The Rays Trade And Draft Record Is Impressive: However Most Of The Best Players Are Now Ex-Rays
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By Jake Bullington (Rays Correspondent) Follow @JakeyJake01
The Tampa Bay Rays have had a great history of producing great MLB talent ever since the current regime of Stu Sternberg, Matt Silverman, Andrew Friedman, and Joe Maddon took over. Their system, is to build talent up in hopes to sign to club friendly long-term deals and have them produce until the price tag becomes just too high and then get the next era in from trades .When it comes to pitching however its a whole new ball game. The Rays have an unmatched system for finding pieces from all over and putting them into a mix that at best could be described as ” an Island of misfit toys” but it works. If you take a look at the Rays bullpen the last couple years you see a couple of guys stand out that really had no place anywhere else.
In 2008, Grant Balfour became what no body thought he was, a great pitcher. In 2008 Balfour went 6-2 in 51 games with a 1.54 ERA and a staggering .89 WHIP. Balfour was signed that season for just above the league minimum at $500,000. Balfour would go onto to Oakland a few years later and signed for a little over 3 Million Dollars.
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In 2010, the Rays would do it again after breaking the bank a little more they went out and traded for Rafael Soriano. Soriano who had been with the Braves the past three seasons was coming off what could have been a bad season going 1-6 with just under a three ERA and having saved just 27 games. But once again the magic of Jim Hickey and the rest of the Rays staff turned something around for Soriano and he would go on to save forty-five games for the Rays with a 1.73 ERA in 62.1 Innings Pitched. Soriano would then go on to sign onto sign with the New York Yankees. In 2011 and 2012 they would push their luck going after journey men Kyle Farnsworth ( 5-1 with a 2.18 ERA and 25 saves) in 2011 and only have to spend about 1.5 Million. Then Fernando Rodney ( 2-2 with a .60 ERA and 48 saves) in 2012 and only costing a little more than 2 Million for what would have been a CY Young if not for his teammate David Price.
From a hitters stand point the Rays have really build up talent, Draft well, and made trades for guys that just needed a shot to prove themselves. In 1999 The Tampa Bay Devil Rays as they were called then drafted a player many thought to be the best thing since sliced bread. A five tooled player by the name of Josh Hamilton. Hamilton would have just stupid power and a bat that made every scout that watched him smile in awe. Over the next few seasons Hamilton would go from good to bad in the minor leagues and then be out of the game for a bit with his much publicized substance abuse problem. In 2006 However Hamilton would get a shot at his dream but not with the Tampa Bays Rays.The Chicago Cubs would draft him in the Rule 5 draft and then the same day flip him to the Cincinnati Reds for cash. But what could have been that year had the Rays protected him?
The Rays during the 2007 season had at DH a guy by the name of Greg Norton and an outfield of Carl Crawford in left, B.J. Upton in center, and Delmon Young in right. Hamilton would have just below a .300 season with 19 Home Runs in ninety games. Plugging that into a lineup that had Carlos Pena hitting 46 HRs and B.J. Upton hitting 24 HRs, Hamilton could have fit in nice and maybe the Rays would not have finished in 5th place that year, and for only a little over $ 380,000 he would have been secured for the season he would have the following year when he was traded from the Reds to the Texas Rangers for pitchers Danny Herrera and Edinson Volquez.
In 2008, Hamilton could have had what would have been called a breakout season for the Rangers hitting 32 HRs and driving in a League high 130 RBI, while batting .304. The Rays that season would go on to win 92 games that season but fall to the Phillies in the World Series. Josh Hamilton inserted into that lineup would have added some much needed protection for Carlos Pena (31 HRs) and Highly touted rookie Evan Longoria (27 HRs) and the option to them rest veteran players Gabe Gross, Eric Hinske, and Cliff Floyd.
Another interesting case was Delmon Young, another first overall selection for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. After being named the minor league player of the year and Baseball America’s top prospect for the 2006 season, Young would go on to face a fifty game suspension for contact with the umpire. Young would be called up to the Devil Rays in August of 2006 and go on to finish second in the Al Rookie of the Year vote behind Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Young would hit .288 with 13 HRs and plate 93 RBI. His tenure with the team that drafted him would be short-lived as in 2007 the Devil Rays would trade him to the Minnesota Twins for Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza both of which would go on to have great season for the Tampa Bay Rays. Delmon since then has had a string of inconsistency and run ins with the law and never really found it again until a trade that sent him to the Detroit Tigers where he in the postseason we may have finally caught a glimpse of what could have been.
Had the Rays had the money many believe the team could have found that one piece that has been missing to really give them that push in the playoffs. Until they find it the Tampa Bay Rays have put together competitive teams through High Drafting, well scouted trades, and huge under the radar free agents. But many Rays fans dream of the what if scenario that could have seen a lineup with Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Desmond Jennings, Josh Hamilton, Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist, and a bullpen with Soriano, Balfour, Farnsworth and Rodney. Not to mention a pitching staff that could have been David Price, James Shields, Matt Garza, Matt Moore, and Jeremy Hellieckson among others.
For now Rays fans will keep dreaming and look forward to what the future holds in guys like Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Hak-Ju Lee, and Chris Archer. But as long as guys like Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon are at the helm the future looks bright for this young club.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of www.mlbreports.com and their partners.***
A big thank-you goes out to our Rays Correspondent Jake Bullington. Jake was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Moved to Tampa, FL in 2010 to coach a local baseball team the Tampa Twins. Covered the team writing player profiles, Game reports, and running the Twins website as the Twins Insider. Started the Blog ” not just Cardboard” writing about topics that included Baseball cards as well as baseball in general. A baseball trainer for Diamond II Pro baseball trainers that works closely with former and current minor and major league players. Has been doing free-lance scouting for teams since 2008. Avid Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins Fans. Follow and Interact with Jake on Twitter Follow @JakeyJake01
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Posted on January 8, 2013, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged @jakeyjake01 on twitter, andrew freidman, andrew friedman, Arbitration eligible, b.j. upton, Baseball alex cobb, ben francisco, ben zobrist, boston red sox, brandon gomes, Carlos Pena, cesar ramos, chris archer, chris jennings, cliff floyd, david price, desmond jennings, durham bulls, edinson volquez, elliot johnson, eric hinske, evan longoria, fernando rodney, gabe gross, grant balfour, j.p Howell, jake bullington, jake mcgee, jake orodizzi, james loney, jeff niemann, jeremy hellickson, jose molina, josh hamilton, kyle farnsworth, matt joyce, matt moore, matthew silverman, sam fuld, travis hafner, tropicana field, wil myers, yunel escobar. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.