No matter how much Rays fans don’t want B.J. Upton to leave and how much they’ll miss him when he does, Thursday was the final nail in the coffin for Upton as a Tampa Bay Rays player. Upton declined the 1-year, 13.3 million dollar qualifying offer presented to him by the Rays, officially making him a free agent. Upton was never expected to accept to qualifying offer, and if he did, the Rays would have a problem as Upton’s 13.3 million dollar contract would be the highest in Rays history by over 3 million dollars and the Rays would either have to trade Upton (the most likely scenario), James Shields, or David Price in order to stay within their budget. All that being said though, reality is starting to set in that the Rays will begin the 2013 season, and B.J. Upton will not be starting in centerfield. Rays fans will wait a month, thinking subconsciously that maybe he’s hurt again like he was in 2012, but then he will never surface. Rays fans will always appreciate B.J. Upton’s time in Tampa Bay- but it’s over and the Rays have to find some way to move on without him.
MLB Trade Rumors’ Ben Nicholson Smith had the opportunity to talk with Rays Director of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and Friedman talked about the possibility of trading starting pitchers and how the Rays will go about filling their needs this offseason.
"“The one thing that we’re very wary of is waking up one day and not being able to fill out a rotation in the American League East.”…“Our approach is to attack this with a very open mind and focus on guys that we want to acquire in a vacuum.”"
We saw in 2012 how injuries forced the Rays to use seven different starting pitchers for four or more games. The Rays’ pitching depth is the strength of their team and it’s amazing how the Rays were able to move on from a May injury to Jeff Niemann and missed starts from David Price and Jeremy Hellickson as well without missing a beat. But at the same time, there’s a different between depth and quality. It would be one thing to trade a fourth or fifth starter type they can easily replace. It would be completely another for the Rays to trade one of their frontline starters, James Shields or David Price. The Rays will nevertheless consider trading Shields or Price. But they will only carry out a trade if they receive a trade package that they believe will improve their ballclub moving forward even as they move forward without one of the best starters in the game. Whether such a package arises is going to be a pivotal question this offseason.
The bottom line with the Rays right now is that they need bats. It doesn’t even matter so much which position. The Rays have needs at first base, catcher, in the outfield, and at designated hitter, but they could even acquire a second baseman or a shortstop and move Ben Zobrist to fill another need. They just have to look for the best fit regardless of position (although it’s hard to see them acquiring a third baseman), and figure out a way to generate enough offense so that another great pitching effort next season will not go to waste.
Speaking of the Rays’ starting pitching situation, that has been a topic that has elicited much discussion of late and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports talked about the feeling around baseball executives for what the Rays will do with their pitching. Rosenthal hears that rival executives believe that the Rays are unlikely to trade either Shields or Price because the AL East is as weak as it has been in years and the Rays would give themselves the best chance to make a run for the division title by keeping both of them. There is also, reportedly, “no chance” that the Rays will deal Price this offseason. As for alternatives to trading Shields and Price? Rosenthal opines that the Rays could deal Jeremy Hellickson or Matt Moore to upgrade their offense- although you can rest assured that Moore will not be traded because he’s a pitcher with unbelievable upside who showed flashes his rookie year and is signed to a team-friendly contract. The Rays face interesting decisions as to whether to trade a starting pitcher or even two this offseason, but with starting pitching the backbone of their ballclub, trading a starter is not as unlikely as you would think.
The Rays recently added lefty Frank De Los Santos to their 40-man roster and Baseball America gave their thoughts on De Los Santos’ ability as a pitcher.
"Signed out of the Dominican Republic in ’06, Frank de los Santos reached Triple-A Durham for the first time this season and impressed with a three-pitch mix—firm low-90s fastball, quality slider and change—out of the bullpen. The 24-year-old worked in 27 games for the Bulls, notching 6.8 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings."
De Los Santos has never been able to strike out enough batters, with an over-dependence on his fastball being an issue, but the ability is there and especially considering De Los Santos is a left-handed pitcher, the Rays think they could have a solid major league pitcher in him. We’ll have to see how he does in the big leagues in 2013.
"“He’s showed me so much in life,” Archer said, “and without my parents and without him, I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at right now — because I got my foundation from my parents, and when he came in my life, the whole thing changed.”… (On crying after his first MLB start) “I didn’t cry because I was happy for myself,” Archer said. “I got emotional because I looked up in the stands and I saw my parents’ faces, and I saw my mentor’s face and how proud they were that I was there. And that the hard work and efforts they put into me put me on that stage. I’m looking around, there are 40,000 people there and I see the four people that I care most about, and I just remember the look on all four of their faces.”"
Archer has always been a pitcher that has received top reviews for his character and that manifests itself off the field as Archer has been universally regarded as a soft-spoken individual, but also on the field as Archer has a great work ethic was able to see his efforts to improve his control come into fruition this season, leading to his first time in the big leagues. Hopefully Archer can continue to stay grounded and make the necessary improvements to allow him to continue to advance in his career as a major league pitcher.