2015 Season Previews: Tampa Bay Rays

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Tampa Bay Rays

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 86-76 (2nd in AL East, 7th in MLB)

Manager: Kevin Cash (1st season with Tampa Bay, no prior experience)

Top Three Players: 3B Evan Longoria (5.3), RHP Alex Cobb (3.0), OF Desmond Jennings (2.8)

Bounce-back Player: 3B Evan Longoria

Longoria is a star. For some reason, he continues to be overlooked when people talk about the best third basemen in baseball. Perhaps it is because he has played for the Rays for seven seasons. He’s entering his age-29 season and he’s coming off of his worst career season, a career-worst .724 OPS. He slipped a little defensively, as well, seeing his range factor fall below league average for the first time in his career. Perhaps he was playing hurt, perhaps he is just aging, but Longoria will be asked to fill a major role in 2015, a role that he is familiar with. He will be the biggest bat in the Rays lineup, and, even with a lot of talented players around him, he must improve upon his 2014 season. We will look back at last season as an outlier to his incredible career, as he rebounds to post a .270/.350/.500 season.

Smyly will have Rays fans smiling...once he's healthy Courtesy: sportstalkflorida.com
Smyly will have Rays fans smiling…once he’s healthy
Courtesy: sportstalkflorida.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: LHP Drew Smyly

Smyly, acquired in the David Price trade last season, has battled some shoulder soreness this spring, which is always a scary, wearisome injury. He is coming along and will likely have his first start in mid-to-late April, likely missing the first two weeks of the season – if everything breaks right. In seven starts with the Rays last season, Smyly posted a 1.70 ERA and 0.76 WHIP, numbers that he will not duplicate over an entire season, but numbers that show why Smyly and his health are worth monitoring. Over his career, Smyly has a 3.55 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 43 starts and 241 innings. At 26, he is quite capable of becoming one of the top starters in the American League, joining Alex Cobb, when he is healthy, as well above-average starters.

Offseason Overview: The Rays appeared to give up on Wil Myers, but they got some value out of him, even with his huge struggles, acquiring OF Steven Souza, a late-blooming prospect from the Nationals, and a bit of depth (Travis Ott, Burch Smith, Rene Rivera, and Jake Bauers) to their roster and to a system, which, suddenly, isn’t drafting and producing prospects at the rate that it used to. The Rays did the same type of deal when they sent Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to Oakland for John Jaso and prospects (Boog Powell and Daniel Robertson). Even with new leadership, after Andrew Friedman left for the Dodgers, the Rays continue on with their cost-saving, intelligent ways. The Rays wrapped up their offseason by signing Asdrubal Cabrera, who appears to be the starting shortstop, even after proving to be below-average at the position the last several seasons in Cleveland, prior to being traded to Washington last season; however, at just 29 and on a one-year deal, it was a smart investment. The best move of the offseason by the Rays may have been the recent buy-low deal that brought their injury-ravaged rotation Erasmo Ramirez, a pitcher with great stuff and inconsistent results and opportunities in Seattle, for LHP Mike Montgomery, a flamed out piece of the James Shields trade with Kansas City.

The Verdict: Even with Ben Zobrist and Wil Myers gone, the Rays have a very solid roster. Nick Franklin, acquired in the David Price deal, or Tim Beckham could fill the Zobrist role, as both can handle shortstop and second base, though they won’t have the same type of offensive production. Jaso will fill the DH role, providing solid power and on-base skills, while Kevin Kiermaier provides elite defensive ability as the center fielder. If they don’t deal David DeJesus prior to Opening Day, he looks like the fourth outfielder, which is a nice option for the club to have. The biggest issue will be their rotation. Cobb and Smyly will miss the first couple of weeks due to injuries they suffered in camp, while Matt Moore may come back from Tommy John surgery by July. Jake Odorizzi made huge strides last season and Chris Archer is underrated, despite his 3.28 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over the last two seasons. If they can survive the first couple of weeks with their pitching staff decimated, the Rays will make the playoffs for the fifth time in eight seasons, and, for some reason, they will continue to be overlooked by those who cover the sport. 88-90 wins for a very undervalued, under-appreciated team.


