Stuart Sternberg was correct when he said the Rays would be spending more money next year, although I hope he means in more ways than the default; arbitration cases for Scott Kazmir, Dan Wheeler, Carlos Pena, Gary Glover, and Grant Balfour, but looking at the free agent lists -- no longer featuring Carlos Zambrano or Mark Buerhle -- you start to wonder what exactly the Rays should place their interest into, I think I have an answer.
Al Reyes has 24 career saves, Dan Wheeler 25, 18 of Reyes' are from this season, 20 of Wheeler's came within the past two seasons, and yet the mere idea that we should sign a pitcher to take the closer slot with only 23 career saves seems asinine. Combine that with his age, 41 in November, and incredulous is what you get.
Rarely a day goes by that I don't receive an email from a reader that questions something about the team's approach. Most often it involves the teams sense of responsibility or fire, lacking they are. The obvious solution becomes "veteran presence" or "leadership" from an older player. I don't really believe in the two immeasurable, and I mock them by stating that Jeff Conine, amongst others, would surely help those factors, but maybe there's something to the issues, maybe we do need -- excuse my language -- a self centered asshole who points the finger at himself just look he does at everyone else.
Not long ago Joe Magrane, Scott Kazmir, and Curt Schilling were in a battle of words, Schilling claimed Kazmir started a bean ball war, Magrane defended the 21 year old said Schilling was running his mouth again, got called an idiot and offered to meet Schill in the parking lot. That didn't happen, but Schilling giving the now 23 year old Kazmir some advice the week of Independence Day did, "grip it and rip it" coincidence or not Kazmir has been smoke on the water since.
Schilling hasn't mellowed out since, but he has said some things about how the Rays are a tough lineup and have a bright future. Good sportsmanship? Perhaps, but he's also went head to head with Barry Bonds recently, which gains points for him in many fans eyes. It's also easy to see why a lot hate him; he's arrogant, pushes his politics, and is an athlete blogging, which simply isn't the same after SharkGate with Gilbert Arenas, but the first item at least is exactly what this team needs.
Whether Joe Maddon returns next year or not, the Rays need to get someone tenured enough that calling out teammates isn't cancer, but rather leadership. This isn't an armchair drill instructor, we're talking about a guy who's posted ERAs under three one-fifth of his career, and ERAs below 3.6 11 times, 213 wins is more than the rotation multiplied numerous times.
I mentioned earlier the idea of bringing him in as a closer, in actuality I'd preference him as a starter, give him a three year deal worth 30 million with incentives, if he wins 15 throw him some cash, 230 innings? Coin him up, if he turns into a reliever for his final contract year then so be it, by then he should pass on some of his traits, like not walking a infantry full, to Kazmir, Price, Niemann, Shields, Davis, whoever.
Why would he come to Tampa? As mentioned he's arrogant, handing the Red Sox some losses after they let him go would be sweet revenge for a guy who loves Everquest. He dislikes Dan Shaughnessy, what's better than making Shaughnessy write "Curse of the Schill" a few years from now?
He's political, if he's serious about running for office, and most guys with the middle name of Montague are, then what better state to do it in than the less than uh...educated peninsula?
Over the past three years his VORPs have been 76.2, 2.1, and 48.6; this year he sits around 21 in limited time, WARP wise; 10.1, 2.8, and 7.7, in other words he brings victories and value to any team, especially this team. He comes here slides into the one or two rotation slot, bumping Shields and or Kazmir back, giving the Rays better match ups.
Schilling makes sense for today and tomorrow, even if it is only three years worth of performance and leadership, he's old, but he's also the best pitcher free agent out there. Perhaps it's just me, but Schilling holding up the new Rays uni in November / December may not be as big of a long shot as it would've been months ago, but is he one of the pieces the Rays have their eyes on?