A lot of people felt one of the more important upgrades we could make this off-season was to the starting rotation. Here we sit weeks later without a move being made and while we all ready have too many pitchers for five slots, there may be some interesting alternates becoming options.
Let's start off with Edwin Jackson, who has been lighting up the Venezuelan winter through eight starts. 41 innings pitched, walking 21, striking 33 out, and posting a 1.32 ERA is impressive, though he's still walking a lot of batters which was the major cause for demise and concern last season. He's allowed 33 hits, though only four have been extra base hits, three doubles, and only a single homerun.
The other concern with E-Jax is whether he's just using his (very good) stuff to overpower batters of lesser talent. Whether that is the case or not nobody can be sure, though he has been getting a lot more groundballs which signals he's using his breaking stuff a lot more to induce the results.
Many felt that `Action' Jackson was headed for the pen full time or else would be out of options (literally) and out of town. At one point there was a rumor that the Mets were interested in Jackson and could possibly make a deal for him to place either in their, at the time, lacking rotation or as a flamethrower out of the pen. Needless to say it's intriguing that Jackson has only started in the league and has yet to pitch any relief.
The other new options I'm speaking of are the players who may be non-tendered by their current teams. The starting pitchers projected to become free agents include former Ray Mark Hendrickson, Shawn Chacon, and Joel Pineiro.
Let's start with Lurch as Hendrickson became known to fans here in Tampa. The first half of last season it seemed like he had finally `got it' and posted a 3.66 ERA for the Rays. He then of course went to Los Angeles and posted a 4.68 ERA the rest of the way, go figure. After posting a total of a 4.21 ERA and throwing over 150 innings three straight seasons Hendrickson may be scooped up by someone for more than his 1.95 million salary last season in this pitching thirsty market.
Hendrickson brings familiarity to the team as well as a veteran presence, though you have to wonder if the Rays would consider moving back to an old face if it meant a youngster like Jason Hammel or J.P. Howell would be stuck in the minors for another year.
Of course the same theory could be used describing the other two. Chacon had a good run in 2005 with the Yankees posting a sub 3 ERA. Last year he get obliterated and then traded (days before he would've been designated for assignment) for Craig Wilson (good going Dave Littlefield) then still posted an above 5 ERA.
Finally there's Joel Pineiro. He's intriguing since there's always a chance he could put it together and become very good. His stats at the Trop don't speak too highly of him becoming an efficient pitcher for the Rays, career he has a 6.91 ERA in 27 IP, the Yankees however may want to give him a look as he's posted a 3.69 ERA in 31 innings.
The other non-tendered projections for position players include our pal Toby Hall and Marcus Giles, whose value has taken a tremendous shot from two years ago. The Rays are expected to extend arbitration to each of their three eligible members; Josh Paul, Seth McClung, and Ty Wigginton, not allowing them to hit the open market.
Speaking of McClung there are reports that the Florida Marlins are looking to deal for him and B.J. Upton that would include Ricky Nolasco. The problem is Larry Beinfest has shown their valuing of Nolasco by having him go from starter to closer in a week (to try and up his value) to now trading for McClung (showing little to no faith in Nolasco as a closer, and obviously not much as a starter.)
This comes during the same week that reports of a rejected Upton for Nolasco deal comes out. Quite simply the Marlins are trying to rob the Rays, and I don't think it's going to happen. As I've said before the Marlins are always looking for that river robbery that the Rays are so falsely accused of always being after. If not for teams like the Mets and Red Sox willing to sell the cow and some for players like Josh Beckett they would never make a move.
That's pretty much it, I again want to thank John Sickels for agreeing to the interview earlier this week and DRB will keep you up to date on any new updates from non-tendering to signings and trades.
Update [2006-12-12 17:44:26 by R.J. Anderson]: from MLB Trade Rumors
Josh Fogg Shawn Chacon Rodrigo Lopez Joel Pineiro Marcus Giles Chris Reitsma Ben Broussard Toby Hall Mark Hendrickson Yorvit Torrealba David Newhan Todd Williams Jorge Sosa Brendan Donnelly Brandon Duckworth Kyle Snyder Chin-Hui Tsao Javier Lopez Humberto Cota Antonio Perez Eric Bruntlett Brad Wilkerson Jason Lane Jody Gerut Jayson Werth Aaron Guiel