Thursday, September 10, 2009

Will they stay or will they go?

After 8 losses in a row, 6 by way of our bullpen straight up sucking it, it's time to look ahead to next year. Everyone has their opinion on what the rays should do with their limited payroll and here is mine. I will go through each key player individually and give my 2 cents on their future with the Tampa Bay frnachise.

Carl Crawford - The big name that nobody wants to see leave. Crawford has a $10m team option that the rays are sure to pick up. The question is whether or not they will keep him or trade him. We all know that they want to keep Crawford, he has been the face of this franchise since his arrival, but it's comes down to payroll. They Rays are trying to make room for his salary, and trading Kazmir went a long way in helping to accomplish that. However, Kazmir alone is not going to be enough. The Rays need to trade or re-negotiate more salaries if they hope to keep Crawford. But even if they can keep him for next year, is it worth it? There is really no chance he re-signs once he reaches free agency, as big market teams are sure to throw and entire Rays team payroll worth of money at him. So do you trade him now for top prospects, or keep him in hopes of another playoff run then let him walk and get the 2 draft picks?
Verdict: I don't think the Rays would have moved Kazmir if they weren't going to be able to keep Crawford. My guess is he stays, and if we are out of the race by july next year, then he is shipped out.

Carlos Pena - Not many people talk about what may happen to Pena in the offseason, but his salary is biggest on the entire team. Pena is owed $10.12m in the final year of his contract. You can't argue about how valuable pena is with his glove and his bat, but he is another guy who is very likely to leave after his deal is up. So, as it goes with CC, do you keep him or trade him? I can't say with certainty how much the Rays are willing to put in to their payroll next year, but I can say that if it came down to having either Crawford or Pena, I would like to see CC stay.
Verdict: I think the rays may try and move him in the offseason, but likely won't get the return they are looking for. He stays....for now.

Pat Burrell - Owed $9m in the final year of his 2 year deal, Pat has been a waste of money so far. Hopefully he can rebound from one of the worst years in his career. I'm sure the Rays would love to shed his salary in a trade, but is their a team that stupid to deal for him?
Verdict: No, there isn't. We are stuck with The Bat for the rest of his deal.

Akinori Iwamura - Has a $4.25m team option for 2010. At this point, he is not worth 5 million when we have Zobrist who can field the position, or at the very least Willie Aybar. I know the Rays would love to keep him and have Zobrist in RF, but not for the price. Also If Desmond Jennings is ready to play at the big league level out of Spring training, then there is a cluster in the outfield and 2b might be the only place for Zobrist to start regularly.
Verdict: Attempt to sign him for a lesser contract, but he goes elsewhere. Sayonara Aki.

Greg Zaun - $2m option. This seems like an easy call but may be determined with what the Rays decide to do with Navarro in Arbitraion. Zaun proved to be a great addition late in the year and his leadership in the clubhouse is just as important.
Verdict: Option picked up

Dioner Navarro - Guaranteed to make at least 80% of his current $2.1m salary and probably more. He wasn't even half the player he was last year, so is it worth it to keep him around? Obviously Zaun is not going to be around much longer, and Riggans is certainly not the answer. The Rays could let him go and try and go after a cather in the very limited free agent pool, but a young catcher isn't easy to come by. The best move would be to deal him so you at least get something in return.
Verdict: 50/50. At this point he isn't worth the money so it depends on what the rays can get for him.

BJ Upton - Upton still hasn't developed in to the player the Rays think he can become, and his time may be running short in Tampa. With Desmond Jennings ready to be a big leaguer by next year, the outfield is going to get crowded with BJ, CC (if he stays), Joyce, Jennings, and Possibly Zobrist. BJ has shown flashes on greatness (June) and then not shown up at all (all other months of the season). He is due for arbitration and will get a significant increase from his 09 salary, think in the range of $3-4m. You obviously sign a guy like BJ instead of letting him go for nothing, but how much longer does he have in Tampa if he doesn't perform?
Verdict: I think the Rays give him one last year to become the player he is expected to be. If he has a repeat of the season he just has, we most likely will be saying goodbye to Mr. Upton.

Jason Bartlett - In my opinion, Bartlett has been the MVP of the Rays this year, and it isn't even close. He has been the most consitent by far and his power number compared to last year our astonishing. He is due for a significant raise as well, likely in the $4-5m range I would guess. He deserves every penny if not more. Pay him what he wants, because neither Bignac or Beckham are ready for the big leagues.
Verdict: Pay the man.

Starting Rotation - James Shields, Jeff Neimann, David Price, and Wade Davis are all under contract for next year. All are quite inexpensive too. Matt Garza is the only starter heading to arbitration. We have all seen what garza can do when he is on, and we have also seen what he can do when he loses his head. Expect soemthing in the area of $3m for Garza next season.
Verdict: The most likely opening rotation for next year will look like this: Shields, Garza, Neimann, Price, and Davis. Things will get interesting pretty fast once Hellickson is ready, thoguh.

Bullpen - Expect to see the greatest amount of change in the bullpen for next year. The bullpen started slow, but showed flashes of greatness during the middle of the year. But the biggest reason why they fell out of the playoff race is due to the bullpen being terrible right now. Dan Wheeler is under contract for $3.5m next year, but I can't see him staying. Expect Wheeler to get dealt at some point in the offseason. Grant Balfour and JP Howell are both due for arbitration and will likely get something in the range of $2-3m. My opinion, JP stays and Balfour goes. Joe Nelson is also due for arbitration but spent the end of the season in AAA, so i think it is safe to say he won't be back next season. Brian Shouse has a team option for $1.9m which is a waste considering we can keep Randy Choate thruogh Arbitration for much less, so consider Shouse gone. I do think we offer arbitration to Lance Cormier and keep him. He shouldn't get much more than $1m and was a pretty reliable reliever for most of the year.
Verdict: Lots of changes. Expect to see Howell back, but not in the closer role. I think the rays need to trade or go after a free agent closer that is proven. Howell showed he can get the job done for periods of time, but he clearly cannot handle the full work load. Cormier and choate should be back, along with andy sonnenstine in a long releiver role. The rays will need to go after some releiver via free agency or trades, because the last thing we want to see next year is a repeat of September 2009.

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