Everything had to fall into place for the Rays to be able to sign a big bat for their open DH spot. The player would need to come on a short term deal and would have to have a reasonable annual salary. Those things happened because of the overflowing market for outfielders, and the Rays are very lucky to have ‘Pat the Bat’ under contract at a very under-market rate.
This signing pushes their payroll up to the 55-60 million dollar range. I’m guessing that they are done. No major holes need to be filled, no money left. The Rays will most likely head into 2009 with their current team.
Injecting Burrell into this lineup should make the Rays offense very solid next year. They have so many players likely to improve on what they did last year, and now they add ‘Pat the Bat’ to solidify things. Carl Crawford and BJ Upton should see their batting averages come back to life. Evan Longoria should improve all the parts of his game with the more experience he is getting. Burrell is obviously going to be better than what the Rays had at DH last year. Matt Joyce will be an improvement offensively and defensively in right field. I guess that you could see Dioner Navarro come back to earth, but when you look at the lineup as a whole, it is much improved. A lineup of Akinori Iwamura – Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria – Carlos Pena – Pat Burrell – BJ Upton – Dioner Navarro – Matt Joyce – Jason Bartlett is going to be very deadly for opposing pitchers to face. The defense, rotation, and bullpen should all remain the way they were last year, and the 97-win Tampa Bay Rays look primed to contend for a playoff spot once again.
A lot of teams passed on the chance to pick up a very good outfielder. The Angels, Reds, Braves, Phillies (before they signed Raul Ibanez), and other teams could’ve easily matched this offer. This is another reason why this is such a great signing by the Rays.
Things are going to be very tight in the AL East division. The Red Sox, Yankees, and of course Rays all stand a good shot at a playoff berth. First, I will analyze the starting rotations of these teams.
The Rays have the best rotation in my opinion. A rotation of Scott Kazmir – James Shields – Matt Garza – Andy Sonnanstine – David Price is very good, and very durable. The Yankees’ rotation might have more talent, but they also have a lot of injury-prone pitchers. (examples: AJ Burnett, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes) The Red Sox rotation also has their share of pitchers with an injury history (Josh Beckett, Disuke Matsuzaka, & Brad Penny). The Rays have the most durable rotation in the AL East.
I prefer Yankees and Red Sox lineups over the Rays, but not by much. If players like Upton and Crawford bounce back they’ll have a great hitting team. I guess that with those two players rebounding, and with Longoria advancing his batting skills with more experience, the Rays might have the best offense. I still lean toward the Yanks and BoSox, however, because those teams have more power.
The bullpens should all be near the same. The Rays might see some of the relievers come back to earth, but it should still be a solid group. It is pretty much a toss up between all 3 teams.
I know that defense doesn’t make a big impact on a teams’ win-loss record, but the Rays have the top one. Maybe it will tack on a couple wins over a team like the Yankees, who have a terrible defense.
The AL East race is shaping out to be the most competitive division in the MLB next year. I don’t know who I will pick, but I know things will be very close throughout.
The Mets have finally made an offer to free agent starter Derek Lowe. They have proposed 3 years, 36 million.
If Lowe ends up with this, it will be a major steal for the Mets. Could you believe that after Carlos Silva nabbed 4 years, 48 million that Lowe could be stuck with only 3 years, 36 million? It makes no sense at all. Even after this year, a year in which AJ Burnett received 5 years, 82.5 million, Lowe could get less. I know that some will disagree, but Lowe is a better, more durable pitcher than Burnett. It is just blowing my mind that Lowe might only get a 3 year, 36 million dollar contract.
All the signs point to him making more, but who will give him more? Almost every mid or large-market contending team on the east coast or the mid west won’t be pursuing him.
- The Yankees officially have no money left to spend, especially not the 12 million per year Lowe will require.
- The Red Sox signed Brad Penny, filling the need for a starter.
- The Phillies have nothing left to spend after signing Jamie Moyer and Raul Ibanez.
- The Cubs would rather have a big bat for right field.
- The Brewers don’t seem willing to make any long term commitments because most of their players’ pay is rising through arbitration.
- The Cardinals don’t view starting pitching as a big need.
- The Tigers, Astros, White Sox, Blue Jays, Twins, and Indians can’t afford him.
So, when you narrow things down, the only suitor for Lowe is the Mets. There is a team, that I haven’t named, however. The Braves are a great fit for Lowe. They play on the East Coast, need a starting pitcher, are a contending team (sometimes), and have the money to spend. I predicted Lowe to sign in Atlanta in my Top 50 Free Agents, and I still love the fit. I don’t understand why there is such a lack of interest. The Braves were not shy at all about pursuing AJ Burnett. They even offered him 5 years, 80 million. If I’m GM Frank Wren, I’m making Lowe an offer of 4 years, 48 million. That would probably get him to accept, and if nothing else it will drive up the price for the Mets. The Braves should definitely get in on Derek Lowe.
