2015 Season Previews: San Diego Padres

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! 

San Diego Padres

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 84-78 (2nd in NL West, 8th in MLB)

Manager: Bud Black (617-680 in eight seasons with San Diego)

Top Three Players: OF Justin Upton (2.8), RHP James Shields (2.6), C Derek Norris (2.2)

Bounce-back Player: OF Matt Kemp

Entering his age-30 season, Kemp gets a fresh start away from Los Angeles, ready to prove that he is close to the elite producer that he was in 2011 and 2012 than the injury-plagued financial burden that he was in 2013. You can’t really argue that he was valueless in 2014, having watched his .309/.365/.606 second half eruption, which included 17 doubles and 17 home runs. If Kemp is the player that we saw down the stretch, the acquisition was a steal, even with the monies owed to the slugger.

Can Middlebrooks makde enough contact to have value? Courtesy: Getty Images
Can Middlebrooks makde enough contact to have value?
Courtesy: Getty Images

Fantasy Player to Watch: 3B Will Middlebrooks

Another addition, Middlebrooks, 26, looks to rebuild his value as he heads into the arbitration process next winter. After a powerful debut in 2012, Middlebrooks appeared to lose something, or, at least, gain a giant hole in his swing. The strikeout rate jumped to 29.9 percent in 2014, leading the Red Sox to move Xander Bogaerts to third and remove the once-promising prospect from an everyday role, which likely would have happened even if he didn’t miss nearly three months after having a finger broken by a pitch. A fresh start, a new organization, and an opportunity – those things will go a long way in allowing Middlebrooks to figure things out. Even with a tough offensive environment, Middlebrooks should have solid value, even if it comes with a .240 average, due to the power potential.

Offseason Overview: The Padres hired A.J. Preller to become their GM last August, and in his first offseason at the helm, ownership opened up the wallet like never before, allowing the 37-year-old Cornell graduate to piece together an immediate competitor. Preller traded for an entire outfield, acquiring Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, and Wil Myers to patrol spacious Petco Park. He added Middlebrooks at third through a deal with Boston, got a slugging catcher in Derek Norris for a solid young pitcher in Jesse Hahn in a deal with Oakland, and then signed their rotation horse when he added James Shields. Preller’s only competition for most active general manager was likely Oakland’s Billy Beane, and both of them improved their teams by taking huge risks.

The Verdict: The Padres immediately became competitors, but we will have to wait and see whether the addition of all of the right-handed power will increase the club’s ability to score runs. They have plenty of talent on the roster, and that is before we even get to the starting rotation. Shields will be the ace, but the remaining group of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy is a gifted compilation of powerful arms that are capable of missing a lot of bats. While so many wondered what the defense would be like with Myers in center field, with the extreme strikeout potential from the rotation, it dulls that worry a bit. The Padres are very likely to compete for a wild card spot, as, even with the huge additions, they still fall slightly short of the Dodgers in the NL West. PECOTA saw the team improving substantially from their 77 wins last season to 84 in 2015, and I can see them getting to 88 wins, as well.

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The Intelligence of the Rays Shines Again

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Tampa Bay Rays have signed right-handed starter Chris Archer to an extension. The deal will, potentially, buyout, when including the options, three free agency seasons from Archer. The 25-year-old wasn’t arbitration-eligible until after the 2015 season.

Rays RHP Chris Archer
Rays RHP Chris Archer

After going 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over 23 starts and 128.2 innings in his rookie season, the Rays were wise to lockup the 6’3″ righty, giving the Rays a solid 1-2 foundation in Archer and Matt Moore in coming seasons, especially with the likely departure of David Price through free agency or a trade prior to the end of his team-controlled time in Tampa, which would be the end of the 2015 season.

The Rays seem to be having a more difficult time developing their own since they’ve been drafting at the back-end of the MLB Draft due to their recent run of success. Last season’s trade with the Kansas City Royals that send James Shields to K.C. brought the Rays major league-ready talent in Jake Odorizzi and Wil Myers, but the system isn’t nearly as deep as it was several seasons ago, and a lot of the top-end, top of the draft talent that came to the Rays in their worst seasons are now becoming too expensive to realistically keep due to the club’s continued revenue struggles in a weak baseball market.

The Rays ownership and management may not have a lot of money to spend, but they can’t stop here. There are still a few players on the club’s roster that would be worth locking up to similar contracts, including the aforementioned Myers, whose ability to hit for power will be absolutely damning to the Rays within the arbitration process.

