Sep 29, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) and shortstop Yunel Escobar (11) celebrate a win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Tampa defeated Toronto 7-6. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

What This Tampa Bay Rays Fan Wants for Christmas

The Rays start this holiday season with their roster largely set not just for 2014 but for 2015 as well. Key starters are locked up with long-term deals and/or options, making the Rays’ set to finally go on a run. If everyone stays healthy, the Rays look like strong contenders in the AL East. Still, there are some areas where the team could improve, and below I’ve written my list of what I’d like Santa Andrew Friedman to leave under my tree this Christmas, right underneath the branches with the team ornaments and the Evan Longoria bobblehead doll.

In my home we have a tradition of asking for one big present and a series of small ones. In the spirit of this tradition, I’m asking Santa Friedman for the following:

1. Keep David Price: If Price goes to arbitration he’ll probably receive a one year salary in the neighborhood of $14 million, even coming off an injury-plagued year. But here at RCG, we have talked about ad nauseum why Price is so valuable to the Rays. Price is both a uniquely talented pitcher, and a leader. Despite his injury, Price still led the team in innings pitched, with 186.2 and led the American League in complete games, lowest walks per 9 innings, and strikeout to walk ratio. He’s one year removed from winning the Cy Young award, and will spend most of 2014 at just 28 years of age. The Rays only have control of Price for two more years–but Price could be the cornerstone of the staff for years for those two years, and that could make all the difference. Keeping him on the roster is my one big wish.

2. A backup third baseman: Evan Longoria led the Rays in home runs and RBI in 2013. That was nice, but there were times during the season that Longoria looked tired and became mired in slumps. The Rays need a back  third baseman good enough in the field to allow Longoria to DH some games and even take a day or two off without risking the defense and putting a hole in the batting order. If that backup can also help out at first, left, and maybe even second and short, so much the better. The Rays made a long-term investment in Longoria, and a good back-up is the best way to protect it.

3. Right-handed DH: The Rays gave Matt Joyce a contract without a position–the only conclusion is that he’s left handed DH and insurance should a corner outfielder go down. The Rays still need a right handed DH who can also platoon with David DeJesus in left and hit more than Sean Rodriguez.

4. Alex Torres as closer: This one may be the easiest to grant. Torres is already on the roster and sure to return in a key bullpen role. If, as it appears now,  the obvious candidates are Jake McGee, Joel Peralta, and newcomer Heath Bell. Torres was arguably the Rays’ most effective relief pitcher in 2013. He didn’t perform as well in his rare save opportunities as he did in other bullpen roles, but with a year of excellent pitching under his belt, this fan thinks he’s the best option for 2014.

That’s all, Santa. This Rays fan isn’t asking for much this Christmas–but if you grant my wish, look for the Rays to make their strongest push for the pennant since 2008.

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1 Comments on What This Tampa Bay Rays Fan Wants for Christmas

  1. Jason Nereim says:

    I like most of the ideas but Im not sure how feasible they all are.

    I too would like if the Rays kept Price and surely it would help our chances of competing in 2014, but is holding onto Price what is best for the Rays long term? This is the ideal time to trade him considering the dearth of options on the FA and trade market. Further considering the volatility of pitching, it’s generally best to sell high. Who knows, maybe Price is injured next year or is slightly less effective due to a couple ticks he lost on his fastball or maybe the walks creep back up. Anything can happen but if the Rays don’t win it all and have to settle for a lesser package next offseason, it’s a loss in my eyes. The farm system has already been weakened due to recent drafts and could use a big infusion of talent. Obviously if the Rays don’t get the type of package they are looking for, you keep him. But if they get something along those lines, I say you pull the trigger and never look back.

    2 and 3 go hand in hand. With Rodriguez and Molina likely cementing themselves with key bench roles, and Guyer likely the frontrunner as a back up outfielder and platoon mate, the Rays only have one spot available left. Recently claimed Jerry Sands seems to be the favorite right now. While his numbers in AAA last year and in a few stints in the majors have been far from awe inspiring, he has always been a lefty masher. Even in the majors, spanning 86 PA he has posted a 156 wRC+ versus LHP. Further he plays above average defense at 1B and COF. Personally, I think the Rays are covered at 3B with Zobrist and Rodriguez able to cover him there while he DH’s.

    Im lukewarm on the idea of Torres closing. I think Bell likely holds the role this year while Torres continues to acclimate himself to his bullpen role. The Rays have a history of signing veterans to garner the saves, and there is a reason for that. By disallowing the young arms from racking up saves, it keeps their arbitration figures much lower and allows them to remain cheaper options in high leverage roles. There have been studies done that show that a closer often doesn’t work in the highest leverage situations and that having an dominant “relief ace” is more important than having a dominant closer. I relief ace is able to come into any tight game situation while a closer is likely brought in a lower leverage situation, starting an inning with no runners on base. Lastly, Torres’ ability to go multiple innings would be wasted in a closer role.

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