For the second straight day we're grateful to merit our readers with an interview with one of our favorite people in the baseball media (sorry Bill Simmons), today's guest is from the great resource MLB Trade Rumors, Tim Dierkes
1. Other than Akinori Iwamura, the Rays off-season was basically addition by
subtraction, obviously having a full season of Delmon Young will help, but
based on the projected roster do you feel the 2007 team is better than the
TD: For sure. Healthy Cantu/Gomes/Baldelli, no Travis Lee/Damon Hollins. More development time for all sorts of talented players, especially pitchers. And the bullpen has to be a bit better. I like the Al Reyes move.
2. Your site was obviously a great resource during the winter meetings, and
covered the rumored Rocco Baldelli / Elijah Dukes trades very well. One of
the deals I really liked was the 'Zach Duke for Elijah Dukes' trade, have
you heard anything more on this or was it basically one of those 'it makes
too much sense to actually happen' trades?
TD: Thanks. Haven't heard anything more on the Duke/Duke trade idea. Some smart people are projecting Duke at a sub-4 ERA in '07, while we don't even know if Dukes will contain himself enough to stay on the field, let alone play well. So the Bucs probably wouldn't go in for it right now in my opinion.
3. Without giving away too much of your fantasy site's information, where do
you see guys like Crawford, Kazmir, Young, and Baldelli going in fantasy
drafts? Any sleepers on the Rays that people should look out for?
TD: I can give you the overall positions I might draft those guys: Crawford - 4th, Kazmir - 82nd, Young - 202nd, Baldelli - 61st.
Shields and Reyes could be mild sleepers in mixed leagues. And I think Gomes, Iwamura, and Upton will probably be undervalued too.
4. This is the 10th year of Rays baseball, based on the rest of the division
as well as the maturing Rays, could you see the team sneaking anywhere
higher than 4th place? Also could you see the team possibly sniffing 80
TD: Hmmm. Basically you're asking if the D-Rays can be better than the Blue Jays. I'd say that it's not impossible but highly unlikely. Say Halladay and Thomas get hurt, Kazmir pitches 220 innings, Gomes/Cantu/Young/Zobrist/Niemann all reach their potential a la the '06 Marlins...a long shot, but baseball can be unpredictable.
5. Which of the many deals the Rays made do you think has / will turn out
the best for the Rays?
TD: Does the Iwamura signing count here? I like Guzman for Lugo a lot but this seems like a make or break year for Guzman. Is he stuck at a corner already? Well let's go with the Dioner Navarro acquisition actually. Traded a couple of vets for which the Rays had zero use for a credible big league catcher and possible OK back-rotation guy.
6. You, for one, were against the Rays pursuing the services of Mark Mulder,
why was that?
TD: I'm skeptical that Mulder can be worth $13MM over the next two seasons in the NL Central, let alone the AL East. If the goal is to build up a vet to trade him for good stuff, there are probably cheaper bets not coming off shoulder surgery. If the goal is for him to help you win in 2008, I don't think he'll do that.
7. I've made the comparison that Akinori Iwamura is the Manny Ramirez /
Johnny Damon character on the Rays, with that being said, which of the
Japanese imports in the AL East do you see making the biggest impact (Igawa,
TD: Matsuzaka, easily. In my opinion the signing gives the Red Sox the best starting staff in the league, barring injuries. If the Yanks had him instead it would completely shift the balance of power.
8. Where do you rank the Rays' farm system amongst the others in baseball?
Is it just crazytalk or do you think in two seasons it could be the Rays of
all teams making a run at Johan Santana with their young hitting and
TD: I don't think I'm qualified to answer that. I'd go with BA or BP on that question as I don't know much about the D-Rays in the low minors. But it's gotta be in the top five somewhere. That Santana idea is very crazy but I like it. As long as no pitching is given up.
9. B.J. Upton : Stud adjusting to the Major Leagues, or the new Chone
TD: Well, if you go by PECOTA, there's about a 50% chance he still becomes a star. I buy that. I think he's a stud and just needs to settle in one position. He destroyed Triple A pitching as a 20 and 21 year-old; can't see why that wouldn't translate to the bigs eventually. Check out A-Rod's '95 for encouragement.
10. Five years from now, the Rays have how many playoff appearances and how
many (if any) world titles?
TD: I like how the new management thinks, so far. Let's say one playoff appearance, no WS titles. The hitting could be incredible once it all comes together, and the pitching could work if healthy at the same time.
11. The Rays have began to expand into the Orlando market by placing a three
game series at Walt Disney World, good idea, bad idea? Do you think the team
has the right mindset attempting to expand into 'no man's land' as far as
TD: I don't see anything wrong with it, trying to get creative and find some new fans. Get 'em while they're young I guess. The kids'll love Elijah.
12. Given the trade friendly attitude last season, is it fair to say the
Rays are haunted by the ghosts of the past in potential deals as many feel
they are always looking for the next 'KazZam' deal?
TD: Nah, I think that belief only resides with casual fans and perhaps the dumber portion of the media. I can't see the memory of Chuck LaMar stopping GMs from talking to Andrew Friedman and co.