Alex Cobb should get a similar deal to what Archer received, though, he could be receive quite a bit more guaranteed money due to reaching arbitration after the 2014 season. Cobb’s success could also lead to more guaranteed money, as the 26-year-old right-hander had a breakout 2013 season, interrupted by a horrific injury on a comebacker, in which Cobb went 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, establishing himself as a possible pseudo-ace if the Rays were to field offers for Price during or after the 2014 season. Already one of the top 10 pitchers in the American League, Cobb’s devastating changeup and above average control would provide the Rays with the top of the rotation arm that they can continue to add to that rotation with youngsters like Odorizzi, Nate Karns (who already 26), Enny Romero, and Alex Colome (when he returns from his suspension).

Additionally, Desmond Jennings appears to be a fantastic candidate for the club to lockup. Like Cobb, Jennings will be arbitration-eligible after the 2015 season. Already 27, Jennings hasn’t really shown star-level talent, but he has the tools to be productive, although he did show negative value defensively in his first full season in centerfield. Perhaps Jennings is more of a left fielder than a centerfielder, but the Rays had quite a bit of success out of a toolsy outfielder who played left for several years, Carl Crawford. Jennings blend of power, speed, and solid but not elite on-base skills, would be a nice addition to the long-term building of a club that continues to come up short offensively.

 

Rays 3B Evan Longoria
Rays 3B Evan Longoria

Evan Longoria will be a Ray for life due to his MLB Player’s Association loathing contract, but the Archer contract could and should be a sign of things to come from Tampa. The Rays need more contracts like those of Longoria, Archer, and Moore to survive in the current market that is only being enhanced by the success of Major League Baseball Advanced Media and local television contract revenue. As those who focus on the numbers and dollars of baseball seem to be developing the cost of a win as a foundation for free agency money, it appears less likely that the Rays and other cash-strapped teams will find it more difficult to fill holes on their rosters with free agents, which will make these so-called team-friendly deals all the more necessary for those teams. It will be interesting if the player’s association and agents find a way to combat the risk for the player in taking such financial security deals, while potentially leaving millions of dollars on the bargaining table. In the meantime, teams, especially the Rays, should continue to do all that they can to make these Archer-like deals happen.

 

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.

HanRam
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.

The Hot Stove Has Caught On Fire

It certainly hasn’t taken long for teams to begin dishing out large contracts that they’ll probably regret in a couple of years with free agency well under way. However, the last 24 to 48 hours have supplied the greatest number of gifts, with a lot of examples of “huh”, “why”, “seriously”, and “come again” worthy reactions.

The Trades

The Doug Fister Trade

Detroit Tigers get: 2B Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Ian Krol, and LHP Robbie Ray

Washington Nationals get: RHP Doug Fister

FisterIt has to be called the Doug Fister trade because no one really cares about any of the players that the Tigers got back, right? If this wasn’t a total salary dump, I don’t know what it was, as the “prize” return for the Tigers is Ray, who was a 10th round pick in 2010 and had a 6.56 ERA in 2012 in his first attempt at High-A Potomac before bouncing back and having a solid season between High-A and Double-A in 2013, really doesn’t seem like a tremendous prospect; though, we have been proven wrong by Dave Dombrowski before. After the Tampa Bay Rays received one of the top young prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, in return for two controllable seasons of James Shields, you would think that the Tigers could have received more for Fister, who had managed to post an impressive 32-20 record to go along with a 3.29 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 440.2 innings with Detroit. Fister now joins Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Gio Gonzalez within the Washington rotation, making the Nationals strong contenders for first-year manager Matt Williams in 2014.

Winner: Washington Nationals.

Smelling Fowler

Houston Astros get: CF Dexter Fowler

Colorado Rockies get: RHP Jordan Lyles and OF Brandon Barnes

Fowler1Fowler seemed to be on the trading block for some time, but he was finally dealt on Tuesday. The Astros get two affordable seasons (two-years, $11.6 million) of Fowler while they wait for George Springer to prove himself ready, or…they just acquired a nicer trade chip than what they gave up. Jordan Lyles may still be just 23 years old, but he hasn’t put it together in 377 major league innings, posting a 5.35 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9, and it seems very unlikely that shifting to Coor’s Field is going to assist his progression to sudden success. Brandon Barnes has some ability, but it isn’t as an everyday player, as his atrocious 127:21 K:BB and .635 OPS over 445 plate appearances goes to show. Barnes could be a fourth outfielder for the Rockies, with Carlos Gonzalez sliding over to center and Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson battling it out for the left field job, or Colorado could look to free agency to upgrade in center. This deal didn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Rockies unless they saw something in Lyles and didn’t feel that Fowler would ever live up to his hot start from 2013, when he posted a 1.032 OPS and then fell off of the face of the earth. Even if Fowler doesn’t live up to those numbers, he is the most valuable piece in the deal.

