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10 Things the Rays Should Do to Compete for the World Series

27 June 2010

The big “news” tomorrow on mainstream sites will be about B.J. Upton being lazy or combative or a bad teammate or whatever other euphemism writers want to use. Don’t listen to any of it. Upton has his flaws, including struggles vs. elite right-handed pitchers with good fastballs (see below). Everything else is noise.

The secondary headline will focus on the Rays’ atrocious hitting. Of course this audience is sharp enough to know that the line drives we’ve seen hit right at fielders will eventually find holes, and that warning track flyballs will eventually clear the fence.

Even with positive regression on the way, the Rays should still be looking for ways to upgrade both their roster, and their usage of the players they already have.

Here are 10 moves I’d like to see the Rays make.

1. Approve $7 million in additional discretionary spending. If the Rays win a playoff series (let alone more than one), they’ll make it back and then some.

2. Sit Jason Bartlett vs. all RHP (reverse split this year, but just .266/.332/.364 vs. RH for his career).

3. Sit B.J. Upton vs. elite RHP with killer fastballs (.211/.285/.331 vs. RP in 2010, .259/.336/.403 for his career; play the matchups taking into account both handedness and repertoire).

4. Sit Carlos Pena vs. LHP (.190/.275/.404 vs. LH in 2010; .220/.311/.445 for his career).

5. Acquire at least one above-average LH bat, preferably an outfielder who can catch the ball too. David DeJesus would be perfect.

DeJesus is hitting .326/.394/.479 this year. That’s good.

Some of that production can be attributed to a .364 BABIP. That’s bad.

DeJesus is a solid fielder – more like a +5 defender than the +15.5 he put up last year, but still a net positive. All told, he’s conservatively a 3- to 4-win player. That’s good.

UZR may contain potassium benzoate. That’s bad.

DeJesus will make just $4.7 million salary in 2010 (about $2.5 million for the rest of the year if the Rays acquired him tomorrow, with a $6 million 2011 option. That’s hella-good.

Offer Jason Bartlett straight up for him. If that doesn’t work, offer a B+ prospect, a B- prospect and a C+ prospect.

(The names of the prospects aren’t vital for this exercise – few teams can match the Rays’ minor league pitching depth, such that potential trading partners can drive the bus to some extent when it comes to parsing Matt Moore, Nick Barnese et al.)

6. Call up Dan Johnson.

7. DFA Hank Blalock.

8. DFA Lance Cormier, go with a six-man bullpen.

9. DFA Gabe Kapler, offer him a manager’s job in the minors with a disproportionately high salary and the prospect of rapid advancement (man, I hate writing that).

…and the big one…

10. Offer Wade Davis, a B+ prospect and a B- prospect for Cliff Lee.

As we well know, lineup order isn’t all that important, as long as the right players see the most playing time. With that said, something like this could work:

Lineup vs. RH
C Jaso
LF Crawford
2B Zobrist
3B Longoria
RF DeJesus
1B Pena
DH Johnson
CF Joyce (Upton can play CF + bat 9th vs. weaker RH, rotate Johnson/Joyce/Pena for rest)
SS Brignac

Lineup vs. LH
CF Upton
LF Crawford
C Shoppach
3B Longoria
1B Zobrist
DH Aybar
RF DeJesus
2B Rodriguez
SS Bartlett (assuming the Royals prefer prospects)

SP Lee, Shields, Garza, Price, Niemann
RP Soriano, Benoit, Balfour, Choate, Wheeler, Sonnanstine

(Call up Jeremy Hellickson the second ANYONE goes down, be it a SP or RP. He’s more than ready.)

A big, honking caveat here: The Rays employ a baseball operations staff, along with a research and development staff, that to a man know more about baseball than I ever could if I lived to be 10,000 years old. They see everything we see, scrutinize every series, every game, every at-bat, every pitch.

They also have to deal with real-life factors that writers don’t face when shouting from rooftops. How would Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett and B.J. Upton handle having their playing time reduced? Are there subtle contract clauses or future arbitration considerations that could be impacted by these moves? Will shuffling the lineup dramatically cause the Rays to sell fewer tickets and foam fingers? These are tremendously tough dilemmas that a doofus Canadian like me can’t begin to understand, having never stood in their shoes.

But still…

This is the best chance the Rays will have to win a World Series for…at least two years, and maybe five, 10 or more. Payroll’s getting slashed by $20-$25 million next year regardless.

The Rafael Soriano move was already a (terrific) go-for-it-now play. Time to up the ante.

Go all-in, gents. Flags fly forever.

Cross-posted at the always fantastic DRaysBay.com

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. kevinccp permalink
    27 June 2010 9:02 pm

    They need to deal Navarro. Let him hit at Triple-A and get a solid situational lefty from a team. Plenty of teams know they are out of it, Navarro still has some upside given his age. Jennings needs to come up at some point too, I’d guess his UZR is better than Joyce so at least use him as a pinch runner/late inning defensive replacement. Benoit has been sick; he’s the best player no one has been talking about outside of St. Pete.
    -Payne

  2. Jonah permalink*
    27 June 2010 9:19 pm

    Navarro, I would guess, has minimal trade value.

