One of the first orders of business to take care of during the hot stove league is squaring away options. So far 11 options have been accepted or declined since the end of the World Series with several more looming. Around these parts the Tampa Bay Rays have three options of their own to take care of.
Two of the three options seem like slam dunks. One is an obvious pick-up and one is a simple decline. The third option, however, is 50/50 and will probably determine the course of who is our catcher next season.
The Rays hold a $1.9 million dollar option (plus performance bonuses) on left handed specialist, Brian Shouse. Overall, his 5.17 FIP was far from impressive and his -0.1 WAR made him a negative value. However, it wasn't his fault that manager, Joe Maddon, had him face nearly as many righties (52 PA) as lefties (70 PA). Shouse did the job expected of him in 2009, and held left handed batters to a line of .224/.246/.373. Righties continued to crush him at a .356/.442/.622 clip. Nonetheless, Shouse just didn't pitch enough to justify picking up his nearly $2 million dollar option A left elbow strain sidelined him for 63 days, and while he made 45 appearances, he threw just 28 innings. With that being said, the $200k buyout is the likely course of action in this case.
The Rays are more likely to go with fellow side-winding lefty, Randy Choate, who was nearly as effective and will cost probably half of what Shouse will. There is always the possibility of signing former Ray (for 24 hours) and sabermetric wunderkind, R.J. Swindle on a minor league deal. The Rays could also go without a traditional lefty and turn to reverse split righties like Lance Cormier and newly acquired Jesse Chavez to serve as LOOGY's.
The next option is just as simple; the Rays will exercise the $10 million dollar option on left fielder and franchise player, Carl Crawford. This is a no-brainer and regardless of what CC's future holds, he will remain Rays' property for the time being. According to fangraphs, Crawford has made $13.1 million dollars in his career with the Rays. The nice $10 million raise is well overdue considering the fact that he as given the team $104.7 million dollars worth of production during his career.
CC is easily worth the $10 million dollar tag, but with some scouts saying Desmond Jennings could give you the same production right now for the league minimum, it doesn't look likely CC will finish his career with the Rays. Despite that fact, stranger things have happened, and both sides have expressed interest in a long term deal. Either way, the Crawford decision will be the biggest and most emotional decision in the franchise's history.
The final option because to leader of the Zaunbie nation, Gregg Zaun. Hailed as the veteran savior to our catching woes, Zaun didn't disappoint in the final two months of the season. Brining his veteran savvy and his reputed ball blocking ability, Zaun also swung a mighty stick in his near 100 plate apperances with the Rays. Small sample size rules apply, but Zaun hit .287/.323/.489 for the Rays. That earned him a 0.7 WAR or $3.2 million dollars in value. This means he has essentially covered his potential 2010 $2 million dollar option in production.
He is hardly the answer at catcher alone, and ZiPs has him projected for a .237/.335/.367 line in 2010. More likely, Zaun would be the left handed batter in a catcher platoon; picking up most of the at-bats against right handed batters. The problem with that is the Rays have a very similar situation with their other catcher Dioner Navarro. Navi is arb2 eligible and will make something in the neighborhood of ~$2 million dollars next season. I doubt the Rays will tie nearly $4 million dollars in two platoon players. There is also the question of Zaun playing 100-120 games behind the plate at 39. I could see the case for both sides of this option and honestly have no inclination of which way it will go. However, once the option is picked up or declined, we will have an answer to which way the Rays are intending to go.