Reds Should Be Looking For Help With Phillips Injury

Brandon Phillips took a spill in the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s game, and what was originally thought to be a left wrist injury has turned into a torn thumb ligament, likely costing the slick-fielding second baseman six weeks for Cincinnati. After Wednesday night’s win against the Cubs, the Reds were just 2.5 games out in the NL Central. Now, with Homer Bailey leaving his start on Thursday with right patella tendon pain, Billy Hamilton nursing a hamstring strain, and Joey Votto battling, once again, a quad injury, the Reds could easily head in the wrong direction.


The Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster and system is bereft of any true offensive assistance beyond their active, 25-man roster. Jack Hannahan (currently on the 60-day disabled list with a shoulder injury) just began baseball activities after spending the entire season on the shelf, Neftali Soto was on the active roster for most of Votto’s previous DL stint and the Reds appreciated him so much that they put Brayan Pena (who had never started a game at first in his career) at first base over him, and Donald Lutz was hitting well in Double-A to earn a very brief trial during Votto’s last stint, but he has been quite over-matched at Double-A. Kristopher Negron and Ramon Santiago can handle the position, but they would provide very little offensive production over the next 40 to 60 days. The remainder of the 40-man consists of outfielders like Ryan LaMarre, Juan Duran, and Yorman Rodriguez, none of which provide any help.

The Reds could add Ruben Gotay, 31, who hasn’t played in the majors since 2008, from Louisville, while reaching to lower levels either wouldn’t be a solid option or would be downright stupid.

Could the Reds look for help via a trade?

There are certainly some options out there as the trade deadline approaches. Here are five players who could fit with the Cincinnati Reds during a time that their roster is littered with injuries:


1. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays: Zobrist is 34 and the Rays are 10 games under .500 in the AL East. While they’ve been playing better of late, it likely won’t be enough to keep the club from selling off pieces. With David Price the top commodity on their roster and the focus of so many clubs, Zobrist could be overlooked a bit, which isn’t new for one of the most underrated players in baseball over the last five years. Zobrist could play second base for Cincinnati until Phillips returns, while being an option in the outfield beyond that point. In fact, Zobrist has a $7.5 million team option ($500,000 buyout) for 2015, and with Ryan Ludwick reaching free agency and the Reds needing an upgrade in left, Zobrist would be a tremendous fit. He is a switch-hitter, he has a career .354 on-base percentage, and his versatility can not be understated. While he could be pricey considering the number of clubs who could be in on him and the team-friendly contract for next season, if the Reds are interested in remaining contenders over the next two to three months, he would be the perfect fit.

2. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians: Cabrera is a free agent after the 2014 season and the Indians may not be all that interested in offering him a one-year deal on the qualifying offer, fearing that he could accept it and block the shortstop position if and when Francisco Lindor is officially ready. There may not be such a thing as a “bad” one-year deal, but there is a lot that goes into Cabrera’s availability. First and foremost, are the Cleveland Indians sellers? They’re within striking distance in the AL Central and the AL Wild Card, and with Lindor in Double-A and Mike Aviles and Jose Ramirez unlikely to be upgrades at short, would they be better off keeping him? Cabrera could likely handle second base, as Zack Cozart wouldn’t move off of short in Cincinnati due to his strong defense, but what is he worth for Cincinnati? Perhaps Ben Lively, who was dominant in the California League prior to a recent promotion to Double-A, would be interesting for pitching depth in the Indians’ system, but he isn’t going to help the team this year. Cabrera would interest several contenders, but the Indians need to determine if they consider themselves the same prior to Cabrera becoming available.

3. Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox: If we were living in 2009, Beckham would be very, very expensive in a deal; however, Beckham has been through a free-fall over the last five seasons for the White Sox, seeing his numbers, value, and playing time take various dives along the way. Injuries have been a factor during his career, but Beckham’s ability to handle second and third could make him useful for Cincinnati, especially with Todd Frazier capable of playing multiple positions, likely including left field. Beckham is under team control through the 2015 season, but after earning $4.18 million in 2014, he could also be a non-tender candidate based on his failed production. The White Sox have Micah Johnson and Marcus Semien who could potentially slide into the second base job, and Chicago has little reason to not take additional minor league depth after having one of the worst systems in baseball over the last decade prior to Rick Hahn taking over the GM job.


