We now have a Spring Training schedule. Note that this looks different from previous years — other than a final game in Lakeland, the Rays won’t be coming north of Manatee County. Current plans at Port Charlotte calls for limited attendance; check with the other host teams to find out whether you can attend games at other venues.
And here is the Rays official Spring Training roster. They have 73 players (75 is the maximum).
Pitchers, pitchers everywhere! The Rays have a bunch of new signings, some on minor league deals but most notably major league deals with Collin McHugh and Rich Hill. Both have question marks — McHugh has lost a lot of time to injury; Hill is about to turn 41. But these are relatively inexpensive contracts (McHugh reportedly $1.8 million, Hill $2.5 million) with some upside. Will (inexpensive) quantity make up for lost quality on the pitching staff? John Romano speculates ($); Eno Sarris thinks the Rays strategy is to maximize flexibility ($)
Rich Hill, aka “Dick Mountain” (his player’s weekend name, much to everyone’s delight) is known for his breaking stuff:
But has he read that the Rays like to shift?
He also shared a very difficult and personal experience in this very moving column about his son, Brooks.
The Rays came out ahead in the Ryan Yarbrough arbitration hearing, so Yarbrough will be paid the $2.3 million the Rays offered rather than the $3.1 he had requested. This could indicate that critics were correct in thinking that Rays use of openers served to limit a pitcher’s salary. On the other, it was partly Yarbrough’s flexibility that led them to keep him up with the big league squad in 2018, which gave him “Super Two” status and made him arbitration eligible a year earlier would otherwise have been the case.
Hometown boy gets traded to Rays, makes good. Times on Brett Phillips. ($)
In this Marc Topkin column ($), we learn that Chris Archer has an incredible work ethic, is generous in sharing his thoughts with the media, and tried to act as a clubhouse leader after the Rays traded off all the more senior players. So why is there a huge “on the other hand” running through this article, starting with the header and subheader? Sure there are risks with signing a guy who has been kept out by injury for more than a season, but the insinuation here - that Archer needed to be “humbled,” that he (gasp) “enjoyed the attention” seems very odd to me. Kevin Kiermaier seems to act as a leader and also enjoys the attention, yet I don’t see columns suggesting that he needs to be “humbled.”
Old friend alert: Former Rays pitcher/first baseman Adam Kolarek is traded to Oakland:
Dodgers and A's have made a trade, sources tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 12, 2021
Oakland will receive LHR Adam Kolarek and OF Cody Thomas.
Los Angeles gets IF Sheldon Neuse and RHP Gus Varland.
More old friends, and other free agent signings: Tampa native Matt Joyce signs with the Phillies.
And there’s a new kid on the Rays media block! Steve Carney, who covered the Rays with WDAE, now has his own website/podcast. Give him a follow:
So get ready because Spring Training is almost here and that means tons of #Rays news. We’ll have it for you here!— St. Pete Nine (@SaintPeteNine) February 14, 2021
Around the League:
The Baseball Hall of Fame will go ahead with an induction ceremony this year, but with few people in attendance.
There has been a contraction and reshuffling of minor league affiliates. For the Rays the big shift has been dropping the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs at High-A and picking up the Charleston Sea Dogs as low-A affiliate. This Twitter thread includes a chart of the full season affiliates, and also a lot more discussion of the new alignments. The author has also written about the ballparks available in minor league communities.
Officially official— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) February 12, 2021
This is the new Minor League Baseball landscape pic.twitter.com/UvyOAkWPcB
Do you like analyzing roster construction? Then you’ll enjoy this Ben Clemens column.
Chelsea Janes, newly anointed as the Washington Post’s national baseball writer, sketches out all the things off kilter about the pandemic-influenced 2021 season, from testing protocols to free agency.
We’ve long heard that MLB has problem attracting younger fans, and there are concerns that the sport will fall further behind in popularity over time. I guess that means the league ought to invest some resources into increasing its social media engagement, right? Well, instead MLB just laid off a team of social media specialists they had embedded with teams.
Finally, a happy (belated) Valentine’s Day: