Posts Tagged ‘Tampa Bay Rays’

It’s Deadline Day For MLB Draftees – Lots To Do, Lots To Do

As mentioned here the other night, today is the deadline for major league organizations to come to terms with the players they selected in June’s First Year Player Draft.  Call me crazy, but this strikes me as one of the more exciting days of the summer.  According to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, thirteen first-rounders remained unsigned as of early this afternoon:

Stephen Strasburg (No. 1, Washington); Dustin Ackley (No. 2, Seattle); Donavan Tate (No. 3, San Diego); Zach Wheeler (No. 6, San Francisco); Jacob Turner (No. 9, Detroit); Tyler Matzek (No. 11, Colorado); Aaron Crow (No. 12, Kansas City); Grant Green (No. 13, Oakland); Matt Purke (No. 14, Texas); Alex White (No. 15, Cleveland); Shelby Miller (No. 19, St. Louis); Kyle Gibson (No. 22, Minnesota); LeVon Washington (No. 30, Tampa Bay).

Most of those are likely to agree to terms before midnight, which means that the next seven hours should be very busy for all parties involved and very interesting for casual observers such as myself.  I plan on following along throughout the night (or trying to, at least) and trying to keep Bus Leagues updated as much as possible.

Rumor has it that Baseball America is tracking all unsigned picks in the first ten rounds.  Unfortunately, Firefox does not seem to like Baseball America (or vice versa), so I’ll have to take Alex Pedicini’s word for it.

Update (5:24 PM): Rangers Blog at the Dallas Morning News  web site reports that Matt Purke has been in town for about a week (he’s preparing to attend Texas Christian University if a deal can’t be worked out with the Rangers) and negotiations are ongoing.  Jeff Wilson compared and contrasted Purke’s situation with that of Justin Smoak:

That’s about on par with the Justin Smoak negotiations from last year. That ended well for both sides. Purke, though, seems to have a genuine fondness for TCU, and the Tom Glavine fan has been given No. 47 for next season.

Via the comments section of Nationals Journal at the Washington Post, Baseball America’s Jim Callis is reporting that Donavan Tate has been seen in San Diego and could be close to signing with the Padres.  (How’s that for hearsay?) Tate is a Scott Boras client and outstanding athlete who held a football/baseball scholarship offer from North Carolina as negotiating leverage.

Update (5:41 PM): Saw this somewhere a little bit ago, maybe in that Mayo column linked above, but it also just came to me from CBS Sports via Baseball Musings.  The Tampa Bay Rays do not expect to sign either their first or second round picks.  As David Pinto said in his post, “Losing out on two picks has to hurt.”

Update (5:56 PM): Via Yahoo’s Kendall Rogers on Twitter (@ysportsncaabb) about 45 minutes ago, Shelby Miller passed up Texas A&M to sign with the Cardinals.  Rogers also reports that the Aggies also lost K.C. Hobson, Butch Hobson’s son and Toronto’s sixth-round selection.

Update (6:04 PM): Maury Brown is tracking the remaining draft picks and their bonuses at The Biz of Baseball.  He started with seventeen names, including three supplemental first rounders, and has updated two: New York’s Slade Heathcott ($2.2 million) and St. Louis’s Shelby Miller ($2.875 million).  Both signings are well over the recommended slot for their draft positions.

It is noted in the comments that Heathcott announced his signing on his Facebook page.

Update (6:49 PM): LeVon Washington’s willingness to sign with the Rays has changed greatly from Draft Day to Deadline Day.

Cleveland isn’t getting anywhere with Alex White.

Update (7:22 PM): Kendall Rogers hears good things about Kyle Gibson’s chances of signing, bad things about Alex White’s.

Update (9:38 PM): Jon Heyman says that the Padres are close to close to a deal with Donavan Tate (via MLB Trade Rumors).  Gammons apparently sees that news and raises him: picks two through ten have agreed to terms.  No attribution beyond that, so take it with a grain of salt.

