The Rays rotation and notes from the AFL

I got a question on Twitter that I thought was worth throwing out there to everyone:

What does the Rays rotation look like in 2012? Should they trade James Shields?

This is relevant here, obviously, because it’s all about Matt Moore. He looked like he’s ready for prime time, which should give the Rays a very nice problem to have next year. People talk about Shields because he’s the most expensive pitcher in the rotation. If the Rays exercise the team option in 2012, he’ll get $7 million. Considering he was an All-Star and the anchor of that rotation, that’s a relative bargain. But the Rays also are working with a somewhat limited budget, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

Jeff Niemann was left off the playoff roster, but that was more because of his lack of success vs. the opponent than anything else, though I’m sure there are those who will read into that more.

Bill Chastain wrote that it’s likely all of the starters — and we haven’t even talked about Alex Torres or Alex Cobb (with Chris Archer coming into play later next year, I think) — will come to Spring Training and have one heckuva competition. Don’t know about you, but I’m booking my trip to Port Charlotte now.

Great quote from David Price in that Chastain piece: “I think I’m going to start my workouts in a couple of hours to make sure I can still be in this rotation.”

So here’s the official question: If you were building the Rays staff on Opening Day 2012, what would be your five-man rotation?

Leave any ideas in comments below.

On to the AFL…

Only two games were played yesterday in the Arizona Fall League, with the night game (the one where Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Gary Brown could’ve been in the same outfield together) being rained out. That’s right, rained out. Red Sox prospect Alex Hassan has a good post about it over on the AFL Prospects blog.

It probably shocks no one that there was a bunch of offense in the other two games. Kind of par for the course in the Fall League, after all. Seven homers were hit in the two games with a combined total of 41 runs crossing the plate. Lots of potential Stars of the Day from a hitting standpoint, but the guy atop the list has to be the pick:

Josh Vitters, Cubs: 2-4, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 SB
Robbie Grossman, Pirates: 2-4, HR, 2 RBI
Anthony Gose, Blue Jays:  2-5, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R
Alex Castellanos, Dodgers:  3-6, 3 RBI, 2B, 3B
Matt Adams, Cardinals: 3-5, 3 RBI
Jaff Decker, Padres: 4-4, 2 RBI

There is only one Pitcher of the Day candidate: The Reds’ Brad Boxberger (and he’s blogging to boot) . Boxberger got the save for Phoenix, completely shutting the door on Mesa in a 12-8 slugfest. Not only did Boxberger pitch a perfect inning and a third to get the save, he struck out all four batters he faced in less than optimal conditions.


This is Niemann’s last year on his contract. Honestly, I don’t see the Rays re-signing him. I don’t know all the ins and outs so correct me if I say something incorrect. I believe this means they have the option to trade him, sign him or designate him as a free agent. I would bet they trade or designate him. We have seen this happen with the Rays rotation in the past and it is happening again. There is just not enough room for all of their pitchers and in the end Cobb and Moore will be cheaper next year than Niemann.

Niemann is still under the Rays’ control. He is arbitration eligible for the first time and won’t be eligible for free agency until 2015. Even with his somewhat up-and-down season, he’d probably get a nice bump up should it get to a hearing. That being said, I’d imagine the Rays will come to an agreement with him before it gets that far. They could decide that he’d be the one they want to trade because he’s a cheaper option than Shields. Someone will have interest in him, without a doubt. In the end, the Rays will have to decide if they want the pitcher who had the better year, who’ll be more expensive (Shields) or the cheaper option in Niemann who hasn’t exactly been terrible. Or, how about this. Trade them both and get a big return, handing over two spots to Moore and whoever among Torres, Cobb and even Archer is the best next spring.

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