Rays: Out with the Gold, in with… uh, who?

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[image-1]Personally, I would have preferred he ended up playing for a National League club, so as not to have to face him with any regularity. Out of the teams rumored to be gunning for him, my preference was the Halos; 1) it’s an A.L. organization I respect and 2) it’s an A.L. team out of the division, thus one Tampa Bay doesn’t play with great frequency.

Since Crawford did end up in the A.L. East, I guess I should take solace in the fact that it wasn’t with the Yanks; Boston’s organization is one for which I have slightly more respect and slightly less distaste. While some friends have professed support for Crawford and say they will be cheering at his first game back, another disparages the signing (read: Freitas, W.) saying, quite simply, “Crawford is dead to me.”

As far as replacing the man, I have no clue, other than saying Johnny Damon is NOT the answer.

Fortunately, the situation at shortstop is easily addressed; say it with me: “Reid Brignac.” No defensive drop-off and, with a little work on his hitting, the Louisiana native will be a valuable asset and every day fixture in the Rays’ infield.

"Reid is one of the better fielders of the ball in the American League," Rays manager Joe Maddon told Bill Chastain of MLB.com. "He fields the ball cleanly. He's not the fastest guy in the world, but he really has good range, both sides. He's got a really accurate arm, and he's got Major League makeup. He's all that stuff.

"He still has to make some adjustments at the plate, although he did a lot better last year. But there is room for him to grow in that regard. But, yes, I think Reid Brignac has all the mental and physical abilities to be a good Major League shortstop as a starter, I believe that."

In exchange for Bartlett, Tampa Bay received two relievers - right-hander Adam Russell and left-hander Cesar Ramos – to help restock a bullpen depleted by free agency departures. Joaquin Benoit is in Detroit, Grant Balfour declined the Rays’ tender, Randy Choate and Chad Qualls are free agents and J.P Howell will not have recovered from shoulder surgery by the beginning of the 2011 season; these are in addition to other vacancies created by the non-tenders of Dan Wheeler, Lance Cormier. Rafael "MFIKY" Soriano will soon be making big bucks somewhere else. I know absolutely nothing about the two new guys and refuse to regurgitate whatever Google spits out just to have something to say. I do know this, however: at this point, the team just needs to have bodies in order to avoid having me pitching come spring time. I get to keep typing in the air conditioning and the team doesn’t have a reliever who hasn’t played since little league. Everyone is happy, fans especially.[image-2]

Okie dokie; moving on, we’ll see that first base might not be so easily handled. Looking internally, the Rays have several serviceable stop-gap measures for the no. 3 hole – although one less with the non-tender to Willy Aybar – but no one returning from the 2010 roster seems like a ready fit for the position. Utility man Sean Rodriguez filled in ably but his greater strengths lie in the outfield. Dan Johnson can play the role but needs too much work at the plate to be an every day first baseman. Moving Ben Zobrist to the corner just means pulling Rodriguez in to second.

As far as free agents go, Adam Dunn was available but 1) is no longer and 2) would have been too costly under the thrifty new spending strategy (p.s. I hate the man who set the budget). Aubrey Huff and Paul Konerko are both staying put and would have been too expensive anyway. Former Devil Ray Jorge Cantu is available – yeah, I said it. Arizona’s Adam LaRoche is up for grabs; he made $4.5 million in 2010. Xavier Nady was granted free agency by the Cubs, having made $3.3 million last season. Personally, if Toronto’s Lyle Overbay will take a pay cut from last year’s near $8 million contract, that’s the man to sign. His numbers weren’t super impressive in 2010, hence the pay cut, but he’s a player who’s always impressed me in one way or another, usually as a big pain in the ass to the Rays.

In the words of Porky Pig, that’s all, folks; no, I’m not going to try to phonetically type out his porcine stuttering. It’s good to have baseball news to discuss again, even if the news sucks worse than Dan Wheeler’s 2010 season – ZING!

Repent! The end is near! The sky is falling! Loud noises!

Sorry, had to get that doom and gloom bug out of my system. The state of the Tampa Bay Rays is one of flux, as the annual Major League Baseball winter meetings come to a close Thursday. Carlos Pena has found a new home with the Chicago Cubs. Jason Bartlett has been shipped to the San Diego Padres for a pair of relief pitchers. But, arguably, the biggest gap to fill is the void left in... well, left, by the departure of Silver-Slugging, Gold-Gloving fan favorite Carl Crawford.

C.C. was just signed by – GASP! – the American League East-rival Boston Red Sox to the tune of $142 million in a seven-year deal. Things could be worse, but they could also be a hell of a lot better as far as where Crawford landed and the impact on the Rays. The Lost Angeles Angels of Anaheim were major players in the bidding war for the coveted left fielder, but the New York Yankees were also major contenders for C.C.’s services (I’d imagine Carl and CC Sabathia would have had to fight over the use of those initials).

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