January 2010

Navvy Looking Good

I spent the morning at Tropicana Field watching a group of Rays players working out, including Dioner Navarro. The Rays catcher looked trim and was in good spirits, which was nice to see since he’s coming off a bad year and it couldn’t have been a pleasant off-season for him since the Rays brought in Kelly Shoppach to compete for the job.

Navvy seems to be taking everything in stride and did not sound bitter in the least about what has transpired. If he can get back to his 2008 All-Star form and Shoppach can return to form as well, the Rays should have a nice tandem behind the plate in 2010. Rays fans can take heart that from all indications attitude will not be a problem for the 25-year-old backstop.

–Bill Chastain

Upton and Company Lookin’ Good

I went to B.J. Upton’s celebrity golf tournament on Monday and I’ll have to say that the Rays players I saw seemed ready to get going in 2010.

Andy Sonnanstine, James Shields, Dan Wheeler and Upton all appeared in great shape and each of them expressed how much they looked forward to the coming season.

Looking back at what went wrong in 2009, I still believe the Rays were running on fumes from the previous season’s playoff run. I like the way this year’s team looks on paper and I think they should be back in the thick of the AL East race in 2010.

–Bill Chastain

Howell in the Fold

Just exchanged texts with J.P. Howell and he said he has a deal with the Rays for $1.8 million this season.

According to the Rays left-hander, the deal also includes incentives.

Thus, the Rays have reached deals with Howell and Jason Bartlett ($4 million) and appear headed for arbitration with B.J. Upton, which leaves only Matt Garza.  Have not heard anything about the Rays right-hander yet.

–Bill Chastain

Looks Like Upton to Arbitration

Looks like B.J. Upton and the Rays are heading to arbitration.

When I asked Upton’s agent, Larry Reynolds, if they were going to arbitration, Reynolds replied: “I mean, that’s my understanding based on club policy if you can’t get a deal done by a certain date. If you can’t settle by the time you file [numbers], that’s my understanding.”

Reynolds was referring to the Rays’ policy of proceeding to arbitration — with no further negotiation — if a deal is not reached by the time numbers are filed (the deadline for that was noon today). The exception to that policy is if a multi-year deal can be reached, which was the case with Willy Aybar last year. When asked if a long-term deal was still a possibility, Reynolds answered:

“You’d have to ask them that. That’s something I can’t answer.”

Still don’t know anything about the fates of J.P. Howell or Matt Garza.

–Bill Chastain


Bartlett Signs

Jason Bartlett will not be going to arbitration.

Just talked to the Rays shortstop and he said that has agreed to a one-year deal worth $4 million.

“I’m more relieved than anything,” Bartlett said. “I was going to do everything I could to get what I deserved and I think we came close enough to where I was ready to just start playing now.”

Tuesday at noon marked the deadline for Major League players and their teams to exchange figures for arbitration. While it is within the rules to continue negotiating after this deadline, the Rays’ policy is to shut down negotiations and head to arbitration once the numbers are exchanged.

Still no word on J.P. Howell, Matt Garza, and B.J. Upton, the Rays other players still on course for arbitration.

–Bill Chastain

Thome Looks like Longshot

According to a report by MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, the Rays have talked to free agent Jim Thome.  While the report is surely accurate — the Rays talk to a lot of players to try and line up all different kinds of possibilities and scenarios — I do not believe this one will come to fruition unless the Rays find a taker for Pat Burrell.

In addition to the fact the Rays will pay Burrell $9 million in 2010, acquiring Thome would give the team added payroll and two designated hitters. Having a slugger from the right side and the left side would be a nice luxury if it were not so costly and hard to do because of the additional roster spot needed.  Thome and Burrell no longer ply the leather, so such a move would leave the bench rather thin.

The Rays’ policy is to neither confirm or deny said reports.

— Bill Chastain

Praise for Upton and Shoppach

I spoke for the first time with new Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton on Tuesday and he seemed energized about the coming season.

Shelton joined the team in October carrying manager Joe Maddon’s hopes that he can help instill a better approach at the plate for Rays hitters, specifically with runners on third base with less than two outs and when they have two strikes in the count.

B.J. Upton has been working hard with Shelton for most of the off-season and Shelton is optimistic Upton’s hard work will pay rich dividends.  Most Rays fans anticipated Upton exploding last season after his 2008 postseason, but for whatever reason it did not happen. Perhaps that explosion will come a year late.

Shelton, who came to the Rays from the Indians, is familiar with Kelly Shoppach, and noted that the former Indians catcher and now Rays receiver has legitimate power.

–Bill Chastain