Well kiddies, it’s that time of year that we refer to as the Hot-Stove. Let’s talk about a couple of things in today’s Hot-Stove edition of Raysbaseball.co. Most notably, let’s talk about any off-season transactions, or rumors herein. There are ten players currently on the Rays roster that can be separated into three categories: free agents, up for arbitration, and players that the Rays hold options on. It’s not certain whether these players will get extensions on their contracts, more money, or re-signed. The future is, as they say, unwritten. Nevertheless, let’s break those ten players up into the three categories, and discuss things a bit.
Johnny Damon, Casey Kotchman, and Juan Cruz
Up For Arbitration
JP Howell, David Price, Jeff Neimann, Joel Peralta, and BJ Upton
Players That the Rays Hold Options On
Kelly Shoppach, and Kyle Farnsworth
Both Johnny Damon and BJ Upton have stated publicly that they’d like to remain on the team. According to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, Damon went as far as to say:
I don’t even feel like packing anything up, I felt like this was the perfect fit. … I would love to be back.
I speak for many a Rays fan when I say we’d love to have Johnny back. His one year, $5.25 million contact was a small price to pay for his stability and experience in the clubhouse and on the field. Damon also represents a well needed bat and good speed in the lineup.
BJ Upton on the other hand, is up for arbitration and is in line to make $7 million next year. According to the same article Marc Topkin, Upton noted:
I’m hoping I’m back. That’s out of my hands, I’ve got nothing to do with that. But I’ve grown up with a lot of these guys, and the guys we’ve acquired, I enjoy being around them. So hopefully next February I’m still in a Rays uniform.
The Upton situation is a bit trickier. True, BJ did turn it on at the plate in the last third of the season. He also represents (and always has) solid defense in center. If I may paraphrase Evan Longoria, as Upton goes, so do the Rays. I’ve always contended that if Upton hit at least .270, which historically he is fully capable of, BJ could help the Rays immensely. You also can’t deny his ability to hit 20+ homers and steal 30+ bases a year. However, the Rays have played the game of what if for the last three seasons to no avail. If I could be certain that his numbers at the plate would be consistently good, then I’d be all for keeping the Bossman around. Otherwise, I hope his end of the year performance has helped him accrue more value than he had in July, because I think it’s reasonable to assume that there’s a strong likelihood that BJ might not be under the big top next season.
Out of the other eight players on the list, I’d love to see Casey Kotchman, Kyle Farnsworth, and (gulp) Kelly Shoppach on next years roster. True, Kelly didn’t have the best year at the plate, however he is the best defensive catcher in the Rays organization. With the year that Jaso had at and behind the plate, I’d much rather have a catcher on the roster that can block balls in the dirt, call a good game, and throw out base runners over someone who isn’t good on either side of the plate (read: Lobaton, Jaso, and Chirinos).
Out of the five players up for arbitration, Joel Peralta and David Price are certainly deserving of more money. Price didn’t have the best year, at least compared to 2010. Then again, his 2011 numbers are also a bit deceiving. If he had more run support, Price would easily have five or six more wins under his belt. As for Neimann and Howell (I’ve already shared my thoughts on BJ), I’m not certain if they should make more money in 2012.
When Neimann is on, he’s great. His spiked curveball and fastball are killer KO pitches! However, his lingering health issues compounded with inconsistent quality starts leave a lot to be desired. Keep in mind too, Matt Moore looks as though he’s ready to make the great leap forward into the big leagues. Would the Rays go with a six man rotation in 2012? If not, it’s obvious that someone’s going to get the axe and I’m hesitant to give James Shields his walking papers. In any case, Neimann’s 2010 and 2011 performance don’t necessitate a raise. And Howell? Oy vey, he’d be lucky to even make next years roster. I heard Durham might need a relief pitcher…
Thankfully, we’re not in a deja vu situation. That is to say, the Rays are in a much better place going into this years off-season than they were a year ago. More Hot-Stove news to come, folks!