As of right now, it looks like Lowe will be in a Met uniform next year. If they get him, they are going to be one hard team to stop. I think they’d win the division with Francisco Rodriguez, JJ Putz, and now Derek Lowe on the team. If they do make the playoffs, watch out! Could you imagine Johan Santana and Derek Lowe pitching 2 games each in a 5 game playoff series. Both pitchers have a lot of playoff experience, and they could pretty much end the game if they could go 7 innings each. That should be no problem for these two. Putz and K-Rod can come in and end the game. Scary!
The Red Sox have made a couple of signings recently. They signed Brad Penny and Josh Bard. Penny will receive 5 million on a 1 year deal with incentives that could tack on another 3 million. Bard will make 1.6 million, but the deal is not guaranteed. I like both of these signings, but I also think that the Red Sox could’ve done better.
Penny brings depth to the BoSox rotation, and he certainly has a lot of up-side. Remember how good he was in 2007? This deal could pay great dividends to Boston, and Penny could really solidify their rotation if he can return to his ’07 form. Even if he just brings an ERA around 4.00, it will be a good buy for only 5 million.
This is a very solid deal by the Red Sox, but I think they could’ve done better. I would’ve pursued Derek Lowe. If they wanted to match the rotations of the Yankees and Rays, they would have had to bring back Lowe. With all of the money they had available, I don’t know why they went the cheap route. The BoSox are pretty much done and they still have about 30 million to spend. Will they cut that much payroll? If it were almost any other team in the league I would like the Penny signing, but since Boston has so few holes and so much to spend, I don’t like it. Lowe would’ve made a lot more sense, especially since there aren’t many teams interested. The Mets seem like the only team aggressively pursuing him. So the bottom line is: I like the Penny signing, but Lowe would’ve been a better choice.
The Bard signing makes more sense. He will be the backup catcher, probably to Jason Varitek. 1.6 million is a fair amount, and Bard has some up-side. He was very good in ’07, and was bad last year only because of injury issues. To me, he was one of, if not the best backup catcher option available after the Padres non-tendered him. Who knows, maybe Bard will break-out and take over as the starting catcher sometime during the year. I like this signing a lot for the Red Sox.
So the Red Sox made a couple nice, cheap signings. However, I still believe that they could’ve done better.
I know that this is old news, but I wanted tLo write about it anyway. The Giants signed Randy Johnson the day after Christmas for 1 year, 8 million. There are incentives that could bring the final total of the deal to 13 million. This is a fantastic signing by the Giants.
The Big Unit came at a very cheap price. Only 8 million per year is a huge steal in my opinion, and I think that a number of teams should’ve matched this offer. I thought that the Dodgers were the best fit for Johnson because they had a lot of money to spend and could get him on a 1 year deal. LA has 34 million left to spend with only 2 holes – the rotation and the outfield. Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn or whomever could come in for at the most 22 million per year. That would leave at least 12 million to spend. That is the offer I would’ve made if I was Ned Colletti, the GM of the Dodgers. He got beat by Brian Sebean on this one, and it could cost them big time.
Randy enters an already good rotation to solidify it. The Giants can now boast a rotation of Tim Lincecum – Matt Cain – Randy Johnson – Jonathan Sanchez – Barry Zito. In my opinion, that is the best starting rotation in the NL West. This team could be in some major competition for the division. I think they have already pasted up the Diamond Backs in terms of talent. San Francisco has much more depth in the rotation, and one could make a case that they have a better offense as well. Right now, they are still a step behind the Dodgers. If because of nothing else, the Dodgers still have the much better offense and bullpen. There is only one thing that could make the Giants favorites to win the NL West…
Manny Ramirez. They are said to be aggressively pursuing him, but I don’t know how true that is. There has been zero competition with the Dodgers for his services. Because of this, he should come pretty cheap. Of course, Manny will still probably get at least 2 years, 40 million. I don’t know if the Giants could fit that into their payroll. They have about 88 million committed for ’09. Their highest payroll since 2000 has been 90 million. I don’t know if they will be able to go any higher, but if they have permission to go all the way up to 100 million, a signing could occur.
First, they would have to trade Randy Winn, both to clear salary and to open up a spot for Manny to play. One suitor that I think makes a lot of sense is the White Sox. They need a center fielder, and Winn would be the best available via trade or free agency. The ChiSox would probably be willing to take on the entire 8.25 million he has coming. So, if a trade like this does go through to dump Winn’s contract, the Giants would have 80 million committed. Give Manny 20 million in his first year and call it an offseason. They can then head into the season with a lineup of Fred Lewis – Edgar Renteria - Aaron Rowand - Manny Ramirez - Bengie Molina – Pablo Sandoval – Greg Bowker – Kevin Frandsen / Emmanuel Burris. Very good. If they make this move, they are the favorites to win the NL West in my opinion.
All of it is possible if they get approval to raise payroll all the way up to 100 million. If not, they’ll be in a dog fight for second place with the D’Backs.
Happy New Year! I hope that you have a great one. I will try my best to improve my website in the New Year. My New Year wish: That ’09 is the year for the Cubs.