Another day, another trade and free agency post; yeah it's somewhat sad we're talking about November in mid-July, but we're used to it. In prevention of sounding too much like Carl Crawford, heh-heh, at least B.J. Upton will apparently return tonight, and James Shields takes the mound against the New York Yankees, but again that's not important, to this post at least as it would be extremely nice to win the second half opener and perhaps reverse the fortunes of the first half. See a little symmetry there? I don't mean to go Chris Berman on you, but maybe, maybe we can make something of this season if the bats come alive, some pitch happens, and we say you're with us, leather.
The deadline is a few weeks away, and excuse me for being caught up with the NBA free agency period, but it's gotten my batteries re-energized for the home stretch, and for the rumor mill that is July blog talk in Tampa. Looking over the roster, I think it's safe to say there are about five to six parts that are expendable and we should see moved, or that we may see moved:
Gregory Blakemoore Norton
Potentially Casey Fossum and Jorge Cantu
Wigginton is simple, teams want a bat with pop, if not much else, the Yankees and Twins are likely the front runners.
Norton could head to an AL team as a DH or to a NL team as a 1B, he fits in the age range for the Giants, but I don't see anything there.
Reyes could go a number of ways; the Mets, Indians, Braves, and Tigers could all make runs for Al, and the fact that he has a team option for 2008 and is quite inexpensive makes him an option to remain, but it also raises his value more so than relievers like Eric Gagne and Octavio Dotel who have short length deals. Maybe even a team like the Brewers or Angels to put the final touches to outstanding pens?
Another name out there? Gary Glover.
Two that could go: Fossum likely holds no value, but I felt like I should include him since we shouldn't see anymore of him past August 1st. Cantu; maybe the Giants, they have senior citizens everywhere, but it's doubtful they'll buy.
Dukes is the wild card, I'm not sure a team will take him, but we can hope that Kenny Williams bites, a team like the Angels or Dodgers wouldn't surprise me either, Ethier, Kemp, Dukes; that's a nasty outfield. Regardless if he's moved or not, I'd advise Andrew Friedman to keep Dukes in his meat locker until it's time to move the room across the country, even then, I hope he watches any number of horror movies where the killer breaks out of the van and kills the security man on his way to find his long lost little sister. Wait...
We all know what the Rays need; a bullpen, well I think we can build one through the trade deadline; seriously.
The Twins have a plethora of pitchers, Matt Guerrier is having a hell of a season (53 IP, 1.7 ERA) so I doubt he's available, but Scott Baker on the other hand likely is. His numbers don't look pretty 52 IP, 59 H, but there's a bright spot to all of this, 41 strikeouts to 12 walks. That's in 52 innings, the Rays relievers walked five in one inning last Saturday. Five walks in one inning, being generous and assuming they would only walk one for every two innings that would still be about 30 walks.
Baker is only 25, and consider his .225 BA against the lineup the first time through, it jumps to .299 the second time, and .352 the third time, his .293 OBP the first time through is lower than the batting averages alone the next two times. Good control; check. Hittable after first time through order; check. He's reliever bait, and I think he'd make a pretty nice one.
Now let's look at the other valuable chip, Reyes. For my money the hottest rumor out there would be the rumor that one of our own posters mentioned, and Tim Dierkes over at the ever useful MLB Trade Rumors site also suggested; Fernando Cabrera for Reyes. Honestly? I'd do it. Just a year and a half ago Cabrera was the future closer in Cleveland when Bob Wickman moved on, he apparently isn't, and he did. Cabrera is out of options, but has a 94-96 plus fastball and a plus splitter, his change and slider are average at best, but as a reliever he could probably get by with that arsenal.
The problem with this 25 year old is he's allowing a hit per inning (32 in 32) but he's also walked 22, while striking 38 out. He's got the stuff, and in the past he's had slightly better walk rates, I'm willing to bet it's more that he's trying to be too fine with his pitches, but that's only a guess.
Additions: Baker, Cabrera
Subtractions: Fossum, Camp
That's with two moves, we'll assume we could package the rest and get a piece; but those two moves alone make the pen exponentially better in my eyes, but that's only two, and our pieces past Wiggy and Al aren't exactly glamorous, hence where the off-season comes in handy.
Simply put; management has to show some commitment to putting a winner on the field next season. I can understand not signing a starter last off-season and not making a splash the first off-season outside of re-signing Rocco, but this is the year, you can almost feel it. Outside of the pen we have to find a catcher; Atlanta has little to no use for Brayan Pena, he's always been a strong hitter in the minors but never given a Major League shot. If nothing less battle royale in camp between Riggans, Navarro, and Pena, two stay, one goes to Durham.
Back to the pen let's say we're rolling with Baker, Cabrera, Salas, Orvella, Hammel, Talbot, and one more; the Rays would be lacking a true closer, and looking at the market if we could only add a piece I'd go with Jason Isringhausen, his numbers are outstanding, but he won't come cheap, and it's probably a daydream to expect him to even want to come here.
Which brings up trading again; the fan base is growing tiresome of waiting for the future, most of the pieces are intact, 2008 was supposed to be the year, now maybe it's 2009, the simple truth is if the Rays don't have a winning season by 2010 it could mean good-bye Crawford, and more importantly, good bye Rays. The fans need Sternberg and company to acquire someone, a Javier Vazquez if nothing else, the front office has been very adapt at finding hidden gems for the field, it's time to get a proven commodity for the staff.