The hottest rumor on the block for the Rays is the prospect of the team dealing center fielder Rocco Baldelli to one of many suitors (including the Marlins, Dodgers, or Angels) and in return landing a young starter such as Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, or Ervin Santana.
There seems to be a sense of confusion around the Rays bidding of, and now negotiating with Akinori Iwamura. Many casual fans who turn to sources other than DRB seem to think this means he plays only 3b, and that it is a (at this point, estimated) 7 or so million dollars that could've been spent on pitching.
First off, as Andrew Friedman stated, Iwamura can and will play more than one position. He was a gold glove 3b in Japan, yet a Japanese 3b translates well to say, 2b in the MLB. There are varying reports on his arm, some saying he's got 'a cannon that rivals Furcal' other that his arm is 'just average'. He can play all four infield positions as well as the corner outfield spots, very valuable and very cheap, especially when our beloved Jim Hendry is giving out multi-year, 15 million dollar deals to ballpark inflated players of the same positions.
Next the misconception that the Rays have no pitching...at all. I'm not sure were this came from, and I hope this puts some of a stop to it. We have relief pitching, the problem wasn't the youngsters like Juan Salas, Chad Orvella, or Ruddy Lugo. The problem was Chad Harville, Brian Meadows, and guys like Jason Childers.
The young relievers will grow with experience, Orvella had injury issues that prevented him from pitching late, McClung blew only one save, though we wouldn't mind seeing less fastballs and more of his power curve, Lugo was either the 2nd or 3rd best pitcher depending on where most rank James Shields, and Salas should be okay in the majors despite bloated numbers from this season. Assuming the Rays carry (as they did for most of last season) 13 pitchers, 12 position players, we can assume that 8 of those pitchers will indeed be pen arms. 4 of those 8 will more than likely be the group of the previously mentioned Lugo, Salas, Orvella, and Seth McClung.
The next 4 figure to be: The victor of the Jeff Ridgway / Jon Switzer battle for lefty specialist, Shinji Mori, whom if he can indeed return to an effective state will be the equal of a free agent signing, and then two of the many rotation competing arms who fail to land a starter's spot.
That group includes Tim Corcoran, J.P. Howell, Jason Hammel, Jae Seo, and possibly Casey Fossum if he, again is recovered from his injury. That's without mentioning Dan Miceli, Shawn Camp, or Edwin Jackson, who will either be on the 25 man roster or 'be gone' through his lack of options. With all that said it leaves little to no room to sign a FA reliever, and rather it appears trade is the way to go, which leads us back to Iwamura.
Friedman also stated how AI (or as DRB has called him 'The Answer' and has found out his nickname in Japan was 'Top Gun', and that he likes to dye his hair, no guarantees on 'Fly in-to the danger zone' as part of his ditty music though) gives the team "elbow room" to us, that simply is a way of saying something is brewing. Whether it be an OF on the way out (we hope not) or one of the many, many infielders finding new addresses (Cantu, Upton, maybe even Norton or Wigginton) someone will probably be dealt.
In non-Ray news....
The Blue Jays have signed Frank Thomas to a two year, 18 million dollar deal. So let's see, Mark DeRosa gets 3 years 14 million, Henry Blanco gets 2 years 5 million, and a guy who hit 39 homers last year, may get 1 million less than both combined at the conclusion of their respective deals...only Jim Hendry could somehow make that even slightly possible.
Thomas, 38, will receive a 9.12 million signing bonus, a 1 million salary for the 2007 season, 8 million for 2008, and an incentives based 10 million option for 2009.