With the approach of Friday's deadline to decide on contract options for 2013, the Tampa Bay Rays recently executed a series of roster moves for next season. The decisions retain 3 key contributors from this year's squad, but also say goodbye to a popular veteran who struggled to stay healthy.
Reaching deepest into their limited coffers, the Rays picked up the 2013 option for pitcher James Shields. The 7 year veteran has spent his entire career in Tampa Bay and already dominates much of the record book for the 15 year-old franchise.
Coming off a Cy Young caliber season in 2011, expectations were lofty for the team's Opening Day starter. Though Shields ultimately played second fiddle to emerging ace David Price, he used a late surge to serve as one of the premier #2 options in the game.
Now the longest tenured member of the Rays, the 31 year old was 15-10 with a respectable 3.52 ERA in 2012. Topping 200 strikeouts for the second consecutive season, Shields again proved a workhorse with 33 starts, 3 complete games, 2 shutouts, and 227.2 innings pitched. Indeed, this was the 6th consecutive campaign that the California native hurled at least 200 innings. His ability to stay healthy and extend deeply into games are a rare asset -- even on a pitching rich team.
In retaining Shields, the club pays the veteran a $9 million salary in 2013. The Rays likewise hold a $12 million team option for 2014, meaning they control his rights for 2 additional seasons.
Though Shields would fit nicely atop any rotation, expect his name to be rumored in off-season trades. With 8 potential pitchers for 5 starting spots, GM Andrew Friedman is likely to explore options for bolstering a sub-par offense that struggled mightily in 2012. Shields' hometown Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels will inevitably become part of that rumor mill.
Tampa Bay executed an even easier decision when it picked up the 2013 option on Fernando Rodney. The 2012 All-Star was simply sensational this season in converting 48 of 49 saves with a microscopic 0.60 ERA and 0.77 WHIP. In fact, Rodney's ERA was the lowest for a regular closer in baseball history and makes him a strong contender for the forthcoming Cy Young Award.
The 35 year-old has already been named the AL's Comeback Player of the Year for finally living up to his long-time potential. Always inconsistent through 9 prior seasons, Rodney took velocity off his change-up to transform the pitch into one of the most deceptive in baseball in 2012.
Partnered with a blistering fastball that regularly reaches 97 miles per hour, Rodney has all the tools to thrive again as the Rays closer in 2013. The Dominican Republic native will receive a modest $2.5 million compensation and pitch for a free agent contract next off-season. Tampa Bay fans hope to see no shortage of the popular hurler "shooting the moon" next year.
Recognizing his value to a staff that racked up an MLB best 3.19 team ERA, the Rays also accepted the 2013 option on catcher Jose Molina. The 37 year-old may not prove as great of a bargain as Rodney, but appears a worthy investment of $1.5 million next season.
In addition to handling young pitchers, and framing the strike-zone as capably as anyone in baseball, Molina batted .223 with 8 home runs and 32 RBI in 102 games. Though always a light hitter, those numbers actually represented career highs for the 1st year Rays' backstop, who previously served as a backup in 12 prior MLB seasons.
Though Scott's personality earned praise from fans, his inability to stay healthy hampered his productivity. In 344 at bats, the Florida native batted only .229 with 14 home runs and 55 RBI. Scott was sidelined with an oblique injury in 2012, but previously battled back problems with the Baltimore Orioles.
The hot-and-cold player additionally experienced a dreadful mid-season slump in which he went hitless through 41 consecutive at bats. The difficult stretch was actually symbolic of the entire club, which frequently experienced prolonged woes at the plate.
The budget conscious Rays may still seek to retain the left-handed hitter, but it would be at a reduced salary, especially since health concerns limit Scott's ability to play the field.
Yahoo! Sports, Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com.
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