Winner: Houston Astros.

The Unimpressive Three-Way

Cincinnati Reds get: LHP David Holmberg.

Tampa Bay Rays get: RHP Heath Bell and cash from Arizona, and C Ryan Hanigan from Cincinnati.

Arizona Diamondbacks get: RHP Justin Choate and a PTBNL

The Rays are always viewed as a smart club and they were able to land another potential closer after losing Fernando Rodney to free agency, leaving the club with Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo to battle it out for the gig. On top of that, they received an excellent framing catcher in Hanigan, who has proved to be quite valuable to Cincinnati over the last several years in game-calling, while inking the backstop to a three-year extension upon the completion of the deal. The bad part, though, is that both Bell and Hanigan weren’t very good last season, with Hanigan, in particular, looking like a nightmare offensively, posting a .198/.306/.261 line over 260 plate appearances, leading to the Reds leaning on Brayan Pena, who was signed to a two-year deal earlier this winter, and Devin Mesoraco, the young, power-hitting catcher who will finally get a full-time look in Cincinnati. The Diamondbacks dumped some salary while dealing Bell for a young, breathing body. Choate pitched in the New York-Penn League in 2013 at the age of 22 and he isn’t much of a prospect. The Reds dumped Hanigan, who was arbitration-eligible, while getting a 22-year-old left-handed starter, who posted a 2.75 ERA in 26 Double-A starts in 2013 with a 116:50 K:BB in 157.1 innings. While Holmberg wasn’t as sexy as Tyler Skaggs or Archie Bradley within the Diamondbacks system, he could become a solid back of the rotation arm or a Sean Marshall-like relief pitcher for the Reds. The good news for Cincinnati is that Mesoraco gets his shot and Holmberg adds some near-ready pitching depth after the likely departure of Bronson Arroyo via free agency.

Winner: Everyone looks like a winner here, as the deal worked well for all three teams, but the Rays received the most help in assisting the team win in 2013.

Why Did Beane Make That (Michael) Choice?

Texas Rangers get: OF Michael Choice and 2B Chris Bostick

Oakland A’s get: OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom

ChoiceThis seemed like an odd deal for Oakland and GM Billy Beane, as Gentry is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and Lindblom has been pretty terrible since being traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies in the 2012 Shane Victorino deal, as he has posted a 5.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over 54.2 innings since leaving Los Angeles (2.91 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 77.1 innings prior to the trade). Maybe a return to the west coast is what Lindblom needs to be a useful reliever, but by getting the elite defensive skills and increasing salary of the light-hitting (.280/.355/.366 in 763 plate appearances), 29-year-old Gentry, and giving up the potential that still exists in the bat of Michael Choice, who is 24 and isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2017, Beane showed that he may be looking beyond three years from now and that he could be putting the A’s in win-now mode. Bostick is a nice second base prospect, having posted a .282/.354/.452 line over 555 plate appearances as a 20-year-old in Low-A in 2013, but the Rangers have quite a few young, up-the-middle prospects (Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, and Luis Sardinas) and they don’t seem to have a need there, while the A’s have run Jemile Weeks out of town in a trade with Baltimore and Eric Sogard was very…meh…in 2013 at the major league level. Winning now is important, but it doesn’t seem like the A’s really acquired anyone who can really help them in 2014 to get over the hump.

Winner: Texas Rangers.

The Free Agent Splashes

The Yankees Spend Like Crazy…Again.

Who They Signed: C Brian McCann (five-years, $85 million); OF Jacoby Ellsbury (seven-years, $153 million);

McCannWhy It Matters: Notice that the Yankees have committed nearly $240 million after having been rumored to be on a mission to avoid the $189 million threshold of the payroll luxury tax, while not having signed their All-Star second baseman, Robinson Cano, just yet. And, don’t forget, the team is rumored to be interested in signing Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who could be had at a lesser amount after the posting fee was limited to a maximum $20 million bid on Wednesday. McCann is a huge upgrade over the combined .213/.289/.298 triple slash that Yankees’ catchers posted in 2013, while Ellsbury provides great defense and speed as the Yankees try to move on from all of the injuries that suffocated their success this past season. Even if the Yankees are done with the big name signings, including Cano, they should be a better team in 2014.