13. Any suggestions on the Rays new name / color set?
TD: Tarpons would be bad. I foresee Tampon jokes. I know this is a cop out but I like everything the way it is now.
14. Evan Longoria or B.J. Upton, who would you take to start a franchise
TD: Tough one! I'll take Longoria. More certainty. I have no idea what kind of CF Upton would play.
15. I've said Bill Bavasi is the new Chuck Lamar, well with the recent moves
(including Bazardo, more on him in a moment) I think he's surpassed him in
stupidity, in your opinion who is the worse GM in baseball?
TD: I agree with you there. The Vidro trade was maddeningly stupid. Also not a big fan of Brian Sabean's work. And Jim Hendry has made his share of blunders.
16. Yorman Bazardo is now up for grabs, my colleague Jake recently posted a
piece, calling for the DRO to acquire this guy, good idea, bad idea?
TD: Good idea. Still young, live arm, good control...why not? If the Rays snag enough of these guys some of them have to pan out.
17. Theoretically: The Rays have decided to trade for a reliever using the
spare parts (Upton, Dukes, Cantu, Wigginton, Norton) give me a few names of
whom you would go after that the conventional person wouldn't think of.
TD: First let me say I don't think that's a good idea. This team ain't competing in 2007, so why worry about the bullpen? To answer the question: Rafael Betancourt, Jon Rauch, Fernando Cabrera, Mike Wuertz, Jason Davis, Manuel Corpas.
18. Theoretically again, you're the Rays general manager, what are the first
few things you'd do?
- Tell Upton he's the fourth OF until July 31st and that he's the CF after that. Hold off on trading Baldelli until then, so that teams are more desperate and perhaps Baldelli will have broken out even more.
- Don't call Niemann up until September, and keep him around 130 innings.
- Offer Dukes big-time incentives based on lack of suspensions, arrests, etc. Stick him at 1B for all of 2007; if he calms down and hits like he should, consider trading Crawford and using Dukes in left.
- Who comes out of the battle royale at first base for the Rays (Guzman,
Wigginton, Norton, Pena, Choi, Bankston, Dukes, Gomes, possibly Cantu)?
Would a platoon of Wigginton and Choi / Pena be in the Rays best interest?
TD: Dukes. Don't really see the point of Pena/Choi. What's the upside? They hit like a league average 1B? Big deal. This doesn't help in the long-term.
20. Given the free agent class and their contracts, how many limbs would you
give to be left handed and a reliever?
21. Out of the current crop of baseball writers, who are the ones you enjoy
reading the most?
TD: Hopefully I won't leave someone out...Keith Law, Kevin Goldstein, Rob Neyer, Nate Silver, Buster Olney, Will Carroll. That's the non-blog group at least.
22. Any blogs / sites you visit on a daily basis?
TD: Sure. Olney's blog, Baseball Prospectus, Fire Joe Morgan, CubDumb, RotoWorld.
23. Favorite rumor you've ever heard (either funniest, made the most sense,
TD: A-Rod to the Cubs...a guy can dream...
24. When did you get into the online writing business?
TD: Around June of 2005.
25. Favorite / least favorite part of your job?
TD: I'm assuming you mean baseball stuff and not my desk job. Anyway favorite part is breaking an exclusive trade rumor from a reliable source. I know, I don't do that a lot, but when it happens it's exciting to be a part of. Close second would be covering the July trade deadline when traffic was absurd and rumors never stopped.
Least favorite, negativity. People taking cheap shots at me over something I wrote they don't agree with. Keep it constructive.
26. How do you choose which rumors you post on the MLBTR site? I'd imagine
having sources from the press help?
TD: For sure. I have met some very helpful beat reporters, though those people understandably would rather have exclusive info surface in their own newspaper. Those who don't follow a specific team are more likely to pass something along. In general, it simply has to be a source I trust and speak to regularly. I took more of a shotgun approach when I started the site, but I learned from it.
And of course, I'll link out to blogs or websites I respect as the main source for rumors.
27. How do you feel when people confuse, and smear your site's image with
one by the same name, though far less credible?
TD: You talking about that mlbtraderumors with hyphens or whatever? Eh. I try to avoid the smearing whether it's intended for me or not...there's always someone on a message board saying you suck and couldn't rumormonger your way out of a paper bag.
28. Which of the sites you run is your favorite? Why is that?
TD: MLBTR. Hot stove has always been my favorite part of baseball. I guess it's because I'm a Cubs fan, and the offseason is often more interesting than the regular season. And I love to see the money tossed around and how teams value players.
29. If you could sit down and just talk baseball with anyone in the game,
who would that be?
TD: Billy Beane.
30. How's the married life? And how great is Jeff Sackmann?
TD: It's great! Now I can finally let myself go and eat Arby's all the time. Sackmann is awesome. Did you see his new book?
[editor's note, by R.J. Anderson] Again a huge thanks to Tim, visit his site daily if you want to be kept up to date on any of the new rumors.
I have one more interview set up, and a decent sized tidbit to pass along, but both will come this weeknd or Monday / Tuesday at the latest