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Rays Decisions

The Rays enter the weekend needing to make decisions on exercising options for the following players:
Second baseman Ben Zobrist ($7 million option), shortstop Yunel Escobar ($5 million), outfielder David DeJesus ($6.5 million) and right-hander Juan Carlos Oviedo ($2 million).
The decisions to pick up the options for Zobrist and Escobar seem clear cut as both are earmarked to be starters on the 2014 team. Meanwhile, the DeJesus’ decision is a little murkier.
The Rays have always coveted DeJesus, and having him on their roster at the end of the 2013 did nothing to diminish that feeling. But his price tag is steep. So there’s a chance they could decline to pick up his option, pay the $1.5 million buyout, then try and sign him to a more affordable price. Obviously, the risk in such a move comes in the fact he would become a free agent after the buyout, affording other teams an opportunity to sign him.
As for Oviedo, if the Rays do not re-sign free-agent closer Fernando Rodney, there’s a chance the veteran right-hander could close for next year’s team. Oviedo, previously known as Leo Nunez when he saved 92 games for the Marlins between 2009 and 2011, signed a Minor-League deal with the Rays in 2013 and spent the entire season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery to his right elbow.
–Bill Chastain

Rays Stance the Same

As noted earlier by yours truly, the Rays don’t appear like they’ll be active as we approach the trade deadline. Here’s what Joe Maddon said when asked about whether the Rays will try and make any trades:

“I really believe that we have what we need right here but Andrew’s job is to go out there and attempt to always make us better. If anything were to show up that he felt made us better, you would probably see that happen. For right now, in his mind and mine, I think we have plenty right here as well as what we have coming in from Triple-A. It’s foolish to say Andrew isn’t looking and active on the market but for right now, I’m really pleased with our group. You’re seeing some young guys like Alex Torres get better, Chris Archer get better. The fact that Wil Myers is up and playing as well as he is, you see Longo struggling at the end of the first half knowing he will be back in full force, same thing with Zobrist and Matt Joyce. There’s a lot to look forward to within this particular group.”

Unless somebody blows their socks off, I just don’t see anything happening at this point.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Not Expected to Do Much

In past years, the Rays have been one of the more intriguing teams heading toward the trade deadline. Were they going to be buyers or sellers?

Andrew Friedman, the Rays executive vice-president of baseball operations, recently allowed that he will have discussions with other teams. But this is one year when it would be totally surprising to see a deal come to fruition.

For the first time in forever, the Rays have an offense that can score a lot of runs via their “swarming” style.  And with the addition of Wil Myers, who became the team’s every-day right fielder, the Rays are as close to an every-day lineup as they have been any time in their history. That leaves plenty of capable players sitting on the bench looking for playing time.

Meanwhile, the starting pitching seems to be coming around, with David Price leading the charge. Normally Price would be in the rumor mix, but based on the fact that he’s just coming off the disabled list coupled with the Rays being in contention, the Rays aren’t likely to have any serious discussions about his availability at this juncture.

In deference to recent seasons, the rumors don’t even involve the Rays this season.  So unless an unforeseen injury or circumstance takes place before the deadline, don’t expect the Rays to be active.

–Bill Chastain

Rays Rumblings

Speculation has begun about the Rays parting with starting pitching to bolster their offense.

Late Sunday night, Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reported that the Rays and Nationals could be trade partners. The Nationals want starting pitching and the Rays have interest in outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse and middle infielder Danny Espinosa.

In addition, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported that the Rays are close to signing a one-year deal with free-agent first baseman James Loney.

–Bill Chastain

D-backs interested in Keppinger

According to the Arizona Republic, the Diamondbacks are interested in Jeff Keppinger, who was one of the Rays’ best offensive performers in 2012.

Keppinger hit .325 this past season and he has a career .864 OPS against left-handers. The report speculates that the veteran infielder would play third base for the D-backs.

–Bill Chastain

More Teams Interested in Shields

Earlier reports had the Rangers, Angels and Dodgers interested in James Shields.  Now, according to a report by Fox Sports, the Braves and Cardinals can be added to that mix.

While the idea of the Rays trading Shields when the team is just 2 1/2 games out of the Wild Card spot still seems remote, there are some interesting aspects to this year’s trade market.  The Rays have never felt any pressure to make moves due to deadlines such as the trade deadline and actually have taken the stance that players usually have better value in the off-season when more teams are interested.  But, if in fact there are as many teams interested in Shields as reported, the Rays might be able to get the deal that blows them away that could pry away Shields.

Shields’ recent numbers have not been good, but he is healthy and could help any team by the fact he eats up innings alone.  In addition, he is under control for another two years for reasonable sums.  So his attractiveness is understandable.

–Bill Chastain

Latest on the Rays

Rumors that James Shields is going to the Angels for Hank Conger, Peter Bourjos, and Ervin Santana have been constant, but ESPN’s Jayson Stark tempered those rumors by noting that Evan Longoria’s return would likely cut the Rays incentive to trade Shields since, with Longoria back in the lineup, the Rays would have much-improved chances to earn a spot in the playoffs.

Stark also reported that there is a “big market” for Rays reliever Wade Davis.

–Bill Chastain

Based on Friedman….

Based on what Andrew Friedman said yesterday, the Rays aren’t quite sure which way to proceed where trades are concerned this year. Much of that state is due to Evan Longoria, whose return date from a torn left hamstring remains a mystery. Without knowing when he will be back, it’s hard for the team to determine what they might trade for to improve the offense.

Of course, if the Rays get off to a sluggish start to the second half, the Rays could quickly turn into sellers, which means B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, Kyle Farnsworth and James Shields could be in play.

–Bill Chastain

Opening Day at Tropicana Frield

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Opening Day brought out a festive atmosphere to Tropicana Field, where the Rays opened their 2012 season Friday afternoon against the Yankees.

The pregame activities began with Jim Dundee, son of the late boxing legend Angelo Dundee, delivering the ceremonial first pitch Evan Longoria. The ball used was the one struck by Evan Longoria for his walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Game 162, on Sept. 28, 2011, sending the Rays to the postseason.

Angelo, an avid Rays fan and Clearwater, Fla., resident, died on Feb. 1 at the age of 90.

After the Yankees’ introduction along the third-base line, the Rays were introduced to raucous applause from the sellout crowd. Maddon, Carlos Pena, James Shields, Longoria, and Don Zimmer received particularly loud ovations.

Popular Tampa Bay area saxophonist B.K. Jackson performed the National Athem, which led up to a showing of a film that captured the drama from Game 161, much to the delight of the crowd.

The pre-game ceremony concluded when the Rays hoisted an American League 2011 Wild Card banner, which joined a 2010 AL East Champions banner, and 2008 banners for winning the AL East and with the American League pennant. All of the banners reside above the left-field stands.

Rays in Hunt for Beltran

Tampa Bay is in the mix to sign Carlos Beltran according to CBS Sports, which said the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Red Sox also are vying for the veteran center fielder.

Tampa Bay could use the six-time all-star at either DH or in the outfield. The two biggest questions facing the Rays are: 1) Will he be affordable? (Remember, Beltran finished off a seven-year, $119 million deal in 2011. 2) Would he be able to adjust to playing DH? (All Rays fans remember Pat Burrell’s struggles while being used at DH full-time).

According to the story, Beltran hopes to make a decision by Christmas.

– Bill Chastain

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