Twinkies Filled Their Rotation

Who Minnesota Signed: RHP Phil Hughes (three-year, $24 million); RHP Ricky Nolasco (four-year, $49 million);

Why It Matters: The Twins starting pitchers posted a 5.26 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 2013, worst in the majors, and the ERA was a whopping 0.45 points higher than the Toronto Blue Jays’ starters (4.81), who finished 29th. Hughes still has youth and potential, but he needs to start tapping into that potential after posting a horrific 5.19 ERA over 29 starts and 145.2 innings. Shockingly, Hughes’ numbers would have made him a solid number three starter for the Twins in 2013…they were that bad. Adding Nolasco was special, but he isn’t an ace. He will likely be the Twins’ Opening Day starter in 2014 by default and he should make the rotation slightly better; although, it couldn’t get much worse.

Kazmir Rejuvenates and Cashes In Athletically

Who Oakland Signed: LHP Scott Kazmir (two-year, $22 million)

Why It Matters: Signing Kazmir to a lucrative contract could lead to another movie about the Oakland A’s after the success of Moneyball. While Kazmir’s resurgence was quite surprising, an eight-figure deal, after making all of one total appearance in the majors in 2011 and 2012 due to severe shoulder woes, was even more surprising. Possessing a mid-90’s fastball and a left arm appears to be all that it took to find a big deal. Kazmir’s story is worthy of attention and praise, but it is a story that needs to be monitored to see if he can maintain the same success in Oakland over the next two seasons. His presence will allow the A’s and Beane to shop LHP Brett Anderson at the winter meetings next week, which could net the club some additional win-now resources.

The Tigers No Longer on the Prowl for a Closer

Who Detroit Signed: RHP Joe Nathan (two-year, $20 million)

Why It Matters: Detroit needed a lockdown closer after shuffling through Jose Valverde, Phil Coke, Jose Veras, and Bruce Rondon at closer before Joaquin Benoit took over and did a nice job over the rest of the season. They got their man after signing Joe Nathan away from the Texas Rangers. Nathan closed 80 games out the last two seasons, while posting a 2.09 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, and at 38 years of age, he doesn’t look to be slowing down after missing the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery. After dealing Prince Fielder to improve at second base with Ian Kinsler, moving Miguel Cabrera back to first, and plugging Drew Smyly into the rotation (after dealing Fister), the Tigers will have a completely new look in 2014. With their strong rotation, Nathan’s shutdown ability makes them quite dangerous.

Fish Hook Their Catcher and the Red Sox Snag Another

Who Miami Signed: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (three-year, $21 million)

Who Boston Signed: C A.J. Pierzynski (one-year, $8.25 million)

Why It Matters: With a lot of focus heading towards catcher defense and framing, highlighted by the Rays commitments to Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan this winter, other clubs continue to look towards offensive-minded catchers, and the Miami Marlins and Boston Red Sox locked down their backstops this week. The Marlins seem to have very little hope for a quick turnaround and Saltalamacchia isn’t going to be the other piece to help Giancarlo Stanton and Miami to an NL East title, but it is a start…as long as they don’t trade him before the 2014 season starts. Pierzynski will be on his fifth organization and, despite being hated by some of his competition, he could be a tremendous asset to the character and chemistry that existed within the Boston World Series clubhouse. I guess he is better to have on your team than to play against him.

 

 

Why the Rays MUST Trade David Price

Price
David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays had another excellent season in 2013, winning 90 games for the fifth time in six seasons, something that seemed nearly impossible during the club’s first ten years in existence, when the Rays lost 91 or more games each season, including more than 100 games three times. Obviously, winning is still somewhat new to the Rays organization, but it will continue to be something that they intend on doing, as the smart, creative thinkers in the front office manipulate their data and their finances to field a strong, perennial contender in the AL East.

With that being said, now is the time for the team to trade their best starting pitcher, David Price.

It isn’t a money thing. It isn’t something that improves the current roster. It has everything to do with the future of the franchise and the Rays’ success.