Update (10:47 PM): Alex White WANTS to sign with Cleveland.  The two sides just haven’t been able to agree on a deal.

Supplemental pick Kentrail Davis signed with the Brewers.

Maury Brown has three players signed – Miller, Heathcott, and Davis – and I’ve seen stuff here and there that says Tate has also reached an agreement.  Just outside one hour to go – this will either be one hell of a finish, or an amazing cluster you-know-what for next year’s draft.

Update (10:57 PM): By the way, I forgot to mention that I totally friended Slade Heathcott on Facebook earlier (me and hundreds of others, no doubt).  So now I have a friend named Slade, which is really all anyone should want out of life.

Update (10:59 PM): RumorsandRants on Twitter – “Padres officially just announced signing of No. 3 overall pick Donavan Tate”

Update (11:06 PM): ysportsncaabb – “The Tigers also have signed first-round pick Jacob Turner, who was committed to play at North Carolina.”

Update (11:12 PM): The folks at USS Mariner are offering to sweeten any prospective deal for Dustin Ackley.  The Nationals would like to do the same for Stephen Strasburg, according to Jon Heyman.  One of those “sweeteners” involves actual money.

Update (11:28 PM): Donavan Tate is officially a Padre.

Update (11:41 PM): Twenty minutes, ten first-rounders still unsigned (or at least unannounced).  Maury Brown noted on Twitter earlier this hour that news of Aaron Crow’s failure to sign last year didn’t emerge until after 1 PM EST.

Update (11:46 PM): Seattle has scheduled a teleconference with general manager Jack Zduriencik for 9:15 Pacific time.  Announcing a deal, Mr. Z?  I’m sure he hopes so.

Via Twitter: Will Carroll, Aaron Gleeman, and Kendall Rogers note that Kyle Gibson has signed with the Twins.

Eleven minutes to the deadline.

Update (11:51 PM): And there goes Zach Wheeler.  Picks three through ten are now official.

Update (12:00 AM): Tracy Ringolsby breaks the news that Tyler Matzek signed with the Rockies.  Supposedly, the Nationals were very close with Strasburg as the deadline approached, still awaiting final word.

Update (12:04 AM): Ackley and Green have signed.  Strasburg might have signed for more than $15 million over four years.  Crow, Purke, White, and Washington are left from the first round.  Of those, Crow has the ability to continue negotiating because he is not eligible to return to college.  Purke will go to TCU, White will either return to North Carolina or hit the independents, and Washington, I believe, was heading to Florida.

Update (12:10 AM): As soon as I wrote that, I flipped back over to Twitter (that’s where all my info is coming from at the moment) and saw that Baseball America’s Jim Callis is reporting that Alex White has signed with the Indians.

Update (12:19 AM): I usually hear nothing but good things about the MLB Network, but what little coverage I’ve seen tonight has dropped the ball.  They “broke” the story of Strasburg’s signing at almost 12:15, nearly ten minutes after I saw repeated mentions of it on Twitter, were very late on the Tyler Matzek signing, and for some reason teased Zach Wheeler’s deal before unveiling it as though it was the biggest signing of the night.

And maybe I’m just biased because I think this whole signing deadline thing is kinda fun, but couldn’t they have devoted more in-studio attention to the deadline as the clock wound down?  Showing the late innings of a meaningless Yankees-A’s game and going to commercial at 11:59?  I expect better.

Update (12:29 PM): Well, that’s all for me.  After seven hours, it’s time to call it a night.  My brain can’t handle all this stress, and I didn’t even do anything – guys like Keith Law and Jon Heyman and the guys from Baseball America, who do this for a living and know everything that’s going on and keep it all straight, they amaze me.

All I know is that everyone that was supposed to sign, did sign.  Matt Purke clearly wanted to attend college (and who can fault him for that?) so Texas was in a tough spot to begin with.  It was obvious early today that LeVon Washington wasn’t going to become a Tampa Bay Ray.  And I’m sure we’ll be hearing from Aaron Crow and the Kansas City Royals before too long.

