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Rays fans have a lot to look forward to

Oct 4, 2011, 6:20 PM EDT

Matt Moore Getty Images

So, yeah, that amazing September comeback didn’t result in a whole lot of October excitement, but the Rays should only be stronger in 2012.

This was supposed to be something of a rebuilding year for Tampa Bay after the losses of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena and the decimation of a bullpen that was could have been considered baseball’s best in 2010. The Rays, though, managed to hang tough and win 91 games to make it into the postseason.

There will be no similar exodus this winter. The only significant players not under control for 2012 are Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon. That doesn’t mean everyone will be back — B.J. Upton could be traded and the Rays may figure it’s not worth exercising Kelly Shoppach‘s $3.2 million option — but the Rays shouldn’t have to cut corners this winter.

The Rays will also get a full season from Desmond Jennings next year and perhaps one from Matt Moore, depending on how they want to play it. They could stick with their rotation of James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann at the start of the season, allowing them to finesse Moore’s service time a bit. Or they could trade a starter for a shortstop and plug Moore right in. He’d likely be one of the AL’s top lefties right away.

Either way, the Rays will be a big-time threat. Depending on how the winter plays out, the American League’s three best teams on paper next year could all play in the East.

  1. foreverchipper10 - Oct 4, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    Moore looks major league ready but as you noted they may want to keep his service time down now while they still can. I for one am stunned at how well this team came together and with a full season from Jennings everyone in Tampa will forget about Crawford. Kotchman played really well for them too and I would think they would like to retain him unless they have something brewing in their farm system (I have no clue if they do). Either way should be interesting to see how that division plays out as I think the Blue Jays will take a step forward as well.

    PS I love those unis.

    • tashkalucy - Oct 4, 2011 at 7:20 PM

      I too think the Blue Jays lap the Red Sox and Yankees starting next year.

      John Ferrall knew what he was doing going there.

      The Rays and Blue Jays will be dominating the AL East for at least 3 years before the arrogant Red Sox and Yankee fans admit it’s for real, or the brain-washed/brain-washing national media will admit it to themselves after wring articles and going on ESPN for 3 years saying….”what’s wrong with the Red Sox and Yankees”?… American baseball fans yuk it up knowing that Red Sox fans, Yankee fans and the national MLB media, never had a clue.

      • 18thstreet - Oct 4, 2011 at 7:22 PM

        You need to get out more.

      • tashkalucy - Oct 4, 2011 at 7:25 PM


        Thanks for validating my post!

      • hittfamily - Oct 4, 2011 at 10:57 PM

        Actually, I think the Yanks and Boston will be fine. Beckett, Lester, Bucholtz, Daisuke, and Bedard is scary as hell with that lineup. Crawford works as hard as anyone in the game, and he will never have a repeat of this season. They don’t even have to upgrade this offseason, but I’m sure they will.

        The Yankees will lose Posada’s salary. As a Rays fan, I’m scared to think who they give that money to. CJ Wilson? Holy crap!!!

        The AL east will be tough, and to say anything otherwise is foolish.

      • 18thstreet - Oct 5, 2011 at 9:32 AM

        I guess I should have been more clear.

        My point is, if you think that certain media sources — such as ESPN — are worthless for their analysis, then you should stop listening to those sources. I can’t speak for Red Sox fans everywhere, but I’m very much a pessimist right now (at least until they find some righty bats), because I think the roster is flawed. If anyone was writing “What’s Wrong With the Red Sox” pieces, it’s because a team that was winning stopped winning. It would have been interesting anywhere. People still talk about the 1964 Phillies — who, you’ll note, did not play in Boston or New York.

        There’s a lot of crappy journalists out there. I don’t read them or watch them. The Internet has freed us from the conventional wisdom and allowed us to read more thoughtful analysis. Even ESPN has hired Jonah Keri and Rani J. (can’t spell his last name from memory) to write for Grantland. Just stop watching Baseball Tonight. It’s not that hard to do.

    • aaronp2098 - Oct 4, 2011 at 9:46 PM

      I didn’t need a full season for Jennings, 3 months is all it took for me to forget about Crawford….Funny how everyone thought the sky was falling last year for the Rays in the off season. Even better the kings of their off season (Heat, Red Sox, and potentially the Eagles) haven’t been able to bring the same energy to the regular season/playoffs…

  2. proudlycanadian - Oct 4, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    “On Paper” is the key phrase. We all know what happened to the best team on paper going into the season. For the record, Madden has predicted a very close 4 way race in the AL East next year.

    • thefrenchyconnection - Oct 4, 2011 at 6:55 PM

      Is there some realignment happening next season that I am not aware of? :)

    • hittfamily - Oct 4, 2011 at 11:04 PM

      Is it possible to have 4 88 win teams and 2 95 game winners in one division?

