Fall is officially over and the long, hard, baseball winter is upon us. (I can’t say that weather winter is upon us because, if you live in The Ray Area, you know that we have a month or two before it actually gets cold).
Commenter Jonathan helped me finally close the book on 2011 by asking about a 2012 roadmap. As you know, your wish is my command here at TRA.
Truth be told, I have started to write a about the Rays offseason priorities a few different times but have run into a couple of different road blocks. First, despite the Rays’ glaring holes last summer, any improvements this winter are going to require some hard — likely unpopular — choices I wasn’t ready to face so close to the amazing September run. Second, every time I started writing it came out like the position-by-position breakdown you see everywhere else. One of my primary goals is to keep TRA from looking or sounding like anything else you read in the newspaper or on the internet so, I stopped and ditched those attempts.
Maybe it is best to start the winter with a short list of the things we know (or at least the things we think we know) about the 2012 Rays:
- James Shields will be there;
- So will Kyle Farnsworth;
- Kelly Shoppach will not;
- We will have starting pitching in spades;
- But, we are in desperate need of bats to support those arms; and
- We have to rebuild the bullpen again, despite its surprising 2011.
I think we’ll be able to expand and revise this list as the winter plays out and Andrew Friedman shows us his hand a little. For now, I am just counting cards.
That said, let me give you two thoughts to chew on this week. I will try to make a point to flesh out each idea in a full post sometime this week or next.
First, almost everyone agrees that the Rays are going to trade a starting pitcher for a bat. By my count, they have 6-7 legitimate rotation contenders with another 1-2 just outside the pack. But, based on their actions so far, and yesterday’s story in the Times, James Shields will not be traded. I know this is going to sound crazy, but doesn’t that make David Price the best trade candidate? (For those of you that just threw your laptop out of the window in anger, this is where you left off.) Just think about it. Will his value ever be higher? Wasn’t he a little exposed down the stretch due to his reliance on the fastball? Doesn’t a Price move save the club money and return legitimate lineup additions? Just sayin.
Second, I know the Rays were not constructed through free agency but, maybe this is the winter to throw a hat into one of three rings. Even if the Rays cannot ultimately land Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, doesn’t it make sense to get in the game? It changes the negative narrative about the stadium and drives up the ultimate price Boston or New York pays. Aren’t both of those good outcomes? Outside of Pujols or Fielder, if the Rays were willing to make a FA splash, shouldn’t Friedman be first in line at the Jose Reyes booth? Is there a player that better fits our style? Is there any doubt that Joe could get more from him? Just sayin.
OK, talk amongst yourselves. It is that time of year.