Monday, August 13, 2007

Devil Rays Problem 2 of 2: A Solution Is Near

So yesterday was a look at how the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have basically been a team with a history of… well losing. And it isn’t like the trend is stopping. As I am typing this up, they are currently down 3-0 to the Boston Red Sox and sit at the bottom of the AL East with a record of 45-72 and 25 games back of AL East Leading Boston Red Sox.

My stance does not change. If the Devil Rays had a decent rotation with an Ace and 2 .600 pitchers they could easily move up to third in the AL East standings. The Toronto Blue Jays are slightly better than what the D-Rays will need. The Rays have their Ace in Scott Kazmir who is 9-7 with 160K’s in 151.0 Innings. Not bad for a 23 year old kid. The rest of the 2007 Rotation is a bunch of kids looking for a chance to play baseball. Jason Hammel, Edwin Jackson, James Shields and Andy Sonnanstine are only 24, 23, 25 and 24 respectively. Do you expect these kids to all of a sudden flip on a switch and become solid aces such as Johan Santana or Roy Halladay? What about great number two pitchers such as Derek Lowe or Dice-K? The Blue Jays had to wait for Roy Halladay to work his way back up through A-class ball back to the Bigs. Sometimes you just have to wait this out.

So lets look at a few ways the Devil Rays could possibly improve. Well they could always start by opening up their pocket book. There are a few veteran pitchers out there who wouldn’t mind working with these young kids. Gil Meche instantly comes to mind, and he did even want to come to a media centre. That is how he ended up in Kansas City. That and $11 Million a year couldn’t help. Opening up the purse strings can attract the most unlikely of talent. And right now they can use any talent. But looking at the history of paying players and looking at the salaries of everyone on the roster there is only Carl Crawford making some good money. Dan Wheeler is another who is making some money, just over $2 Million this season. Currently there are 18 players who are under contract for less than a $1million, and there are 5 players on the roster whose salary is not disclosed. There is a pretty good chance that they are making well under a million dollars. Are the Devil Rays actually going to start dishing out some cash? Probably not. Will they be able to attract some free agent pitching? Not unless they need a year salary to pay off some debts or they are over the age of 35.

So effectively there is only one more option. Wait for your staff to mature. And to be honest it is probably the most effective. If you are going to pay your talent, make it your home-grown talent. Since they are all 24 years old, give them 2-3 years and they will be all at least .500 pitchers. They are youthful. They have the power. They have the control. But you just have to wait. The Blue Jays gave Halladay 3-4 Years to develop; Kazmir is on to year 3 now, just wait for the rest of the staff to mature.

This team will be out of the basement next season but just barely ahead of Baltimore or Toronto. And in 2009 could just be in contention for… well maybe still 4th place.

As long as the Rays keep their young talent in the field and the young staff they will be able to upset some teams through out the season. You can count on it. Laugh all you want… Although I am aware that Toronto and Baltimore will pretty much have to not improve over the next few seasons even though the young pitching of the Blue Jays is a surprise to everyone this year. And Baltimore is looking pretty good. In the interest of competition Hopefully the Rays will improve ten fold and there will be a great race in the AL East for a few seasons to come.

It is a good thing that Mike Weir was selected to the President’s Cup Team… To Bad for Stephen Ames… Get this opinion and more coming tomorrow.

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