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What I'd do as the GM

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Today on 620 WDAE Steve Duemig is challenging his listeners to call in and tell him what they would do to improve the team in the current situation if they were Chuck Lamar. His guidelines were that no more money was getting added to the payroll, any trades must be realistic, and Crawford, Kazmir, and Huff are untouchable.

I doubt anyone at WDAE even knows this blog or RaysBB.com exists and I'm sure Duemig will never see this but here's my answer anyway.

  1. Release Alex Sanchez. He's a terrible player and shouldn't be here.
  2. Bring up Gathright to be the center fielder for now. Chris Singleton will be the fourth OF.
  3. Lee is out for now so Jonny Gomes stays as the everyday DH with Phelps taking first base. On days that lefties are pitching there will be the easy solution of Perez at 1st, Phelps at DH, and Gomes in LF with Crawford in CF and Gathright on the bench.
  4. Since my predecessor in the GM chair was dumb enough to not keep Brandon Larson around, I'm stuck with Alex Gonzalez at third base for now. Until BJ Upton's defensive situation is resolved one way or another there isn't a decent option available.
  5. Once Lee is back use an outfield of Gomes-Crawford-Huff with Gathright as the backup. Release Singleton. It's a little rough defensively in the corners but Crawford will help some and those are positions where offense is most important anyway.
That leaves the position players looking like this:

C Hall/Johnson
1B Phelps
2B Cantu
SS Lugo
3B Gonzalez/Green
LF Crawford
CF Gathright
RF Huff
DH Gomes

Singleton OF
Perez 1B

Later it will be this:

C Hall/Johnson
1B Lee
2B Cantu
SS Lugo
3B Gonzalez/Green
LF Gomes
CF Crawford
RF Huff
DH Phelps

Gathright OF
Perez 1B

I'm assuming that the Rays will go back to 12 pitchers at some point. Does this improve the offense much? It's hard to say because we don't know how well Gathright will do over a larger sample size. Still, at least Sanchez will be out of CF and there will be some upside there. It's a bland offense but it has some potential. A lot of it will come down to Lou using his players intelligently, something he has consistently failed to do so far.

As for the pitching:

  1. Promote Chad Orvella to Triple-A with the intention of bringing him up to strengthen the bullpen as soon as he proves that he can perform at a high level against Triple-A hitting.
  2. Here's your rotation candidates:
Kazmir
Fossum
Hendrickson
Nomo
Brazelton
Waechter

There isn't anyone in the minors that can step in right now so we have to go with what we've got. Nobody is going to trade a decent starter that fits into the Rays plans and budget so forget about that. Piniella will just have to mix and match with these guys and maybe Bell if he gets back on track. It's not a great solution but it's all that can be done right now.

The staff currently looks like this when Colome gets back:

SP Kazmir
SP Fossum
SP Hendrickson
SP Nomo
SP Waechter
SP Brazelton

One of the above would obviously end up being the final bullpen member

RP Baez
RP Colome
RP Miller
RP Carter
RP Bell
RP Harper
RP 6th rotation member

7. Keep an eye on Jon Switzer as a possible bullpen member down the road. Try not to use him since it's better to let him start in the minors but it is something to consider.

The bullpen is improved by Colome coming back and maintains a solid top four even if Fossum is in the rotation (Baez, Colome, Miller, Harper). The non-starting starter might be able to do well in the bullpen since they can let loose knowing they don't need to last more than a couple innings.

So does what I'm suggesting improve the team a lot? No, it doesn't. However all the moves are perfectly reasonable and fit in the Rays limits. It would be nice to trade Baez for help in the rotation or lineup but is that really going to happen? If Baez can be traded for a real third baseman or a better first baseman then by all means we should go for it. I don't think it's going to happen at this time of year though so there isn't much point in hoping for it.

The Rays need to take what they have and use it as best they can. A lot of that falls on Piniella making the right decisions and maximizing the team's chances of winning, something he hasn't done. This is still a team building for the future and right now things are going well on that path even though it looks kinda bleak right now.

You want to see improvement? Just wait a little bit, this isn't a .320 winning percentage team. It's not a .500 team by any means, not very close even, but things will get better some on their own.