Tampa Bay Rays Bullpen architects

By Unknown author

The off-season was surprisingly unkind to the Tampa Bay Rays, especially the signing of Joaquin Benoit by the Detroit Tigers for $16.5 million dollars, but it isn’t like Matt Friedman hasn’t been through this before. Quite frankly the wheeling and dealing he’s done since then could be nothing short of brilliant. Of course it’s way too early to determine just how effective the bullpen will be this year, but based on his track record, Friedman may end up showing Billy Beane a thing or two about Moneyball.

It’s always tough for a small market team to remain consistently competitive. It takes some serious cajones and incredibly skilled player shuffling to move quality talent in and out of the system, but so far the Rays have been masters of the game. Rated by Baseball America as the “Gold Standard” in player development, it seems that the Rays front office continually shuffles up aces.

While it remains to be seen, the addition of Cesar Ramos, Rob Delaney, Adam Russell, Chris Archer, Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta might prove to be the most productive bullpen for the money. Certainly they struck gold with Benoit last year, but his 11.2 K/9 was offset by a scary 1.6 BB/K ratio. And there is no reason to believe he’ll maintain the high K/9 this year. In fact, the numbers say he is likely to regress closer to or even below his historical level of 8.5.

Soriano is the piece that we’ll miss the most. He overcame his injury history to turn in a brilliant performance last year, and is set as the heir-apparent and insurance policy for the aging Mariano Rivera. The closers job has rarely been a lock-down position in the Rays pen anyway, including the 2008 American League Championship season, and it’s always possible that someone like Jake McGee could step in to the role. I’d certainly be more comfortable with him versus the ever-mercurial intimidator Farnsworth. I’m not convinced he can handle the pressure over the course of a full season, and his 27 saves in 12 years in the majors certainly supports that. He’s a history of meltdowns under pressure including some classics with the Yankees in 2008 and Kansas City in 2009. To his credit his WHIP over the last three years has been stellar and he certainly will add color to an already chromatic clubhouse.

Even Theo Epstein warns that the Rays are not likely to fold so easily. ESPN reported that he still considers them a “formidable rival” thanks to their rich farm system and intelligent player development.

Let’s hope we can make him really sweat this year.