Prior to the 2013 season, the Rays traded James Shields, Wade Davis, and Elliot Johnson to the Kansas City Royals for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard. While Davis had an affordable contract and showed some signs of potential in 2012 out of the bullpen, the two years remaining on Shields’ contract was the primary focus of the deal for the Royals. The Rays were seeking major league ready talent and received Myers as the centerpiece of their return, a right-handed hitting slugger who compiled a whopping 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, leaving him as the No.4 ranked prospect in baseball entering the 2013 season. Odorizzi has always had solid stuff and was likely to become a mid-rotation starter, while Montgomery, who was the 19th best prospect in baseball prior to the 2011 season (according to Baseball America), before injuries and control issues halted his progression. Myers was obviously the major part of the deal, and while they lost Shields, the team was in need of offensive help, which Myers bat certainly provided. The deal will make the Rays competitive for several seasons, but they need more help than just Myers and Odorizzi, and that is why Price must go.

In 2013, Chris Archer made 23 starts for the Rays, while Odorizzi made seven appearances (four starts), Alex Colome made three appearances (all starts). and Enny Romero made one appearance (a start), and all three of these starting pitching prospects will play a major role with the club going forward; however, the club’s number one prospect, Taylor Guerrieri, had Tommy John surgery and will likely miss all of 2014, on top of a second positive test for a drug of abuse, which leads to some character questions considering his already checkered past. Beyond Odorizzi, Colome, and Romero likely contributing in 2014 in some way, the rest of the Tampa Bay system is not where it has been in years past. Their top position prospect is shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, who missed nearly all of 2013 due to an injury to his left knee, a tremendous defensive shortstop with excellent speed who may not have a strong enough hit tool to be any more than a No.8 or No.9 hitter in the majors. The rest of the system doesn’t appear anywhere near ready to help the club, which could be a huge issue within the next couple of seasons when you consider that the Rays ranked in the bottom half of the AL in runs scored (9th).

The Rays need bats, not necessarily major league ready bats but bats that will be ready to help the club within the next two to three years. However, landing position players with team-control is also a sufficient alternative. Within the top 20 players in the system (according to MLB.com), the Rays have 10 starting pitching prospects, all of whom have posted solid minor league numbers and have very good stuff, including: Blake Snell, Ryne Stanek, Jeff Ames, Jesse Hahn, Felipe Rivero, and the previously mentioned Guerrieri, Odorizzi, Colome, Montgomery, and Romero. Only Lee, Mikie Mahtook, and Tim Beckham, the failed No.1 overall pick from the 2008 MLB Draft, have sniffed competition above Double-A among the 10 position prospects on the list. To maintain strong pitching and enough offense to win games in the AL East, the Rays must deal from their strength, and that is David Price.

While creating potential trade scenarios is always fun, it is also very unpredictable, as you never know what teams are actually thinking when it comes to their long-term outlook on a given player. With that being said, here are a few deals that would make sense for the Rays:

Courtesy: ESPN.com
Courtesy: ESPN.com

Price to the Texas Rangers for Jurickson Profar, Rougned Odor, and Lewis Brinson. Profar could take over second base in 2014, pushing Ben Zobrist to left field, keeping Myers in right and Desmond Jennings in center. Yunel Escobar is under contract for the 2014 season at $5 million and Profar can move to short in 2015, giving Odor another season to fine tune his skills at second. Brinson is an absolute wild card. He has tremendous tools but no true bat to ball skills at this point, which led to his 191 strikeouts in 447 at-bats in 2013 for Hickory.

Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Scott Schebler. Pederson is near ready to step in and play left, with Jennings manning center field, and has the ability to drive the ball and utilize his speed to the tune of several 20 HR/20 SB seasons. Seager could be a future star on the left side of the infield, but he may not be able to handle short long-term and Evan Longoria is at third, so…first base or an outfield corner could still allow Seager to be useful – he will be capable of those types of numbers. Schebler had 69 extra-base hits in the California League in 2013 at the age of 22, while striking out 140 times. He could be useful since he hit .301 against left-handers and .294 against right-handers, but after a pretty sad season in 2012, he is a gamble as a prospect when you consider that his lone productive season was in a hitter’s paradise.

