The Tampa Bay Rays played The Texas Rangers on October 4, 2011. The Rays ended their AL wild-card streak, losing 4-3.
The Tampa Bay Rays play the Texas Rangers for Game 2 in Texas! Final score: 6-8 (Texas)
The Rays beat the New York Yankees to clinch a playoff spot in the 2011 playoffs!
by Steve Carney
Today, we'll take a look at the prospective 2013 pitching staff for the Tampa Bay Rays, and the catchers that could be handling the staff.
Part 1: Pitching
Pitchers on 40-man roster currently under contract
Dane De La Rosa
*- denotes eligible for arbitration
The Rays will certainly offer arbitration to Price, and will likely offer Badenhop arbitration as well.
Niemann is another story, though. He made $2.75 million dollars last year, but missed a majority of the season after first breaking his leg in a game against Toronto in May, then developing a shoulder issue in his first game back in September. His innings pitched numbers have declined each year since his rookie year of 2009 (180.2 in '09, 174.1 in '10, 135.1 in '11, and just 38.0 in '12), and he's dealt with injury in each of the past two seasons (a nagging back issue in 2011, and the leg and shoulder issue last season).
The Rays would likely have to pay him around $3 million in arbitration, so a likely move could be to decline arbitration and try to sign him to a lesser contract, much like the team did with J.P. Howell a couple of years back.
2012 pitchers eligible for free agency
Fernando Rodney ($2.5 million option)
James Shields ($10.25 option)
With the news Tuesday that Shields will have his option picked up, that leaves four players on the pitching staff that need attention.
Farnsworth is going to be 37 at the start of 2013, has dealt with elbow issues since the end of the 2011 season, and allowed almost as many earned runs in 2012 (12) as he did in 2011 (14) in less than half of the innings (57.2 IP in 2011, 27.0 IP in 2012). Probability that Farnsworth returns: less than 1%
Howell is one of the most liked players in the Rays clubhouse, and had a successful 2012 season (1-0, 3.06 ERA in 50.1 IP including a club-record 27.1 scoreless innings streak). However, Tampa Bay also has two other lefty relievers under control in McGee and Ramos, and may not want to give Howell the hefty raise he likely deserves. Probability that Howell returns: 40%
Peralta, with the exception of the first two weeks of 2012, has been one of the most consistent guys in the Rays bullpen over the last two seasons (70+ appearances each year, 67 IP per season, 0.9 WH/IP each year) while pitching in a lot of high-leverage situations. However, he'll be 37 on Opening Day, and after making over $2 million last year, could be priced out of the Rays range. Probability that Peralta returns: 50%
Rodney had arguably the best season a reliever has ever had (MLB-record 0.60 ERA, club-record 48 saves in 50 chances, and an mind-boggling ERA+ of 634). On top of that, his option is an absolute steal. Probability that Rodney returns: greater than 99%
When it comes to free agents, executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has long said that the team "is dead" if they have to compete in the open market for pitching. So starting pitching and top-tier relievers are obviously out. However, the Rays front office always seems to find a reclaimation project (Rodney, Farnsworth, Juan Cruz etc.), and there are a few names out there that might be had at a relative bargain.
Juan Carlos Oviedo - The closer formerly known as Leo Nunez has the stats to be one of the highest paid relievers in the game. He averaged nearly 31 saves a year over his last three years playing, while appearing in 211 games in that span. However, after his identity scandal that broke out at the end of the 2011 season, Oviedo did not play in 2012 after being suspended for eight weeks by Major League Baseball, then sufferring a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in a minor-league rehab game. Oviedo could be the perfect compliment to Fernando Rodney in the event Joel Peralta does indeed price himself out of Tampa Bay's range.
Oviedo's 2012 salary: $6 million
Could be a Ray if he accepts: $1.5-$1.75 million
Brian Fuentes - The lefty has taken a mighty fall since leading the American League in saves in 2009, bouncing between four teams (Angels, Minnesota, Oakland, St. Louis) in the last three seasons, and did not play after August 8 of last year after being placed on the restricted list. He turned 37 in August, and if he's resolved his personal issues, could look to try and make one last run.
Fuentes 2012 salary: $5 million
Could be a Ray if he accepts: $1 million
Part 2: Catching
Catchers on 40-man roster currently under contract
One of these four will end up being the backup catcher, but none really has what it takes to handle the job full-time. You have to believe Gimenez has the inside track for the gig, as Vogt has yet to prove he can hit (after a hitless 2012 in the bigs), Lobaton struggled to hold runners (catching just 16% of runners stealing), and Chirinos spent all of 2012 on the shelf with a concussion.
2012 catchers eligible for free agency
Jose Molina ($1.5 million option)
Molina, who turned 37 in the middle of 2012, got off to a horrible start, but got stronger as the season went on. His throwing improved in the second half of the year, and he had his best month at the plate in September (hitting .325 with 3 HR and 10 RBI from September 1 on). His option is reasonable, but Tampa Bay would have to commit to another year of platooning behind the plate. Probability that Molina returns: 55%
The free agent market for catchers has a couple of players who will make a majority of the money (Mike Napoli, Russell Martin are two that come to mind), and a number of guys who will be fighting for a spot on many teams' rosters (former Rays Kelly Shoppach and Dioner Navarro fall into this category). However, one catcher presents an intersting scenario.
A.J. Pierzynski - Granted, the long-time White Sox catcher comes off a career year (.278 average and career-high 27 HR and 77 RBI in 135 games), but he'll be 36 in December, and Chicago could be wary about putting that many miles on his knees. Another advantage Tampa Bay has is that Pierzynski is from central Florida, playing his high school ball at Dr. Phillips in Orlando (the alma mater of former Ray Johnny Damon as well), and may want to play a full season in front of his family and friends in the area.
Pierzynski's 2012 salary: $6 million
Could be a Ray if he accepts: $3.5-$4.5 million