Bad news to anybody hoping to keep Crawford around after this season. Stuart Sternberg has said publicly that the team’s payroll will be reduced quite a bit next year. It’s at $72 million in 2010 but according to Sternberg it will drop to below $60 million in 2011. He said they out-spent themselves last year and completely out-spent themselves this year and that the effects will be felt in the coming years.
If they have to drop more than $12 million that pretty much guarantees they won’t be able to re-sign Crawford or Penã. It’s interesting then to think about, if they already spent too much last year, why did they go out and spend $7.25 million to sign closer Rafael Soriano to a one year contract. The obvious guess is that they already knew what was coming, that they wouldn’t re-sign these players but they wanted to give them the best chance they could to go all the way in 2010. With a new catcher too, another weak spot in 2009, they probably spent a little more than they really wanted to in order to try and fill out all the holes on the team. The pressure is on now. Sure there are guys like Desmond Jennings waiting to take over, but he is not quite Carl Crawford yet. This is going to be the best shot they have in a while to make it. The big question is if it is enough. At this point I’m not completely convinced, but I guess if it could almost happen in 2008 it isn’t just a pipe dream.
Today I’ll have a look at the DH and the catchers. Then just two more articles to go about the pitching staff before spring training starts.
DH: Pat Burrell
It sounded like a good hire at the time, although a bit expensive. But the Rays were coming off a world series and expected to go back. They could use an experienced, powerful bat and who else better to teach the kids how to win than a member of the team that just beat them in the World Series. To put it mildly it didn’t pay off. Burrell had pretty much his worst year ever in the majors and not only were they paying him $7 million, they were stuck with him for another year worth $9 million. Another player you shouldn’t expect to be back in 2011.
One headline from thebleacherreport.com in January last year actually reads: Pat Burrell Makes Tampa Bay Rays No. 1 in 2009. They weren’t the only ones thinking or saying something along those lines but it ended up being quite a different experience than expected. All the negative comments aside, there is still plenty of hope for 2010. He has played in the league for 10 years and played pretty well through 9 of them so there is no reason to think he can’t bounce back. They’re going to need him if they want to go far and he will be a big help if he can find just some of that power he lost.
Catchers: Dioner Navarro and Kelly Shoppach
Navarro has been a pretty solid starter since he came to the team in 2006. He knows all the pitchers and has had time to build relationships with them. But offensively he hit a slump in 2009 which was the worst year so far of his career. In response the Rays traded for Kelly Shoppach from the Cleveland Indians to give Navarro some added competition and a more capable backup. Which one of them is going to start I have no idea at this point but I’m sure it will be made a lot clearer throughout spring training. The biggest disadvantage for Shoppach is the fact that he has never played with any of the pitchers before and a lot will depend on how his relationship with them develops.
Like Navarro Shoppach also hit a little bit of a slump in 2009 although not quite as dramatic. And even though his average dropped a bit he still had decent power. I have a feeling we are going to see a lot of both those guys during the season no matter who eventually wins out in the spring training battle.