4. Daniel Murphy, New York Mets: The Mets likely aren’t as good as their 42-49 record, which has left them eight games out in the challenging NL East. With very little talent on the major league roster, the Mets are in a slow rebuild, whether the owners and management are aware of it is yet to be determined (signing a 40-year-old to a two-year deal isn’t the norm for a team in their situation – Bartolo Colon this past offseason). The Mets would need another miracle to contend this year, and Murphy could be the Reds’ miracle. Murphy has hit well over his career, earning his first All-Star berth this season, posting a .291/.335/.423 line over his six seasons. While his versatility is a bit more limited than it used to be, he (or Phillips) could be traded after the 2014 season, as they both wouldn’t fit being limited to second base. Murphy is arbitration-eligible for the final time in 2015 before reaching free agency, so his cost could be a bit high, and with very little ready (beside Wilmer Flores) to take over second base, the Mets could be better served giving their fans at least one reason to show up.

5. Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs: Barney is well-known for his glove, as he should be, but it could be argued that he wouldn’t help the Reds much offensively; however, the Cubs have no reason to keep him around with Arismendy Alcantara on the way up and a likely move to second base for either Addison Russell or Javier Baez in the near future in the minors, both top 10 prospects. Barney is under team-control through the 2016 season, and, like others, he wouldn’t have much value to the Reds once Phillips returns. He could be a useful utility player, especially if he hits like he has over his last eight games (.387/.387/.516).

The Cold Stove: Waiting for the 2015 Free Agent Class


Seattle Mariners' 2B: Robinson Cano
Seattle Mariners’ 2B: Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Shin-Soo Choo, and Carlos Beltran all signed big deals within a matter of weeks, and then…baseball fans were left wondering what happened to the stove, and while a watched pot never boils, the wait for the next big signing seems to be longer than the Cubs World Series drought…ZING!

The 2014 free agent class certainly had some impressive names on the list, and after Clayton Kershaw signed his seven-year, $215 million extension on Thursday, the list of 2015 upcoming free agents took a major hit. Teams have a lot of money due to the incoming television mega-deals that Major League Baseball has signed, and that revenue is allowing clubs to lock up many of their homegrown players prior to reaching free agency. With so few superstars actually reaching free agency, it appears that those who do are going to cash in with some lucrative deals, even if they aren’t necessarily worthy such an investment.

Masahiro Tanaka
Masahiro Tanaka

Teams seem quite hesitant to lock up the likes of Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Ervin Santana, and while Garza doesn’t require draft-pick compensation like Jimenez and Santana, can you blame teams for not wanting to give out a five-year, $80 to $100 million deal to those types of pitchers? The pitching market will likely be set and begin to move after Masahiro Tanaka signs, which will require a team to give $20 million in a posting fee on top of a $100 million deal for a player who has never thrown a pitch at the Major League level. It seems terrifying from these poor, baseball blogger’s eyes to see teams shelling out this kind of money to:

  • Masahiro Tanaka: Tanaka has gone 53-9 with a 1.44 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over 611.1 innings over the last three seasons in Japan – while tossing 30 complete games and averaging eight innings per start over 76 starts. The wear and tear on his arm rivals that of Daisuke Matsuzaka, yet he’ll be the top free agent and teams are clamoring to invest heavily in him. It’s as if teams forgot that Matsuzaka’s shoulder and elbow looked like road kill after 61 starts in Boston – and his career was a train wreck. Is Tanaka worth nine figures?
  • Ubaldo Jimenez: Jimenez was 20-25 in his first 61 starts in Cleveland, posting a 5.10 ERA and 1.55 WHIP over 340.2 innings…and then the second half of 2013 happened, and Jimenez was 6-5 with a 1.82 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 13 starts and 84 innings and he is suddenly an ace! Sure, Indians’ pitching coach Mickey Callaway helped Jimenez with his balance and delivery, but did he make him into the same pitcher who went 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in the first half of 2010, or will Jimenez return to the mess that he was in his first 61 starts in Cleveland? Is Jimenez worth $75 to $90 million?
  • Ervin Santana: Santana was a salary dump last winter, as the Los Angeles Angels sent him to the Kansas City Royals with $1 million (the Royals paid the remaining $12 million of his contract) after Santana posted a horrific 5.16 ERA, 74 ERA+, 1.27 WHIP and 9-13 record over 30 starts and 178 innings in 2012. Then, Santana went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA, 127 ERA+, and 1.14 WHIP over 211 innings and 32 starts, and he is the second coming of Christ…or is he? If Santana was the top state-side arm on the market, wouldn’t he be worthy of an offer? Maybe clubs are being cautious of Santana, who has had three full seasons with ERAs over 5.00 and ERA+ under 90, while tossing in five seasons with an ERA under 4.30 and an ERA+ of 106 or more, and they aren’t too keen on the idea of giving $100 million (which Santana was said to be seeking) for such dramatic, roller coaster production. Salary relief or not, Santana was acquired for Brandon Sisk, who missed all of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery, a 28-year-old relief prospect. Is he worth this type of commitment?
Courtesy: twinsdaily.com
Courtesy: twinsdaily.com

