May 9, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeff Niemann throws a pitch during the fourth inning of a game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

RCG Discussion: Has Jeff Niemann Appeared in His Last Game for the Rays?

One of my favorite parts about this site has been the opportunity to interact with great commenters who really know what they’re talking about. Usually I like to take an excellent comment and turn it into its own article, but the discussion commenter David Egbert and I had the other day just deserves to be reprinted here in its entirety. For the future, you can feel free to email us at [email protected] with any questions related to the Rays or baseball in general. More importantly, though, we all really appreciate your comments on every piece, and when you have something to say, don’t hesitate to contribute to the conversation however big or small. Here’s what David Egbert and I talked about here, and please note that I’ve never met David before- this type of discussion can just happen naturally when you have people passionate about baseball wanting to talk about the issues that are meaningful to them.

David Egbert: This is the last we will see Jeff Niemann in a Rays uniform. They will never go to arbitration with him after his injury history.

Robbie Knopf: I would tend to agree, but would you completely rule out bringing back at say $2.4MM (a 20% paycut from this year) as a back-of-the-rotation type who could generate some trade value? I don’t think it’s a complete certainty.

DE: With Chris Archer, Alex Colome and Jake Odorizzi waiting in the wings, I would spend $2.4MM elsewhere.

RK: I probably agree with you, but let me play Devil’s Advocate. David Price gets traded, yielding no big league-ready pitchers, and after Hernandez leaves as a free agent, your remaining starters are Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, and the three you mentioned. Do the Rays really want a rotation with 27 year old Hellickson as the elder statesman? What if Colome proves to be more of a bullpen guy and somebody gets injured? Isn’t worth it to bring Niemann to camp and see how he looks before either giving him a rotation spot or trading him away for a team thinking $2.5MM is a real bargain?

DE: In a perfect world, yes. However, we really need position players. This plan of turning lemons into lemonade with guys like Ryan Roberts, Luke Scott, James Loney, Kelly Johnson and Jose Molina just is not working. I’d rather use our trade bait (Price?) and treasure to obtain good position players and go with the young pitching talent that we have.

RK: Why couldn’t you do both? That’s the major question. Is $2.5MM so significant for the Rays that they should cut ties with Niemann even when he could potentially help them out in 2014?

DE: As my granddaughter would say, “this is fun.” I think it’s about what you get for your money. Right now in Niemann, Johnson and Roberts, we are paying $9.0 million for a sore armed pitcher and two mediocre position players. If you put a good portion of that money into one decent position player, your team is greatly improved.

RK: Agreed- nice discussion, David. Johnson is on a 1-year deal and Roberts could very well be non-tendered as well following the season. The difference with Niemann is that if he comes back healthy there’s a pretty good chance the Rays could trade him after spring training or early in the season, pay him basically nothing and get a prospect in return for him. If Niemann is healthy following the season, the Rays would certainly be gambling bringing him back, but it might be worth it. Also, the Rays might say non-tender Niemann but then re-sign him for say only $1.5MM. If the worst-case scenario then became burning that little money and best-case became either getting a solid major league starting pitcher or a decent prospect in a trade, would you say that’s worthwhile?

For my personal opinion, I just don’t believe he can stay healthy and that he’s not worth committing any money to especially given the rotation depth that the Rays have. But I do think the case can be made for the other side and that we can only be maybe 80% certain that Jeff Niemannhas pitched his final game for the Tampa Bay Rays.

DE: I agree. At $1.5MM, it would be a good gamble. Thanks for playing “GM for a day!”

The rest of this season, Jeff Niemannis going to be a forgotten man as he recovers from shoulder surgery. But we know that the Rays love to get creative as they look for options to help their team, and bringing back Niemann could be an example of just that at the right price. This is going to be an ongoing discussion through this coming offseason, but it’s always nice to talk something like this out and I would like to thank David for the opportunity to let me do just that. See you all in the comments, and I’m looking forward to seeing which enlightening discussion arises next.

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