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4th of July- Preparing for the Rays Antagonist

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As we head into the 4th of July weekend many teams have reached the midway point and over the weekend many of us are going to be at social events with family and friends, many of whom we may not have seen since as far back as the winter holidays. Most of us have that annoying uncle, cousin, friend, or friend of a friend who is from another city or has roots in another town and is a sports antagonist. You see this person coming from a mile away but being the cordial person you are you don't flee when approached and are polite and courteous with your greeting.  After the greeting there will be an awkward silence broken up by the first innocent question, something like "so, do you think the Rays can catch the Yankees and Red Sox?"

Convinced that this is only small talk to break the awkward silence you answer with a not so technical response of "I sure hope so."  You are then asked a follow up question like, "Is James Shields this good or just on a hot streak?" Your instincts scream don't get into a discussion with this guy but the choice is to go hang out with Uncle Tim and talk about the best way to get oil stains out of the driveway or try to mingle with Aunt June and her friends and discuss the different characters from the Real Housewives and their internal struggles as women. So you give a more detailed response about Big Game James and how he's really been effective with his off speed pitches etc. Now at ease in the conversation you begin to feel somewhat guilty that you had been so judgmental in your belief that  this person was only out to antagonize you and are actually enjoying a little baseball talk during an otherwise non-eventful get together.  It is at this moment that the antagonist's face will suddenly develop a smirk, the tone of voice will change, and you'll get the question of "how'd that Manny Ramirez signing work out for you?"  The antagonist will try to mix in some normal baseball talk to keep you hooked in to the conversation long enough to hit on players lost to free agency or trades, attendance issues, and contraction or expansion.

To prepare you for the possible encounter with the antagonist I urge you to reread the following articles:

The articles above will have you prepared to speak intelligently on the stadium issue and debunk the contraction discussion. How about the last part of the equation, the former Rays lost in free agency or trades? After the jump, we'll examine the list of players lost from last years team and how they are doing in their new homes. FreeZorilla provided updates as to how many of these players were fitting in with their new clubs near the end of spring training in an article titled 2011 Updates on Former Rays and an articleby BWoodrum titled 2010 Rays Alumni: Where Are They Now? detailed how the group was performing after the first month of the season.

After a fantastic season with the Rays in 2010 Carl Crawford was rewarded with a 7-year 142 million dollar contract to play for the Boston Red Sox. His inaugural season in Beantown got off to a horrible start. After his first month of the year he was hitting .155/.204/.227. He returned to the old Carl Crawford in May and hit .304/.382/.482 and continued to hit well in June hitting .278/ .298/.463 prior to going on the disabled list with a hamstring injury on June 17th (only 2nd DL stint in his career).  Crawford is due to return to the lineup when the Red Sox visit his hometown of Houston to take on the Astros on July 1st through 3rd.  Overall, Crawford is hitting .243/.275/.384 with 6 HR,  8 stolen bases in 12 attempts, and a wRC+ of 77. During spring training and early in the season Crawford spoke of his willingness to hit leadoff and to play CF. Thus far this season he has started 67 games in LF and  has hit 6th, 7th, or 8th in 54 of 67 starts while only leading off in 7 games.

Carlos Pena received a 1-year 10 million dollar contract to play for the Chicago Cubs and as the month of April ended many had to wonder if his downward trend exhibited in Tampa was going to continue as he was hitting .159/.289/175 with 0 HR. He seemed to find his home run swing in May as he hit a more respectable .258/.402/.517 with 7 HR in May and continued his impressive hitting through June hitting .242/.346/.626 with 10 HR. Carlos Pena has to be considered as one of the Cubs big trade chips as they are struggling with a 33-48 record and Pena is hitting .226/.353/.469 with 17 HR and a wRC+ of 120.

The Rays traded Matt Garza, Fernando Perez, and Matt Rosscup to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Chris Archer, Brandon Guyer, Robinson Chirinos, Hak-JuLee, and Sam Fuld.  Garza has made 14 starts for the Cubs and posted a 4-6 record with an ERA of 4.07, a FIP of 3.07, and an xFIP of 2.84. He has also been eaten alive by the luck monsters with a slightly high BABIP of .318 and a LOB% of 65.3%. The two numbers that jump out with the 2011 version of Matt Garza are his K/9 of 9.43 (a career high) and his groundball rate of 58% which is significantly higher than his previous career high of 47.7%.

Jason Bartlett was traded to the San Diego Padres for Cole Figueroa, Brandon Gomes, Cesar Ramos, and Adam Russell. He has started 72 of the Padres 82 games and put up a slash line of .249/.317/.309 with 15 stolen bases in 20 attempts. After Bartlett was acquired by the Padres they inked him to a 2-year contract worth 11 million which includes a 2013 club option at 5.5 million (with a club buyout of 1.5 million).  With  7 million dollars committed to Bartlett next season (5.5 mil salary + 1.5 buyout) it is no wonder that trade rumors involving Jason Bartlett have started to appear (here).

Joaquin Benoit parlayed his outstanding 2010 comeback season with the Rays into a 3 year 17.5 million dollar contract with the Detroit Tigers. He has appeared in 33 games for the Tigers and has a record of 2-3 and an ERA of 4.60. He has seen his K/9 drop from 11.2 to 8, his BB/9 increase from 1.6 to 2.5, and the opposition which only posted a .454 OPS (.147/.189/.265) in 2010 has posted a .690 OPS (.286/.333/.357) in 2011. In 2010, Benoit inherited 23 runners and only allowed 2 to score (9%). In 2011, he has inherited 16 runners and allowed 6 to score (38%). 

