Forgetting Jeff Niemann

By Robbie Knopf

Jeff who? Jeff Niemann went down earlier this year with a fracture in his leg. It took me a few seconds of racking me brain to remember what Niemann went down with. In 2011, Niemann went down and with Andy Sonnanstine moving into the rotation and being a disaster, Niemann’s presence was felt. This year, Alex Cobb has been somewhat inconsistent, but he has been dominant at times as well and he has given the Rays a solid, durable 5th starter. Niemann pitched fine when he was healthy, but durable? No.

What are the Rays going to do with Niemann? Their rotation is absolutely fine. You have James Shields, David Price, Cobb, Matt Moore, who has been erratic but has been pitching fine overall, and then with Jeremy Hellickson out for two weeks, Chris Archer stepped in and was great in his first big league start. Niemann is 29 years old and made 2.75 million dollars in 2012, which is quite a bit by the Rays’ standards- especially considering you have Moore, Cobb, and Archer making close to or exactly the MLB minimum. Why should they possibly hold onto him? The Rays love young pitching and Niemann doesn’t fit the profile anymore. James Shields was an exception, but why should Niemann be?

Jeff Niemann does not have a future with this team. But if they need him to restore his trade value. But wait a second- Niemann is going to come back and you’re going to take a rock-solid Alex Cobb out of the rotation again? In 2011, only a freak injury to Cobb got the Rays back down to 5 men in their rotation. Are you going to go back into a 6-man rotation just to restore Niemann’s trade value? I can’t see it. Some team is going to be pitching-starved and once Niemann is healthy, the only reasonable move is to trade him for whatever they can get. If the Rays can get some high-upside, high-risk prospect at Rookie ball for him, I think they pull the trigger. The Rays have moved on from Jeff Niemann.