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Average Distance From Majors To Affiliates: American League East

Baltimore Orioles (average: 266 miles)
Baltimore to…
…Norfolk Tides (AAA): 240 miles
…Bowie Baysox (AA): 29 miles
…Frederick Keys (A): 49 miles
…Delmarva Shorebirds (A): 110 miles
…Aberdeen Ironbirds (A): 36 miles
…Bluefield Orioles (Rookie): 366 miles
…GCL Orioles (Rookie): 1,006 miles

New York Yankees (average: 544 miles)
New York to…
…Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Yankees (AAA): 125 miles
…Trenton Thunder (AA): 67 miles
…Charleston RiverDogs (A): 771 miles
…Tampa Yankees (A): 1,142 miles
…Staten Island Yankees (A): 18 miles
…Gulf Coast Yankees (Rookie): 1,142 miles

Boston Red Sox (average: 550 miles)
Boston to…
…Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA): 45 miles
…Portland Sea Dogs (AA): 108 miles
…Salem Red Sox (A): 682 miles
…Greenville Drive (A): 962 miles
…Lowell Spinners (A): 31 miles
…GCL Red Sox (Rookie): 1,474 miles

Tampa Bay Rays (average: 682 miles)
Tampa Bay to…
…Durham Bulls (AAA): 702 miles
…Montgomery Biscuits (AA): 509 miles
…Charlotte Stone Crabs (A): 71 miles
…Bowling Green Hot Rods (A): 794 miles
…Hudson Valley Renegades (A): 1,235 miles
…Princeton Rays (Rookie): 782 miles

Toronto Blue Jays (average: 1,215 miles)
Toronto to…
…Las Vegas 51s (AAA): 2,254 miles
…New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA): 591 miles
…Dunedin Blue Jays (A): 1,355 miles
…Lansing Lugnuts (A): 301 miles
…Auburn Doubledays (A): 220 miles
…Gulf Coast Blue Jays (Rookie): 1,355 miles

Looking For A Pat Burrell Bobblehead? Don’t Go To Clearwater

clearwater threshers bobblehead

As Eric M. has mentioned here several times this season, the Clearwater Threshers are celebrating the 2008 World Series win of its parent club, the Philadelphia Phillies, by staging bobblehead giveaway nights in honor of each regular member of the starting lineup.  Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins already had their days; Pat Burrell was scheduled to be handed out last night – until the mighty Tampa Bay Rays reached down and put the kibosh on the whole deal.

According to a statement released by team general manager John Timberlake,

The Threshers are in violation of the Major League Baseball Agency Agreement which, in this instance, prohibits the promotion of the Phillies brand within the home television territory of the Tampa Bay Rays.

It seems strange that the Rays are just calling the Threshers on this now when it was clearly a planned season-long promotion.  All I can figure is that it had something to do the fact that Burrell left Philadelphia for Tampa as a free agent after last season and the Rays don’t want an organization located twenty minutes away to give away bobbleheads of one of their players in another team’s uniform.

On a local note, this helps explain why the New Hampshire Fisher Cats give away mostly Red Sox-themed bobbleheads.  Because they are within the Red Sox “home television territory”, they probably aren’t able to do such giveaways related to the Blue Jays, or at the very least require special permission to do so.

Update: Okay, so it wasn’t directly related to the Burrell bobblehead.  Much a pity.

The Threshers had already given out one bobblehead and were advertising the second when the Rays first raised the issue a month ago. On Thursday night — the eve of Friday’s planned third giveaway, of former Phillie and current Ray Pat Burrell — the Threshers ended the promotion.

That article also notes the question of what to do with sponsorship money and the bobbleheads themselves.