  3. jwbiii - Oct 4, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    The Rays are playing in October, so that’s kind of exciting.

  4. bobdira - Oct 4, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    Still need a catcher as well as a shortstop. In fact the need for a catcher is greater because Rodriguez is servicable as a shortstop.

  5. tashkalucy - Oct 4, 2011 at 7:15 PM

    The best 3 AL teams all play in the East?

    You people try to make reality, but have a major problem living in it.

    One of the 3 AL East teams couldn’t make it to the playoffs.

    A second got eliminated a hour or two ago.

    And the third should be eliminated by 11:30 pm eastern.

    • porksoda23 - Oct 4, 2011 at 9:31 PM

      There’s only 1 wildcard, so it’s not like some team failed to overcome some other wild card contender.

    • hittfamily - Oct 4, 2011 at 11:07 PM

      In October, anything can happen? Were the Giants the best team in baseball last year? No. Judging teams that play 166 games based solely on their last 4 is kind of ridiculous.

  6. florida76 - Oct 4, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    Rays definitely surprised me this season, but it’s worth noting it took an epic meltdown by the Bosox for Tampa to snare the wildcard. The Yankees also did the Rays a huge favor in the final game by not playing to win-New York’s pitching rotation in that contest was a spring training approach. The Red Sox figure to spend big dollars and reload, Rays can’t count on the internal problems again for Boston next season.

    Rays have done a terrific job with a pennant, division title and now wildcard in four seasons. However, the more important issues of community support and new facility will cast a bigger shadow over this franchise in the coming years.

    Overall, Rays still haven’t achieved what the Marlins have accomplished, plus Miami has a new facility. It is worth noting however, the Rays have matched the Brewers in terms of pennants-and Milwaukee had more than a two decade head start.

    • Reflex - Oct 4, 2011 at 9:14 PM

      Normally I wouldn’t rub it in, but in spring training you were being a jackass about the Ray’s chances and I was pointing out that they had a ton of rising talent likely to make an impact this year, and had an odds on chance of hitting the playoffs for the third time in four years. Granted the Yankees are the team I expected to miss, but any way you go the Rays were great. And they only look to get better.

      While I agree with your bitching about the Rays support in thier hometown, at the same time their unreasonable demands for a stadium which their owner could afford to finance itself, is their largest stumbling block. Go copy the San Francisco model and they’d have a new state of the art stadium without burdening the taxpayers, and with a ton of new revenue streams to improve the roster.

      But they won’t. The owners, like most MLB owners, are addicted to feeding at the public trough, and will instead threaten the locality rather than looking into how to go about it on their own.

      At least the Ray’s GM is damn good at doing a lot with very little. I expect the team to remain competitive as they continue to find gems in the draft and develop them.

      • florida76 - Oct 4, 2011 at 9:51 PM

        I just don’t think the Rays can count on another epic meltdown next season by Boston, and the poor home playoff record is also a concern. Had the sinking feeling the Rangers would end the Cinderella story before the series began. No one knows if the Rays will improve next season, but I will say if another wildcard is added, that would be great news for Tampa. The Rays GM may also leave, so it’s tough to say if the unlikely success will continue.

        Maybe Tampa doesn’t deserve a successful team, so any winning down the road could occur elsewhere. Inevitably, the lack of attendance will affect the on-field product, it always does. It
        was stunning to see cities with teams long out of contention outdrawing the Rays by at least 10,000, when the Yankees were in for that final series. Unbelievable.

    • dprat - Oct 4, 2011 at 11:02 PM

      florida76’s preseason predictions…

      “It will take years for the Rays to contend again.”

      “Expect the Rays to be a .500 team or worse for some time.”

      Equally good at predicting box office, too:

      “The Moneyball concept and book may be interesting, but the movie will bomb at the box office. Doesn’t matter if Brad Pitt is in it or not, the movie has a fatal flaw-no payoff for the viewers.”

      Nice body of work, florida76, how about you call it a day?

  7. hittfamily - Oct 4, 2011 at 10:27 PM

    It was a fun ride that came to a close too early, only to have their season stunningly extended, only to have it quickly end again. The Rays took 6 of 7 in Sept from the Red Sox, and 3 in a row from the Yankees. The Red Sox had a historic collapse, but we aren’t even discussing it if the Rays don’t take 9 of 10 from Boston and New York to close out September. Nothing was handed to this team, and they earned their playoff spot. Congrats on a stellar season gents.