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Price to the Cleveland Indians for Francisco Lindor, Danny Salazar, Tyler Naquin, and C.C. Lee. Lindor, like Profar, would be a tremendous addition at shortstop for the long haul. He may not hit 15-20 home runs, but he has great on-base skills and contact ability as a hitter, setting the table for the middle of the order from the top of the lineup. Salazar is a beast and while the Rays may not have a need for another arm, Salazar could be a solid No.2 starter for years to come (and the Indians don’t really have a better prospect to team with Lindor to make this a good deal). Naquin is an above-average defender with a strong arm who may never hit enough to be more than a No.4 outfielder. He does have solid on-base skills but if he turns into a Sam Fuld type of player, the Rays should be thrilled – and the Rays manage to get a lot out of players like Fuld. Lee had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and is a very good relief prospect as the final piece.

While none of these trades will net the Rays 15-20 wins like David Price could in 2014, the club has to look beyond 2014, as they did in 2013 when they traded another top of the rotation starter in James Shields for several solid pieces and spare parts. The baseball operations and player development staff of the Rays is very intelligent and they likely have several ideas laid out involving a potential deal for David Price this winter. As rumors fly in the coming weeks of the hot stove season, Rays fans can only hope that the haul that the club could net is as strong as some of these mentioned above.

With a system that isn’t as strong as it once was, now is the time for the Tampa Bay Rays to make this move.

Paying the Price

Price3When David Price left his start on Wednesday night due to tight triceps, the season probably flashed before the eyes of the Rays organization and their fans. Luckily, an MRI has already come back as “nothing serious”, but swelling from the initial injury could have prevented a clear interpretation of the results. The club will hope that an injury to the triceps won’t work its way into the need for Tommy John surgery.

Maybe the issue was that he couldn’t get loose last night because things never seemed right from the start. The final line: 2.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 57 pitches (37 strikes), , but should we wonder if Price has been pitching through an injury all season?

The season has been full of ups and downs, as Price is battling Jeremy Hellickson for the title of most inconsistent of the Rays pitchers, as both have ERAs over 5.00. In fact, Price has five quality starts in nine tries this season (55 percent) after having 26 quality starts in 31 tries in his 2012 Cy Young season (84 percent), including 12 straight from June 19 through August 21. He hasn’t been the Price of old.

After throwing 117 pitches in his start on May 9, you could wonder if it was related to pitch counts, but Price has routinely thrown 115-plus pitches in starts in his career, averaging 107 pitches per start in 2012. Could be pitch type, as Price has basically eliminated a slider from his repertoire, while throwing his curveball more frequently this season (14.3 percent) than last season (11.2 percent)?

Price1A slider tends to be harder on the elbow because it is thrown at near fastball velocity while producing torque on the ball and force around the ball. While all pitches are thrown with the same arm velocity to keep hitters guessing, the force around the ball (breaking pitches) and through the ball (fastball) determines the pitch speed and the forces on the arm, elbow, and shoulder. In other words, Price’s arm shouldn’t have been affected by pitch counts or pitch type, but more likely is the fact that throwing overhand and throwing so hard is not a normal action for the body.

Regardless of whatever the issue is, can the Rays survive without their primary workhorse?

As mentioned, Jeremy Hellickson has struggled this season, but the Rays have had excellent starts from Matt Moore and Alex Cobb. Roberto Hernandez has been a bit inconsistent in the No.5 starter role, but his performance, to this point, would qualify as his best season since he won 19 games in 2007 for the Cleveland Indians.

Waiting in Triple-A are Jake Odorizzi (acquired from the Kansas City Royals with Wil Myers in the James Shields trade) and Chris Archer. The two have posted stellar numbers for Durham:

Odorizzi:

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 23 Durham AAA 4 0 3.83 8 44.2 34 19 19 7 15 47 1.097 6.9 9.5 3.13
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/16/2013.

Archer:

Year Age Tm Lev W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 24 Durham AAA 4 2 3.97 7 34.0 36 17 15 3 15 39 1.500 9.5 10.3 2.60
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/16/2013.

Odorizzi hasn’t been as hittable as Archer, but he has allowed more home runs than Archer. Archer was battling with Jeff Niemann and Roberto Hernandez for the No.5 starter role early in spring training, so you would think that he would be considered the more “ready” prospect by the Rays organization. Both are quality, future contributors to the cost conscious Tampa club and both will likely receive a handful of starts during the 2013 season.

