10.28.2006

Offseason 1-Devil Rays

Now that the season is officially over it is time to start talking about the offseason. I am going to go team by team with what I think they should do. The first team I want to look at is the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. They are my second favorite team, basically due to the immense young talent they have. When talking about the DRays you aren't in a win now mode but being competitive in 2008 would be the key. Next year not losing 100 games would be a good step. The DRays have some of the best young talent in baseball here is a list of some of there best young guys:

Delmon Young-21-OF(MLB)
Jeff Niemann-23-RHP(AA)
Evan Longorira-21-2B,SS,3B(AA)
Reid Brignac-20-SS(AA)
Jacob McGee-20-LHP(A)
Elijah Dukes-22-OF(AAA)
Wes Bankston-22-1B(AAA)
Joel Guzman-21-3B(AAA)
Elliot Johnson-22-2B(AA)
Chuck Tiffany-21-LHP(AA)
Mitch Talbot-23-RHP(AA)
Ben Zobrist-25-SS(MLB)
BJ Upton-22-SS,3B,OF,?(MLB)

As you can see there is some serious talent in their minor league system. All of those guys could have an impact in the next few years. The problem for the Devil Rays is figuring out how to manage their talent best to get the best value. A lot of these guys have issues whether it is behavior, defense, lack of plate discipline or lack of position. If the Rays are smart in these next two offseasons they could have a shot at the playoffs in 2008.

Their biggest logjam is in the outfield where they already have Baldelli, Crawford, and Gomes in addition to the young guys. Rocco and Crawford are pretty young themselves. This is where my first idea comes into play. Trade Baldelli. All the papers speak of trading Crawford but he is the face of the franchise you should build around him. Baldelli is a solid player making very little, but he is an injury risk. These are the teams I think could be interested in a new centerfielder, Boston, Florida, Colorado, Chicago, Astros, and the Rangers. The Marlins are the team that sticks out the most to me. They are loaded with good young pitchers and that is what the Rays need and want. I would offer Baldelli to the Marlins for Scott Olsen. Olsen has ace stuff and posted a respectable 4 ERA in his first big league season. He will be 23 next season and could slot right behind Scott Kazmir in the rotation to give them two great young lefties with power stuff.

Trading Baldelli would leave a big opening in CF. Baldelli was worth 3.5 wins this season in 88 games, to fill in for that I would let Dukes and Upton fight for the spot. Both of these guys have attitude problems and Upton just wont stick in the infield with his defense. Let them both know now that they will get a shot at the starting CF job. With practice I believe Upton could be a very good centerfielder. PECOTA sees a .284/.368/.468 season for Upton and a .267/.331/.449 season for Dukes. I would think next years PECOTA will be kinder to Dukes as he greatly improved his plate discipline this season. Either of those guys would be above average center fielders. An outfield of Crawford, Dukes/Upton, and Young would be very good next season. That introduces another problem.

What do to with Cantu and Gomes. Gomes and Cantu both had real nifty 2005's posting OPS+'s of 139 and 112 respectively. They both slipped bad last season due to the massive strikeout totals. Their power is real but it will be real hard to keep the average up when they strikeout that much. A team cant afford to keep both of them in the lineup. My plan would be to see if one of them can figure out how to play first base. Whichever one takes to it best trade the other one. There are plenty of teams that could be in the market for some cheap power. I would target some young power bullpen arms. Maybe a guy like Fausta Carmona from the Indians.

This team has plenty of potential and if they deal their assets properly they could be competitive soon. Other guys who could have some small value are Casey Fossum, Travis Harper, Ty Wigginton, Greg Norton. In every trade I would target young power arms and try to build a bullpen out of them. The Red Sox could have interest in Harper or Wigginton, ask for someone like Jermaine Van Buren. I would also look into trading some of the young guys who dont really have a spot such as Zobrist and Guzman.

If these trades go as I planned this would be the 2008 starting lineup:
C-Dioner Navarro
1B-Gomes/Cantu/Guzman/Bankston
2B-Johnson/Longoria/Zobrist
SS-Brignac/Zobrist
3B-Longoria/Upton
LF-Crawford
RF-Young
CF-Upton/Dukes
DH-Dukes or any other bats that dont have a position

That lineup could all hit 20 homers and could steal a lot of bases. I count a possible 200 plus stolen bases there with everyone being a 10 SB threat other than the catcher and the first baseman. Now onto the rotation:

Scott Kazmir-L
Scott Olsen-L
Jeff Niemann-R
Jacob McGee-L

Those four all have top of the rotation stuff. Then you could choose your number five from this list:

Chuck Tiffany-L
Mitch Talbot-R
James Shields-R
JP Howell-L
Jason Hamel-R

Whichever guys dont work throw in the bullpen or trade em. This team has a lot of talent and if they use it right and make some smart free agent signings they could be a dangerous team. I guess thats what happens when you always draft in the top 5.

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