The Offseason Train Rolls On

This was the perfect time to go two weeks without my computer, and thus with no means through which to post any updates here.  (For the record, I got a RAM upgrade and the removal of viruses which ultimately led to a system restore — though, thankfully, I got backups of my data.)  There have been too many updates for me to count lately, on the Rays front as well as all around the baseball world.  Numerous signings have taken place, and just as many are left to be made.  I’ll go ahead and give a few thoughts on some of the bigger moves in recent weeks:

–Rays sign Gabe Kapler: Here’s a guy who turns 34 in August (he’s not as old as I thought he was), so he has a veteran leadership quality about him.  Added to that is his World Series ring he earned with the 2004 Red Sox.  With the news that B.J. Upton will be starting his season a bit late, this was a good signing for outfield depth and for the locker room.  Kapler has decent power and can make great defensive plays when necessary.  Here, he reunites with Gabe Gross to re–form the Gabe & Gabe lawfirm.

–Rays sign Lance Cormier: This is a good bullpen depth move, even though it is yet another right–hander and he may only be a borderline candidate to make the Opening Day roster.  He did just have his best season with the division rival Orioles, and he is not yet 30 years old, so this can be a really good under the radar pickup.  From what I remember of his time with the Braves, he wasn’t that bad.  If someone’s arm falls off, he can fill in nicely.

–Rays sign Jason Bartlett to avoid arbitration: $1.98 million may be underpaying this guy for his fundamental contributions to the Rays.  But at least they didn’t have to fight through the arbitration process.  Great to see them agree on this deal and get back to work for the 2009 season.  Ditto for Grant Balfour, who also avoided arbitration for $1.4 million (that’s over $2.1 million Australian).

–Red Sox sign Rocco Baldelli: I can give Rocco a free pass on joining the enemy because he’s returning to his home area, and he’s not exactly an elite player.  The Rays moved on, so Rocco went home.  Hopefully he has the best season of anyone on that team and the rest of them choke.

–Red Sox sign John Smoltz: Never let me read that again.  I hate this.

–Reds sign Jonny Gomes: Another former Rays outfielder goes elsewhere for work.  He can smash home runs and occasionally steal a base, if nothing else.  But he may be doing it at AAA because he only signed a minor league deal.  Ouch.  Maybe they should have signed him as an enforcer.

–Padres claim Rays pitcher Jae Kuk Ryu off waivers: Well, he’s finally gone.  Now we can move on to pitchers who have a future.

–Scott Kazmir and J.P. Howell to pitch for Team USA in World Baseball Classic: This would do nothing but help the Americans in their redemption chase.  This is just the beginning for Rays players; Dioner Navarro will catch for the pitching–heavy Venezuelan team, Matt Garza has been invited to pitch for Mexico due to his heritage, Akinori Iwamura will play for defending champion Japan as he did in 2006, Grant Balfour will pitch down low with the nice Australians, and Evan Longoria has also been named to the provisional American roster.  Congratulations to these guys and all others who may participate in the tournament to make it a more interesting one.

There has been a lot more going on, moves both big and small, but still too many to name right here.  Though I do like to see the Braves signing pitchers, namely Japanese control pitcher Kenshin Kawakami and potential ace Derek Lowe.  Speaking of the Braves, I have not forgotten to book my annual trip to see them in Spring Training.  On March 21, I will be right behind home plate in the upper level at Champion Stadium to watch the Braves square off with the evil known as the New York Mets.  Catch me there if you can, and of course I will be searching for regular season Rays tickets soon.  I will also announce the FanFest date and attractions as soon as I find out about them.  (The currently rumored date is Valentine’s Day, February 14.)  Until next time, go Rays.

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