    Moving forward, they have 7 legitimate starting pitchers with MLB experience, in Shields, Price, Hellickson, Davis, Niemann, Cobb, and Moore. I am more excited about Moore than I was about Price, as he was killing it in the minors. I predict 1 starter is moved of Shields, Price, Davis, Niemann. Alex Cobb slides into that role. Moore will start in AAA to contol his innings, and be an emergency plan for injuries, along with Alex Torres.

    Sean (The Killer) Rodriguez and Joyce need to platoon, as 1 can’t hit lefties, and the other can’t hit righties. Zobrist should continue to swap between right and second. That was the plan this year til Brignac sucked it up. I believe Brignac starts at SS next year, as he hit .260 with 8 homeruns in half of a season in 2010. They will hope this year was a fluke, and try to fix his massive uppercut in the offseason. With 2008’s first overall pick Tim Beckham probably ready for the show either next year or 2013, and Futures game all-star Hak Ju Lee not far behind him, I can’t imagine the Rays making much of a splash for a SS this offseason. Bossman Junior had a nice year in center, and he should be back. His trade value is enough to warrant a trade (top 100/top 50 pitcher), but the Rays don’t have anyone to slide into left if Desmond Jesus moves to center.

    With no upgrade to 3rd, SS,2b, LF, CF, RF, that leaves 1b, DH, C. The Rays would gladly give Damon the same deal they gave him last offseason, and I would assume they keep him. So we have C and 1b to upgrade. Kotch will not be back. His OPS was decent, but they need some XBH pop, and he doesn’t offer it. He hit .320 for most of the season, and still hit in the 6 hole of a very weak lineup. So now it is time for my speculation…..

    If Cards don’t pick up Molina, the Rays will try to sign him. A great catcher to work with a young staff, and add some pop as well. Ramon Hernandez is another possibility. Those are their first options, but Shoppach and Jaso are the probability.

    Kendrys Morales has lost his spot to Trumbo. He hasn’t played in 2 years. The Rays like to take chances on low risk, high reward deals. A midrange prospect should be plenty to get him, and the Rays have plenty of those. Shields for Alonzo and others also makes a lot of sense, for both the Rays and Reds. Alonzo will fill a huge need at first, and they could shed 10 mil from the payroll. Alonzo is 24, and his stock falls every year, so they could get some extra chips out of it as well. Finally, Logan Morrison at first. I know everybody speculates about him, but Niemann and a utility guy might get it done.

    Lastly, I hope Friedman sees this through, and doesn’t jump ship to Chicago, Houston, or Boston. Well done boys, work hard this offseason and get ready for a few more postseason runs.

  8. ajbarrell - Oct 4, 2011 at 10:53 PM

    They have so many options going into this off season im not sure they have any plan in place. They will offer Shields, Upton, Niemann, and look for the best deal possible. If they don’t find deals that they find attractive they can stay put and wait out the all-star break and let people get desperate.

    They dont have rabid crazy fans so if they dumpster dive in the FA market and don’t make a huge splash its not a big deal. Anything they accomplish is a bonus honestly they are setup in the perfect situation for the FA to make them viable long term atm.

    Honestly i think shields to Cin for Alonso and one of there stud catchers plus some filler works best for both teams, or maybe a diff Neimann for alonso straight up. (Marcum for Lawrie deal is pretty simular granted Cinn will prolly have to give up some more for it to happen) Either deal free’s up a rotation spot for Moore or Cobb if they want to play Moore’s super 2 or start both and put Davis in as closer(id trade him more value then a closer probably).

    The options are honestly limitless, Send upton to the braves for Heyward, Random stuff to the rockies for Iannetta and maybe stewart to play first. Its really crazy how far open they can play this.

    • ajbarrell - Oct 4, 2011 at 10:56 PM

      Also i hope Freidman see’s how hes in the perfect situation for him. No real pressure, Tons of attention when hes successful, No real expectations, full control of his side of the job no meddling owner. Honestly with his skill set as long as hes compensated reasonably well comparatively its the perfect job.

  9. indaburg - Oct 5, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    Last year at this time when the Rangers eliminated the Rays, I was sad about the Rays chances for 2011. It felt like an ending, knowing that the team would lose Crawford, the entire bullpen, Pena etc. This year, I feel completely the opposite. I am excited about their chances in 2012. If they can trade one of those great young arms for some good bats, I will really be excited for 2012. (Shields, it’s been great–thanks for the memories. He’ll be missed for his contributions not only on the field, but to the Tampa Bay community as a whole.)

    • hittfamily - Oct 5, 2011 at 4:14 PM

      I’m with you indaburg. I love Shields, but will rejoyce the day he leaves. Not because he’s leaving, but because we got a few bombers in return for him. Not desperate Friedman; teams desperate for cost controlled pitching; Advantage the good guys. 2012 is the year of the Ray!!!

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