According to Tracy Ringolsby, the Rays were able to make it to the World Series by overcoming a weakness; their bullpen. This is news to me, Grant Balfour and JP Howell.
A key for the Rays is their offense, which will be better with the addition of needed right-handed power hitter Pat Burrell, who can be a designated hitter in the AL. The Rays, however, balked at paying the price to strengthen their bullpen, a weakness that manager Joe Maddon was somehow able to overcome a year ago.
As for improving the bullpen, the Rays didn't spend a lot of cash on a "big time" reliever like Frankie Rodriguez or Brian Fuentes, but they still improved the bullpen. Brian Shouse and his LHOPS against of .486 is an upgrade over Trever Miller's .612. Joe Nelson and his K/9 of 10 and FIP of 3.45 should take most of the 71.1 innings that were pitched by Gary Glover, Scott Dohmann and Al Reyes. Plus the Rays will have about 1,500 other reliever all battling for a possible spot in the bullpen in a week. Paying big bucks for relief pitching is generally not a smart business move. If the 2008 Rays bullpen taught us one thing, it was that fact right there.
In other news:
Bill Chastain seems to think the Rays would actually chance DFA'ing Jeff NIemann.
In Hammel and Niemann, Tampa Bay has two quality arms. Each has the potential to be a top-shelf Major League pitcher, and in past Rays seasons, each would have been in the rotation. Other teams know which players are out of options, so it's likely clubs will be like buzzards circling the Rays' transaction news so they can claim either pitcher in the event they are designated for assignment.
Another "Next Rays" story. I think it's getting a little much when we're including the Braves and A's , no?
The boys from Atlanta have made some huge improvements this offseason that can't be overlooked-Derek Lowe, who is locked up in a new contract, Japanese star Kenshin Kawakami, and the contract extension of their first baseman, Casey Kotchman.
The Braves are in a tough division that includes New York, Philadelphia, and Florida. I do not see the Braves making the playoffs unless they win at least 90 games, which does not seem likely. Though they have made great acquisitions, I don't think that they can compete.
They do, however, look like they could finish in the top three.
With the recent additions of Jason Giambi and, especially Matt Holliday, along with a potentially stellar young pitching rotation led by Justin Duchscherer, Oakland will, without a doubt, be competing with the more vulnerable division, except the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who have lost some key players.
The A's will have a race to the finish for the division and they will be a competitor in the Wild Card.
Finally, RJ's farewell to Cliff Floyd without a chart and or graph.
Floyd is not going to help the Padres win many games next year. There’s a perfectly correct case to make that the Padres should be taking shots on high-upside players rather than playing the twilight of Floyd’s career. I agree with that and Floyd would be better suited to serve as a coach with San Diego, but even still I’ll miss Cliff Floyd the person next year.