Yesterday, the Rays made a big splash late in the offseason as has been customary for them the past few years, agreeing to a 1-year contract with Kelly Johnson. Johnson is going to be an interesting player for the Rays next year, seeing time at various positions while providing the Rays with good power and solid speed. Johnson and Jose Molina are both excited about the signing, speaking to Marc Topkin and Roger Mooney respectively.
His reason for picking the Rays? “Opportunity,” Johnson said. “It’s always a good team, they’re fun to watch, they’re the type of team when you’re on the other side you don’t like playing them. I’m excited to be a part of it. … I’m pumped.”
“He’s a quiet guy. Good guy. Good person. I think he can hit for average and power, take walks. He can steal bases. I think he’s going to fit in the way the Rays like it,” said Rays catcher Jose Molina, who played with Johnson in Toronto in 2011 after Johnson was traded to the Blue Jays on Aug. 23 from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
While Johnson’s signing was a surprise- the Rays were looking for a right-hand hitting outfielder and instead signed a lefty hitting infielder (although he has experience in the outfield as well), Johnson’s signing makes a lot of sense as he’ll help solidify the Rays lineup and give the Rays not just a utility player but a guy that can really hit. The early reports from the signing are good, and hopefully Johnson is primed for a big year in 2013 after struggling the last couple of seasons.
After meeting with the Hillsborough Commission last week, the Rays are going to meet with the other big county involved in the stadium talks, Pinellas County, today. Hopefully it will help us get a firmer grasp of where the talks stand. John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times asked for transparency in the talks, with the Rays actually explaining their complaints with Tropicana Field and giving proof in the numbers as to why they need to leave. That’s not about to happen, but hopefully this meeting can be another positive step towards a new Rays stadium.
In other stadium news, Noah Pransky of WTSP reported that economist Andrew Zimbalist, who weighed in on the stadium situation talking to the Tampa Bay Times the other day and explained why a move to Tampa ia best solution, is actually being paid by Major League Baseball as a consultant. The Tampa Bay Times apologized to their readers, saying that they would have noted that had they known. Zimbalist was probably not instructed by MLB to say what he said, but this whole situation is undoubtedly getting crazier and crazier.
To close, Fangraphs presented Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for the Tampa Bay Rays for next season and pegged the Rays for an 86-win team (note that the projections are based on previous statistics and not necessarily indicative of the future at all), and on a brighter note, John Sickels ranked the minor league systems of each MLB team and ranked the Rays 3rd, praising the Rays’ upper level talents who are not far away from making an impact and upside prospects in the low minors. Hopefully the Rays can outperform that ZiPS projection, and on the other hand, we can hope that the Rays’ prospects are as promising as Sickels regards them.