And so far as expected….

By Jonathan Azares

The free agency market is already buzzing. As we sit here patiently awaiting the organization’s game plan as it develops, it is important to keep in mind that Tampa Bay Rays have built their organization on the power of their farming system and their expertise in developing raw talent. With that said, historically they are not ones to spend a great deal on outside free agent players. This year that is even more so the case as the payroll has been decreased to $50 million. That is not to say that they have not gotten free agents in the past, but management has made some questionable acquisitions before (Chad Qualls, Troy Percival). This organization has been very stingy and reactive when it comes to trades and free agency. However, I think that this year is different. The Rays are losing key players and relying heavily on their young untested talent. I have no problem with this as you see how successful the likes of David Price, Evan Longoria, and Carl Crawford have become. I just firmly believe that some good free agent acquisitions can help in this transition process. The Rays just need to make sure that they know how to distinguish the Sorianos, Burrells, and Percivals aka:

It would be beneficial to have some seasoned guys come in to help provide consistency while the young talent gets more exposure and experience. That is a gamble that I know Joe Maddon and the organization are willing to take, but as a fan I am a little bit uneasy with that kind of risk especially with the Buck Showwalter-empowed Orioles, power-hitting Blue Jays, healed and rehabilitated Red Sox, and the zombie-like, eternal, never-dying New York Yankees (you know because they’re everywhere and they spread like an infection) all on the move.

So far if you haven’t already heard the Rays have already declined options on Dan Wheeler and Willie Aybar as well as contracted Elliot Johnson from triple-A Durham, however, there is some talks from the St.Pete Times and NBC that this is just a move to resign them for a lesser salary. They’ve also brought back Don Zimmer as a senior advisor, but yet somehow someway the “serial killer” Derek Shelton is still on the roster. It is still amazing that this team stands behind a deviant just waiting for the opportunity to strike again. And in some unfortunate off-topic news, former Devil Rays player Elijah Dukes has been arrested for failure to pay child support.

The Rays have till the end of the week to come up with a plan to save one of their key big players before everything starts hitting the fan. I think that Carl Crawford and Rafael Soriano are a lost cause, especially since Soriano signed with the Devil himself. I think that if anything the bullpen can be salvaged if you do everything in your power to keep Joaquin Benoit. He will be the key to this bullpen in 2011 because J.P. Howell is still untested from his recovery and Jake McGee has not seen had enough play time. Most of the bull pen is up for arbitration and or free agency.

Well, that’s it for now. Please don’t forget to check the Rayhawk Review frequently for all your off-season information. My eight part series on free agent catchers, infielders, outfielders, and relief pitchers (starting and relief) their stats and salary worth will be up shortly.