Now Pitching For The Tampa Bay Rays…

Right now, as we speak, David Price, Baseball America’s second-ranked preseason prospect, is making his much awaited 2009 debut for the Tampa Bay Rays.  He’s through three innings thus far, with three walks, two hits, and five strikeouts to his credit.  The offense has given him some breathing room, touching up Fausto Carmona and Jensen Lewis for seven runs.

This game features three players on Baseball America’s Top 100: Price, Reid Brignac, and Matt LaPorta (not to mention Evan Longoria, who was on last year’s list).  LaPorta is 0-1 with a strikeout, Brignac 1-2 with a run scored and two batted in.  In fact, let’s just go ahead and make this a “Now Batting For…” post for ol’ Reid as well (I think this officially makes him the first prospect to be so honored twice – I gave him a much better welcome last year).  He was called up on Friday to replace Scott Kazmir and could be around for awhile now that Akinori Iwamura is out for the season with a knee injury.  He better be good – he’s on my fantasy team, and we could use the points.

Update: It’s now 10-0 in the top of the fourth.  Price has thrown 77 pitches through his three innings, so it’s pretty much a race against the pitch count at this point to decide if he gets his first win of the year.

Update #2: The pitch count wins.  Price struggles to start the fourth and is pulled when he hits the century mark.  His final line: 3.1 innings, 2 runs, 4 hits, 5 walks, 6 strikeouts.

Now Batting For The Tampa Bay Rays…

Prior to the season, I noted at One More Dying Quail that as a Red Sox fan, the Tampa Bay Rays scared me.  This was immediately before I compared them to the 1969 Mets, a historically awful team that rode a bunch of young talent to the World Series.  The common response to the post was something along the lines of, “Oh, silly OMDQ – you know the Rays will never actually be good.” 

Jeez, I’m not looking so crazy now, am I?

The Rays are currently performing what figures to be a multi-year hostile takeover of the American League East, and they’re only getting better.  Following an injury to shortstop Jason Bartlett in Wednesday’s win over the Red Sox (that’ll teach you to stage six-run rallies!  Jerks!), Tampa Bay recalled Reid Brignac from Durham (AAA-International), where he was hitting .265 with 7 homeruns and 38 RBI in 78 games.

Brignac, the team’s fifth-rated prospect according to Baseball America, was a second-round draft pick in 2004 out of Louisiana’s St. Amant High School.  (That was a potentially great draft for the Rays: four of the top five picks – Jeff Niemann, Brignac, Wade Davis and Jake McGee – are still top ten prospects, and 13th rounder Andy Sonnanstine has provided some value in the starting rotation the past two seasons.)  He has progressed steadily through the system, showing some offensive pop and earning a reputation as the best defensive infielder in the organization.

Nobody knows how much he’ll play or how long he’ll be in the majors, except maybe Joe Maddon, but the mere sight of Brignac and Evan Longoria, two 22-year-old representatives of the organization’s exceedingly bright future, together on the left side of the infield is sure to make even the most hardened Rays fans shed tears of joy.

Gosh, it could be REALLY fun to watch the American League East for the next five to ten years.

Guest Column: From the Bigs to the Buses

Getting to know other writers is one of the best things about having a blog. Since OMDQ and I have been in the writing version of the Bus Leagues for more than a year, we have met some great people we are proud to call friends & colleagues. One of those is Jordi, who writes about baseball, politics, and other blood sports at his site, The Serious Tip. Today, he shares his weekend experiences going from MLB to A-ball in South Florida. Enjoy.

From the rural sandlots to the city stadiums, the basic premise of baseball – three strikes, three outs, nine innings, etc – remains constant. Sure, the talent level rises with every step to the majors, but does an increase in whiz-bang glitz and glamour make for a more entertaining game? Is happiness and emotional attachment at the ballpark directly related to cost and hype? Or have I been reading too much Freakonomics?

These questions are a result of seeing two games of various levels this past weekend. Last Friday night, I used one of my season tickets and saw James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays one-hit the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The next night, I traveled to Viera, nee Melbourne, Florida, received a free ticket and watched the Class-A Florida State League Brevard County Manatees take on the Tampa Yankees.

