Welcome to another edition of Thaddeus' Tampa Bay Rays Offseason Report. Each and every Friday, we're going to recap the moves, trades, signings, and other nonsense of the previous week in the wonderful world of Tampa Bay baseball; keeping you, Dear Reader, up to date with the team until Opening Day in April 2010 against the Baltimore Orioles .
Well, it's time again to say goodbye November, and say hello to December. More importantly, say hello to the Winter Meetings; the three-and-a-half day free-for-all where GMs throw around names like confetti and the Hot Stove officially gets lit starts Dec. 8 in Indianapolis.
The Big Three, of course, are on everyone's lips and will continue to be next week. OF Matt Holliday, OF Jason Bay, and SP John Lackey are this year's top prizes in the free agent pool, and teams from both the Junior and Senior Circuits are butting heads for a chance to land a contract.
These three are only the top of the pile, however, with names like Toronto SP Roy Halladay, and free agents 3B Chone Figgins, and SP Randy Wolf also making some GM mouth's water.
While the Tampa Bay Rays aren't expected to be very active in the Winter Meetings, some rumors have sprung up, the loudest of them describing a trade between the Rays and the Cubbies swapping DH Pat Burrell for OF Milton Bradley. OF Carl Crawford also seems like ample bait to try and pull a slew of prospects away from one of the elite teams in the league.
In any case, conjecture is for ESPN; this column is about the past week in Rays baseball. Let's get to it.
Nov. 28, 2009: Re-signed RP Joe Bateman to a minor league contract.
This follows in the footsteps of Nov. 20's report that the Rays had re-signed RP R.J. Swindle after picking him up in August and releasing him shortly thereafter; Bateman had been signed by Tampa Bay after being released from the Milwaukee Brewers after Spring Training in 2009 and found himself sent directly to AAA Durham for the entirety of the season. The Rays must have liked what they saw, because he's back again, and probably with a Spring Training invitation.
He went 6-2 with a 3.02 ERA and no home runs over 44 games including two starts for the Bulls.
Dec. 1, 2009: Acquired C Kelly Shoppach from Cleveland for PTBNL.
This trade was covered by me here , so I won't go too heavily into detail here in the report, but this trade looks to be a strong move for the Rays. With incumbent starter C Dioner Navarro on a year-long slump and the weakest link of a strong lineup, a catcher was the Rays' biggest need in 2010.
Shop shows slightly lower defensive stats than Navi, but his walk rate in 2009 is almost triple Dioner's and his power of lefties is impressive, amassing a .999 OPS over a small sample size of 258 ABs.
This writer expects Navarro to be non-tendered by the Dec. 12 deadline and have Shop platoon behind the plate with someone who can hit high-profile right-handed starters, but who that hitter could be is still up in the air. In-house minor leaguers John Jaso and Jose Lobaton are most likely not major league-ready.
RP Jeff Bennett was designated for assignment to make room for Shoppach on the 40-man roster, and is expected to be picked up by another team.
As of today, no announcement has been made as to the identity of the player to be named later the Rays are sending to the Indians; the deadline for the deal being finalized is Dec. 20.
Dec. 1, 2009: C Gregg Zaun and RP Brian Shouse offered arbitration.
Zaun's offer doesn't come at much of a surprise, as it has been public knowledge that the front office would love to have his veteran presence, hits off right-handers, and rock solid defense behind the plate with Kelly Shoppach.
Shouse was used as a lefty specialist (or a LOOGY) over the course of 2009, but the arbitration offering is a bit surprising, and risky, due to the presence of RP Randy Choate.
Shouse was rumored to have been contemplating retirement, so the compensatory second-round draft pick that the Rays would pick up for the Type-B player would be a nice parting gift, but they run the risk of him accepting arbitration by Monday's acceptance deadline and keeping him on the team, perhaps unnecessarily.
Not offered arbitration was Type-B RP Russ Springer, picked up by the Rays from the A's late in the season. Arbitration was also not offered to non-ranked pitchers Troy Percival, Chad Bradford, and Jason Isringhausen.
Also notably not offered arbitration were C Navarro and C Shawn Riggans, and with the deadline for tendering contracts of team-controlled arbitration-eligible players coming up on Dec. 12, things don't look good for either players' future with the Rays.
EDIT: Zaun was signed by the Brewers on Dec. 4 as reported by Yahoo! Sports, so the Rays will receive a compensatory second-round draft pick in 2010.
Dec. 3, 2009: Released RP Ramon A. Ramirez.
Ramirez was signed from the Reds' organization on Nov. 9 (see the initial report here ) and was released into free agency less than a month later. The move came in order to open up a spot on the 40-man roster, but for who yet is still unknown. The big rumor was that the spot was being saved for Gregg Zaun, but when he signed with the Brewers on Dec. 4, that fell through.
That's it for this week. Next report comes on the tail end of the Winter Meetings, so expect some fun stuff to be revealed then. Until then, however, be good to each other, and enjoy whatever sports scandal peaks your interest the most.
77 days until pitchers and catchers report. Don't panic.