Perhaps the slow movement of the pitching market is because of how ugly it actually is once you look at the numbers, while teams could be looking ahead to the 2015 free agency class. Even without Kershaw, there appears to be much better options available, and with so many pitchers with options, could teams be hoping to cash in on acquiring strong pitchers coming off of down seasons who won’t necessarily cost their respective clubs draft-pick compensation?

Here are the names of some pitchers who could reach free agency next winter if their options are not picked up:

While these pitcher WILL (at least currently scheduled) reach free agency after the 2014 season:

Homer BaileyJosh Beckett, Jorge De La Rosa, Ryan Dempster, Gavin Floyd, Kyle Kendrick, Jon Lester, Colby Lewis, Justin Masterson, Brandon McCarthy, Jake Peavy, Wandy Rodriguez, Max Scherzer, and James Shields.

Los Angeles Dodgers SS: Hanley Ramirez

With San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez, Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, Colorado Rockies outfielder/first baseman Michael Cuddyer, and designated hitters like Detroit Tigers Victor Martinez, Boston Red Sox David Ortiz, and Chicago White Sox Adam Dunn, the hitting market is also relatively strong; although, not as enticing as the possible pitchers who could be available next winter.

There are still some useful names out there on the free agent market, but is it time to wonder whether it is the player names (Nelson Cruz), the draft-pick compensation (Kendrys Morales, Stephen Drew, Jimenez, Santana), or teams looking to the potential free agent market in 2015 that is causing the hot stove to have frozen? With teams reporting to Spring Training in about five weeks, there could be busy days ahead of us, or there could be a lot of agents being replaced by dissatisfied baseball players who were left behind.

Indians Stuff, 12/20/12

IndiansI write about the Indians over at www.wahoosonfirst.com and Bleacher Report when I’m not writing things here. You should check these out, just in case you need something to read while the sky is falling due to a lazy Mayan:

Who is going to DH for the Indians with the current roster? http://wahoosonfirst.com/2012/12/20/who-will-be-tribes-dh-in-2013/

Thoughts on the Indians’ acquisition of Mark Reynolds and Trevor Bauer:


Should the Reds and Indians do a Chris Perez for Devin Mesoraco Trade?


Three pretend trades that the Indians should try to make:


2013 Indians Batting Order:


How many wins is Terry Francona worth?


Seven starting pitchers that the Indians should target:


Why the Indians can win now with Terry Francona:


Indians Stuff, 8/28

Lots of stuff on Bleacher Report if you would like to check it out! Make me famous, people!!!!

5 ways the Indians can salvage the 2012 season:


How does the Dodgers and Red Sox blockbuster trade hurt the Indians?


Who deserves the most blame for the Indians’ 2012 season?


Manny Acta calls out ownership


How can the Indians stop the bleeding?


The disaster-filled decision-making 2012 Indians season


Bleacher Report Links, 8/2

Some recent posts at Bleacher Report, mostly on the Indians:

A look ahead to the 2013 Cleveland Indians:


Grading the Philadelphia Phillies’ Deadline Deals:


5 Trades the Cleveland Indians should have made at the trade deadline:


10 Indians who were sweating out the trade deadline:


Expect a big 2nd half for Carlos Santana:



Indians Stuff, 7/2/2012

I’ve been busy with Indians material for Bleacher Report lately. Read the following, share with friends:

Indians Follow-Up to Attendance Issues: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1238459-mlb-follow-up-to-5-ways-indians-can-increase-attendance

What Move Should the Indians Make When Hafner Returns: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1241288-mlb-what-move-should-the-indians-make-with-the-return-of-travis-hafner

Right-Handed Bats the Indians Could Trade For: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1242551-mlb-right-handed-bats-that-should-interest-the-cleveland-indians

Lineup Changes that Manny Acta Could Consider: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1243439-what-lineup-changes-should-manny-acta-consider-to-boost-indians-offense