As anyone who has followed my past writings knows, I am a closet Rays fan. Although I grew up a Mets fan, since moving to Tampa two years ago, I’ve had an interest in the Rays, especially in regards to the team’s transformation from doormat to dominant. So as an admirer, and not yet a full-blown fan, I was on my feet applauding what may have been the best pitching performance in franchise history.

Unlike my newfound fascination with the Rays, the Brevard County Manatees have been my favorite minor league team since their inception in 1994. Formerly a Marlins’ farm team, the Manatees are now the A-ball representative of the Milwaukee Brewers. Personally, I still wear the teal Manatees hat. I think it looks better than the newer red and blue version.

My two weekend destinations, independent of the score, couldn’t have been more different. A trip to the Trop is almost like a journey to the amusement park. Despite its reputation as a bad place for baseball, the Rays ownership has turned Tropicana Field into a fan friendly experience, with batting cages, speed gun contests, and plenty of other bells, whistles, gizmos, and doo-dads. The coup de grace of this new Trop is the new large video score board installed before the 2007 season. Every stat the above-average fan needs is broadcast, from OPS to pitch count, WHIP to walks per nine innings.

Even the fans at Tropicana Field have their own vibe. Whereas a growing number are starting to pepper the stands with Upton and Shields jerseys, many still wear generic merchandise mixed with attention-getting flare such as clown wigs and boxing robes. Topping off this group of new fans was an American Idol contestant in town to sing the National Anthem.

A Manatees game at Space Coast Stadium, on the other hand, is a far different experience. Instead of a celebrity singing for America, for example, the Manatees had two anonymous local crooners. Instead of a promotional foul line race between characters dressed as Pepsi, Aquafina, and Sierra Mist, the Manatees featured two local little league coaches dressed in generic ketchup and mustard bottles. Instead of amplified stereo noise, blinking lights, and new-age scoreboard, Space Coast Stadium relied on an old fashioned public address system and a video screen fit for an Sega Genesis.

So was the Rays’ game I paid for that much better than the low-budget Class-A Manatees contest I saw for free? Well, in this case, yes. But only because of the magnificent pitching artistry of James Shields. If not for the great Mr. Shields, it might have been a toss-up.

Thanks, Jordi! Readers will also enjoy hearing about the J-man’s quest to join the minor-league ranks during open tryouts.

Let This Be A Lesson, Mr. Kazmir

Interesting story out of Vero Beach today, where Rays lefthander Scott Kazmir made a rehab start for the team’s Class A affiliate.  Thanks to a mixup between himself and the coaching staff regarding the length of the outing (Kazmir was planning on 70-75 pitches, the coaches wanted him to finish his work in the bullpen after he finished the fourth inning with a count of 54), Kazmir ended up on a short leash when he took the mound for the fifth:

“They said if I threw seven pitches, they were taking me out. I was just throwing fastballs down the middle, saying, ‘Please, just get yourself out.’ The only thing that was going through my head that last inning was, ‘How can I get out of this inning in three pitches?’

“It’s frustrating because I wanted to get back out there and throw all my pitches. I thought I set myself up to do that, but the way it ended was unnecessary.”

I appreciate that this was a rehab start and Kazmir wanted to get in an appropriate amount of work on all his pitches, but it reads as though his frustration at the situation might have caused him to miss a valuable lesson.  Instead of throwing fastballs down the middle and hoping for the best, might it have been better for him to try using his few pitches wisely and pitching to the weaknesses of the opposing hitters? 

There are going to be times in Kazmir’s career that he’s coming up on a certain pitch count, be it 100 or 110 or 120, but his bullpen is overworked and he needs to get through just one more inning to help them out.  It’s part of his role as the staff ace.  When that day comes, is he going to go out there and throw heat, or is he going to use his knowledge of the hitters to work through that inning without torching his pitch count?