fact or Fiction?


The MLB winter meetings have adjourned, and even though OF Josh Hamilton and SP Zack Greinke–the two best free agents on the market–still remain unsigned, several key players made themselves some solid scratch joining new teams. 
Of course, we had our usual mixed bags of bone-head deals and virtuoso acquisitions. Some new contracts screamed “Fiction!”, while other ones roared “Fact”. That being said, let’s take a look at the best and worst signings–MAMBINO certified–of the MLB Winter Meetings.
FACT
Seattle Mariners get:  OF Jason Bay
Jason Bay gets: 1 year, $1 million (plus $2 million in incentives), another chance at relevancy
It’s no secret; Jason Bay could very well be finished as an everyday baseball player. After a monster year and a half in Boston where he hit 47 home runs with 46 additional extra-base hits and a 7th place MVP finish in 2009, Bay signed a 4-year, $66 million dollar contract with the pre-Mayan Disaster Mets. In the next three seasons, the Canadian outfielder had only 26 jakks and 47 extra-base hits, missing almost 200 games due to various injuries. The Mets, hurting for offensive talent in the worst way, thought they’d gain more by simply buying Bay out of his last contract year, and allowing younger, albeit more inexperienced and lower ceiling players to get reps instead. Essentially, the Mets paid Bay to go away, which is what I’ll say while I’m eating hay on this fine day.
After being hit with injury after injury, including a post-concussion symptoms and oblique issues, the now former Met reminded people more of MAMBINO whipping boy Endy Chavez than Jason Bay. However, he’s only 34 years old, has a keen batting eye and knows that this will be his last major league contract if he doesn’t produce. For the risk that the offense-strapped Mariners took, which is extremely low, this could end up paying huge dividends. From a sheer risk/reward ratio, this was a fantastic signing for Seattle.
FICTION
Anaheim Angels get: SP Joe Blanton
Joe Blanton gets: 2 years, $15 million, laughter of Phillies and Dodgers fans everywhere
Let’s be straight here; Joe Blanton isn’t terrible. He’s just wildly, incredibly, steadfastly mediocre. He’s thrown at least 175 innings every year of his career but one, but has averaged 200 innings on the whole. Blanton won’t wow you in any fashion: he’s strikes out a solid but unspectacular 6 per 9 innings and generally limits his walks to 2 per 9 innings. As was pointed out to me my ardent Halos fan and my Silver Screen and Roll colleague Ben, Blanton’s advance metrics point to the fact that his ERA wasn’t nearly as bad as his Dodgers’ mark of 4.99–he simply was unlucky. However, when you look at his numbers the pas
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Burning Qs for the 2012 MLB Season (Part 2)

The MLB season has partially gotten underway (16 teams have yet to throw a single pitch as of Friday morning), so to prep, we started our world famous internet renowned popular burning questions for 2012. We launched part 1 back on Wednesday, and here are, what we think, the most important questions from now until October.

Are the Rays the best team in the AL East?
BockerKnocker: No, of course not.


But they will give the Yankees and Red Sox fits, possibly all the way through game 162, just like last year. As everybody knows, Tampa’s rotation is one of the best in the bigs. David Price and James (dare I say “Big Game,” KOBEsh?) Shields form one of the best 1-2 punches in the game, but it is the #3 and #4 slots in the rotation that has the folks in Florida beaming. Matt Moore is probably the game’s brightest prospect right now, including The Bryce Harper Experience. Moore struck out 15 in 9+ innings last year and was credited with the Rays’ lone win against Texas in the ALDS. Then again, he struck out 15 in 9+ innings last year. To anoint this guy so quickly is problematic; not only will this be his first big league season, but he will probably be pitching on an innings limit. Following Moore will be an absolute stud in Jeremy Hellickson, who proved that he can win on the big stage last year. Hellickson posted an ERA under 3 in the vaunted American League East on the way to the Rookie of the Year award. Hellickson, however, had an awful spring, allowing an earned run per inning pitched. Veterans are usually able to shake off the effects of a horrendous spring training, but how the young buck deal with it remains to be seen.

Got to get it together, BJ

The pitching will carry the Rays all year. Even if a starter gets injured here and there, the team has some minor-league depth in Wade Davis and Alex Cobb. The problem for the Rays lies with their lineup card. The franchises in New York and Boston will produce hitting clinics all summer, featuring brand names like Cano, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Granderson. Tampa struggled to put runs on the board all year, so they did what any bat-starved team would do. They went out and signed Luke Scott, daily golden sombrero candidate and Rays retread Carlos Pena, and Jeff Keppinger. Nice. There are some familiar faces returning in Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist. But even if those guys have the years everyone knows they can have, the team will need breakout seasons from B.J. Upton (seriously, B.J., we’ve been waiting forever for one from you) and Desmond Jennings.

The Toronto Blue Jays have become somewhat of a sexy sleeper pick to make the playoffs with the extended wild-card format. The always dangerous Jose Bautista leads a decent hitting squad, especially at home, but the Jays just don’t have the firepower on the mound to make a significant move in this 3-horse race. The Baltimore Orioles round out the AL East, but they don’t deserve any more than 1 sentence because they lost to a COMMUNITY COLLEGE team on Tuesday.


Are we in any danger of seeing the Orioles, Pirates, Mariners or Royals ending their years-long futility?
KOBEsh: No, don’t be silly Peter Pan. But that doesn’t mean there’s not signs of life.

There’s not a team in that sad bunch of glorified minor league teams that I would guess play for better than third-place in their divisions, and that’s partially because the Mariners play in a four-team division.

Out of the four, the O’s have the greatest opportunity to continue their tradition of absolute abject suckitude. Looking at … Read more...