Price2Because David Price is an outstanding pitcher, the Rays and baseball fans alike should be holding out hope that this is nothing more than tightness and an inability to get loose. An arm injury and surgery would be devastating for Price and the Rays, but it would be bad for the game, as well. Baseball needs to keep stars like Price, who is a very outgoing and friendly guy with the fans via Twitter and stadium interactions, as the face of the league.


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Are the Royals Good Enough to “Go for It”?

ShieldsKansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore apparently thinks that his team is good enough to win within the next two years. That has to be the case after Moore traded one of the best prospects in baseball, Wil Myers, with RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Mike Montgomery, and 3B Patrick Leonard to the Tampa Bay Rays for two years of RHP James Shields and RHP Wade Davis.

For whatever reason, the Royals looked like they were going to go with Jeff Francoeur in right field in 2013, despite Myers ripping 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012. Was Myers expendable at the cost of playing Francoeur, who, after posting a .665 OPS in 2012, is in the final year of his contract in 2013?

While Kansas City has Wade Davis under contract through 2017, one has to wonder if he is really a starting pitcher. Davis posted a 2.43 ERA over 54 appearances and 70.1 innings, posting an 87:29 K:BB pitching only out of the bullpen in 2012. Prior to last season, Davis was 25-22 with a 4.22 ERA in 64 career starts, posting a 254:138 K:BB in 388.1 innings for the Rays.

While James Shields has a 31-22 record and a 3.15 ERA over the last two seasons, posting a 448:123 K:BB in 477 innings, Davis will be the wildcard in this deal, especially considering the amount of young controllable talent the Royals gave up in the deal.

Beyond the trade is the makeup of the current Royals roster. Is it championship caliber? Can the Royals compete with the Tigers, who have reloaded the pitching staff by re-signing Anibal Sanchez, teaming him with Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer to form one of the top pitching staffs in baseball, while still packing the Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera punch?

The Royals will need more than a couple of dynamic seasons out of Shields and Davis to make it work. Moore acquired Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels, while committing $25 million over three years to journeyman Jeremy Guthrie. Can Shields, Davis, Santana, Guthrie, and Will Smith, Luke Hochevar, or Bruce Chen be enough to become a contender?

The answer will lie in the bats of the young stars on the Royals roster. Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Eric Hosmer have shown glimpses of superstardom, while mixing in a lot of inconsistencies. Shortstop Alcides Escobar looks like he is heading towards becoming a star, while catcher Salvador Perez looks to be on the same track. Designated Hitter Billy Butler is the leader of the team and all he does is hit. If the team gets a little consistency out of Moustakas, Gordon, and Hosmer, while hoping that Lorenzo Cain stays healthy in center and Francoeur looks like a baseball player again (like he did in 2011 when he posted an .805 OPS), the Royals may have enough to compete.

However, the Royals are a small-market team. If the team is able to create extreme revenue with a new TV contract, then this type of trade makes sense, but it is unlikely that the team will have the cash to re-sign Shields after the 2014 season, if he is even worth re-signing at that point. Is that worth the seven years of Myers, Odorizzi, and Montgomery?

The Royals have positioned themselves well by acquiring a lot of veteran arms to upgrade their rotation; however, Davis, Guthrie, and Santana aren’t models of consistency. If each of their starters reach their peak levels of performance, they could very well become a true force in a weak AL Central. They will need a lot of help from their young position players, though.

The Royals will be good enough to compete with the Detroit Tigers if Mike Moustakas hits like he did in the minors, if Eric Hosmer hits like he did in his rookie year, if Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez continue hitting like they did in 2012, if Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur do anything, and if Billy Butler keeps hitting like the All-Star that he is.

Those are a lot of if’s.

myersBecause of all of those if’s, the Royals are going to regret the trade of Myers, Odorizzi, and Montgomery. While we’ve seen many Brandon Wood, Brandon Larson, and Corey Patterson-types get hyped and fail, we’ve also seen the Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Miguel Cabrera-types get hyped and exceed expectations. For a team who can’t land the top free agents, dealing away all of that potential for two years of a reliable arm and five years of a wildcard is and will be a huge mistake.

Some teams just need to remember who and what they are. With so many teams banking on revenue streams increasing, MLB could have parity like the NFL in coming years…but they could also have owners who are shy to spend due to the market limitations. Kansas City has been shy to spend for so many years that they can’t be counted on to start anytime soon. They weren’t close enough to a championship to make a deal like the one that they did with the Rays.

daytonThat will be Dayton Moore’s legacy…unfortunately.