    Choate’s a fine situational lefty.

    Jennings could be a decent 25th man. Still rather see a viable bat instead.

    Agreed 100% on Benoit.

  3. mrokjazztokyo permalink
    27 June 2010 9:43 pm

    BJ and Gabby Solis fighting in the dugout..ahh, not even the ASG and Rays starting to crack? I need either they or the BoSox to collapse, three-way division fight makes me nervous. Would be terrifying if they get got Cliff Lee though..btw, baseball is in an odd state when a pitcher like Lee will be on 4th team in a year..

  4. Jonah permalink*
    27 June 2010 9:45 pm

    There is no evidence to suggest that a clubhouse fight, or 900 clubhouse fights, either hinders or helps a team.

    The Rays might not fare well, or the Sox might not, or the Yankees might not, for any number of quantifiable reasons. Playing amateur psychologist, while possibly amusing, is pointless.

    • mrokjazztokyo permalink
      28 June 2010 1:59 am

      Clubhouse strife is often (not always) an indication that the team is losing. And yes, the losing causes the fighting, not the other way around. But although I think chemistry is over-rated, it is not a complete phantom..baseball players themselves seem to believe in it, and that’s really all that matters, right?

  5. ramedy permalink
    27 June 2010 11:54 pm

    With the injuries the Red Sox are mounting daily, I’m sure they’re already checking out the trading block. Maybe I’m wrong, but it sure seems like DeJesus would be a nice fit. All the more reason the Rays should aim for DeJesus. His price tag next year makes him a nice fit for the near post-Crawford future.

    I’m a bit more dubious of getting Lee though. For whatever reason the Mariners are BUYING right now, which means the Rays will either have to pay a bit extra for him, or they’ll have to wait until the Mariners come to their senses. If they have to wait, the Rays will miss out on more than the 11+ starts of Lee they’ve already missed. I’m just not sure the value is there.

    I like the gist of what you’re saying though – we all know this is an all-in season, so why stop now? The Rays have to spend a little more money to make Soriano’s money worthwhile.

  6. mrokjazztokyo permalink
    28 June 2010 10:07 pm

    As you predicted, Gabby Solis Longoria now a hero to every over-weight, 50-ish white baseball writer..

  7. Cork Gaines permalink
    28 June 2010 11:24 pm

    “Approve $7 million in additional discretionary spending. If the Rays win a playoff series (let alone more than one), they’ll make it back and then some. ”

    Not according to Sternberg. He said that, based just on the logistical cost of hosting a playoff series, the Rays only turn a profit in each series if they host at least 3 games.

    Whether you believe that or not is up to you.

    • Jonah permalink*
      28 June 2010 11:27 pm

      I do not believe that. In fact I don’t even understand what he’s saying.

      If the Rays pack the Trop for 2 games, rake in additional ticket, concession, merchandising and media revenue, as well as likely franchise value appreciation, they’re somehow LOSING money…but if they do it 3 times they make money?

      There is literally no way to make sense of that statement.

      • mrokjazztokyo permalink
        28 June 2010 11:47 pm

        Anything said by any owner in baseball is not worth analyzing..as a Yankee fan it does make me appreciate crazy Big Stein..he really is/was the ONE guy who would choose winning over making a profit.. (thankfully can do both now!)

        Oh, when the Rays dump Upton can they trade within the division? I’d love to see him hit 35-taters for the Yankees when he’s 27 years old..

      • Cork Gaines permalink
        29 June 2010 10:08 am

        I’m not defending Sternberg, but certainly it is possible that an event like an ALCS has a lot of one-time up front costs that do not accumulate over the course of the series. And how is MLB taking their cut? Is it a set amount or a percentage or do they get a certain percentage up to a set amount?

        I don’t know the answers and again, not defending Stu, but I would think the statement is at least plausible.

  8. Jonah permalink*
    28 June 2010 11:52 pm

    Sure thing. Send over Jesus Montero and Upton’s all yours.

    • mrokjazztokyo permalink
      29 June 2010 12:31 am

      How about AJ Burnett? We’ll pay his whole contract..seriously, it’s migraine-inducing watching him pitch now..

      But seriously, will they try and trade Upton after this? Surely they won’t be so rash..

      • Jonah permalink*
        29 June 2010 12:34 am

        Will the Rays trade Upton because he had a brain fart on a ball in the gap? Ummm…no. Upton has had similar lapses in the past, and he hasn’t gone anywhere. He wasn’t benched, fined or disciplined in any way for this very trivial incident.

        If you know this team, you know that they’ll only make a deal if they feel they’re gaining an advantage. This is not a ballclub that sells low for no other reason that a guy dogging it once in a while.

Trackbacks

  1. [THE HANGOVER] The One Where We Discuss The Rangers Flirtation With Hunsicker, Upton’s Future And Bellatti’s Latest Start | Rays Index

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