Dan Wheeler signed a 1-year 3 million dollar contract (2012 club option) with the Boston Red Sox.  His Red Sox career could not of started off any worse as he posted a 11.32 ERA in his first 11 appearances covering 10.1 IP before being placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career with a strained calf. In his last 12 appearances covering 12.1 IP, Wheeler has posted an ERA of 1.46 and held the opposition to .196 average against. Overall, he has a record of 0-1 with a 5.96 ERA.

Rafael Soriano surprisingly received a 3 year, 35 million dollar contract from the New York Yankees. At the news conference to announce the signing, Yankees GM Brian Cashman admitted that it was Hal Steinbrenner that decided to bring in Soriano but also spoke of being happy to have him as he said:

"We are better in 2011 for this. ... Twenty-nine GMs would love to have their owners force Rafael Soriano down their throat."

In spring training Joel Sherman of the New York Post was asked how Soriano was fitting in and he said (here):

[He's] not fitting in. Haven’t seen him talk to another player. More than shy, seems distrustful.

Soriano was ineffective for the Yankees appearing in 16 games with a 1-1 record and a 5.40 ERA before being placed on the 15 day DL with a sore elbow (later transferred to 60-day DL).  The move came after a 6-5 Yankee loss to the Rays, a game which Soriano did not pitch, but had some strong comments heaping blame on the offense and not the Yankee bullpen for the Yankees struggles at the time. Joe Girardi responded to Soriano's comments:

"My thought is we win as a team, and we lose as a team," Girardi said. "And everyone on this club can always do a little bit more, and that’s the bottom line. You can take that for what it’s worth."

This was not the first run that Rafael Soriano had with the Yankees manager. Girardi brought Soriano in the 8th inning of a 4-0 game against the Twins. Soriano  walked three batters including a bases loaded walk to Joe Mauer but had two outs when Joe Girardi came out to get him. The Yankees lead evaporated when David Robertson gave up a bases clearing double and the Yankees lost the game after Boone Logan gave up an RBI single to Denard Span in the top of the 9th. Soriano left his teammates responsible to answer any questions that the media may have for him for his three walks as he left the clubhouse before the media was allowed in. Soriano is currently rehabbing at the Yankees spring training complex in Tampa and is targeting a mid-July return to the Yankee bullpen.

Grant Balfour signed a 2-year 8.1 million contract which includes a club option in 2013 for 4.5 million (.35 million buyout). He has appeared in 33 games this season and posted a record of 4-1, a 2.48 ERA, and 2 saves. He has held the opposition to a .592 OPS (.198/.290/.302) which is slightly down from 2010's .619 (.216/.272/.347). His K/BB ratio has dropped from 3.29 in 2010 to 2.33 in 2011 and his WHiP is up from 1.084 in 2010 to 1.163 in 2011. Overall Balfour has been the reliable back end arm that they hoped he'd be when they signed him. 

Randy Choate signed a 2-year 2.5 million dollar deal with the Florida Marlins. He has worked in 36 games this season and posted a 1.23 ERA in 14.2 innings of work. Choate was the Rays Loogy in 2010 and held left handed batters to a .529 OPS (.202/.263/.266). Thus far in 2011 he has held the opposition to a .309 OPS (.122/.163/.146) and has only allowed 3 of 30 inherited runners to score on the season. With the Marlins floundering in June (3-23) paired with Choate's friendly contract it may not come as a surprise to see his  name come up in trade rumors as the July deadline approaches.

Chad Qualls signed a 1-year 2.55 million dollar contract with the San Diego Padres which includes a 2012 club option at 6 million dollars. He has appeared in 39 games with the Padres this year posting a 4-3 record with an ERA of 3.00. In 2010 (Arizona and TB combined), he had a WHiP of 1.797, a H/9 of 13, a HR/9 of 1.2, and a K/BB ratio of 2.33. In 2011, he has a WHiP of 1.282, a H/9 of 9.2, a HR/9 of 0.2, and a K/BB ratio of 2.30.  The most significant decrease has been in his BABIP where in 2010 it was a startling .394 and in 2011 it has been a much improved .315.

Lance Cormier signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers and made 9 appearances without a win or a loss and posted an ERA of 9.88 prior to being released. He refused his minor league assignment and signed a minor league deal with the Rays and is currently a member of the Durham Bulls bullpen.

Gabe Kapler signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers but was released by the team in March and has since retired from baseball.

Pat Burrell signed a 1 year 1 million dollar contract with the Giants and is still costing them runs with his lack of defense. He isn't hitting home runs as frequently as he was in 2010 after the Rays released  him, but he does carry a .793 OPS (.241/.349/.443),  7 HR, and a wRC+ of  121. 

Dioner Navarro signed a 1 year 1 million dollar contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and has a .489 OPS (.170/.229/.266)  and a wRC+ of 30.

Brad Hawpe signed a 1 year 3 million dollar deal to split time at 1b and the outfield with the San Diego Padres. He currently has a .645 OPS (.231/.301/.344) with 4 HR, and a wRC+ of 85.