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Gary Shelton Chimes in on Manny and Johnny

Gary Shelton must have been peaking over my shoulder last night when I started writing my first post for the RayHawk Review. His article came out this morning and was right on the money. Manny Ramirez won’t be a Gold Glove-caliber first basemen, but he likely will hit 100 points or more higher than Pena’s .192 batting average. If he hits behind Evan Longoria as some are speculating, that likely boosts Longo’s value since pitching around him will be less appetizing.

It’s a good read and a nice primer for the upcoming season. Check it out

Johnny Damon – Shelton agrees, great clubhouse guy. You need that veteran presence in the locker room, and Damon is the kind of guy who will help cement the guys when the chips are down.

The bullpen is the huge question mark, but I am not convinced that it will be as bad as many predict. Certainly losing the core relief team hurts. But middle relievers are plentiful, and few who anchored the pen last year were high on other team’s list. The biggest hole to fill will be the loss of Rafael Soriano. The only thing stopping him from being an elite closer for Atlanta was his health. Last year he was possibly the smartest move the Rays brain-trust made, and they’ve done nothing but impress since taking the reins from the nasty one, Vince Naimoli.

I’m looking at this with my Rays-colored glasses planted firmly on my face. This organization is oozing pitching talent. They resurrected careers by lesser players, so why not spend a bit of mana with Manny? Look at some of the kids in the pipeline. Dealing Matt Garza for a load of high quality prospects was brilliant. It was also eerily in tune with a video on AOL Fanhouse by Steve Phillips…Steve Phillips\' Fix My Team – Rays in December of last year, when Phillips recommended trading Garza while his value was at it’s peak.

Give me a healthy J.P. Howell over the guys we lost outside of Balfour, Wheeler and Soriano. James Shields, once the staff Ace, is likely the number three guy in the rotation now. If you have to find spots for Andy Sonnanstine, he fits real well in long relief and as a spot starter. Throw in some Jake McGee, and season it with a few free agent acquisitions and you’ve got the makings of a solid team again. Will they contend for the AL East again this year? Probably not. Boston certainly took a lesson from the Yankees and decided to open up the check book. The Yankee’s will always, always buy help when they need it. The Blue Jays are also at it again, which means the top of the AL East is going to be brutal.

Topics: Carlos Pena, Dan Wheeler, Evan Longoria, Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, James Shields, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Soriano

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