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Bagwell, Raines, Pudge Rodriguez elected to Baseball Hall

Tim Raines' road from Sanford to the major leagues will now take him to Cooperstown, as the longtime outfielder was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his 10th and final year of eligibility.

Jeff Bagwell, a longtime star with the Astros, and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, who redefined the catching position with his defensive skills, also received the necessary 75 percent of the votes to be inducted.

Just missing out was reliever Trevor Hoffman, who fell five votes short of the 332 needed.

Also of note was the 10 percent increase in votes for two players considered the poster boys of the "steroids era,'' as Barry Bonds' total went up to 53.8 and Roger Clemens to 54.1.

Two Tampa products on the ballot didn't move much, with Fred McGriff getting 21.7 percent and Gary Sheffield 13.3.

 

 

 

 

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Rays trade Mahtook to Tigers for cash/player to be named

Needing to clear space on their 40-man roster, the Rays on Wednesday traded OF Mikie Mahtook to the Tigers for cash or a player to be named later.

Mahtook, a first-round pick in the Rays mostly-disappointing 2011 draft class, played parts of the last two seasons in the majors.

As impressive as Mahtook was during his 2015 debut, he was disappointing last season, struggling and missing time with injuries. Overall, he hit .195 with 3 homers and 11 RBIs over 65 games, making 50 starts between the three positions.

The Rays need to make room on the 40-man roster to add free agent OF Colby Rasmus and RHP Shawn Tolleson, whose free-agent signings should be made official soon. Mahtook's role on the team was diminished with the acquisition of Mallex Smith in trade.

 

 

 

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It's Hall of Fame day, and we take a closer look at the candidates

Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell had seven 100-run/100-RBI seasons, won an MVP award (plus five other top-10 finishes) and was the 1991 Rookie of the Year.

Associated Press

Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell had seven 100-run/100-RBI seasons, won an MVP award (plus five other top-10 finishes) and was the 1991 Rookie of the Year.

Today is Hall of Fame day, with the announcement of this year's election set for 6 p.m. on MLB Network.

Based on 235-plus released ballots, roughly half the total, it looks like OF Tim Raines, enjoying a bump of support in his final year of eligibility, and 1B Jeff Bagwell will receive the required 75 percent needed for election. Closer Trevor Hoffman and C Ivan Rodriguez, in his first year on the ballot, look to be close calls, and potentially OF Vlad Guerrero as well.

But almost as important as who gets in will be the expected rise in support for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the "poster boys" for the steroids era, who project to make big jumps to the 65 percent range, raising the possibilty of election in the near term.


Here is my ballot, followed by some thoughts on players I did and didn't vote for:


Jeff Bagwell
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Trevor Hoffman
Fred McGriff
Tim Raines
Ivan Rodriguez
Gary Sheffield
Lee Smith

x-Jeff Bagwell
Complete player with seven 100-run/100-RBI seasons, MVP award (plus five other top-10 finishes), Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove. …

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Video: Winter development camp a hit for Rays prospects

The Rays have 25 of their top prospects - including RHP Brent Honeywell and INFs Willy Adames and Daniel Robertson - at the Trop this week for the 8th annual winter development camp. Here is a video report from photographer Will Vragovic.

 

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Rays adding to bullpen, close to signing Shawn Tolleson

Shawn Tolleson saved 35 games for the Rangers in 2015 but struggled through a rough 2016 season.

AP photo

Shawn Tolleson saved 35 games for the Rangers in 2015 but struggled through a rough 2016 season.

The Rays are making a move to bolster their bullpen as they are close to finalizing a deal with RHP Shawn Tolleson, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

Tolleson, 29 on Thursday, saved 35 games for the Rangers in 2015 but struggled through a rough 2016 season, losing his closer's job, getting sent to the minors, being sidelined with a back injury and then dropped from the roster.

He elected free agency, and chose to join the Rays over several options, which included going back to Texas.

Tolleson's 2016 season was not pretty, as he went 2-2, 7.68 with 11 saves. But in 2015, he was 6-4, 2.99 with 35 saves in 37 chances over 73 games with 76 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings. That after going 3-1, 2.76 in 2014 as a setup man working 64 games.

Tolleson is considered healthy and if he can regain form would add some experience to a bullpen anchored by Alex Colome, Brad Boxberger and Xavier Cedeno.

 

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Rays have 26 top prospects at Trop for development camp

Spring training is still a month away, but the Rays have 26 of their top prospects at the Trop this week for a four-day winter development camp. The players will get on the football-lined field for some baseball work, but also will participate in discussions and receive guidance on training, media relations and other issues, and make several community appearances. There also will be a media interview session on Tuesday.

Among the bigger names particiapting are INF Willy Adames, their top position prospect; RHP Brent Honeywell, the quick-rising starter prospect; INF Lucius Fox, who was acquired from the Giants in the Matt Moore deal; INF Daniel Robertson, another top advanced prospect; RHP Kevin Gadea, the Rule 5 draft pick from Seattle; and OFs Josh Lowe and Garrett Whitley, their last two first-round draft picks.

Here is the full list:

Player, position
Fernando Baez, RHP
Genesis Cabrera, LHP
Diego Castillo, RHP
Austin Franklin, RHP
Kevin Gadea, RHP
Ian Gibaut, RHP
Brent Honeywell, RHP
Chih-Wei Hu RHP
Huntet Wood, RHP

Chris Betts, C
Zac Law, C
Brett Sullivan, C …

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Smyly's statement regarding trade to Seattle

Drew Smyly, traded Wednesday to the Mariners for outfielder Mallex Smith and a pair of prospects, texted the Tampa Bay Times today with this reaction to the deal:

 

“I want to thank the Tampa Bay organization for the opportunity and trust they showed in me since day 1 of becoming a Ray. There's no doubt in my mind I've become a better pitcher since arriving. I will forever be grateful to everyone in the organization that has helped me grow as a player on the field and a man off the field. I loved my time there and was able to receive quality information about myself that I never knew before, and will carry that with me to Seattle. I'm blessed to be a Major League Baseball player and can't wait for the new challenge in Seattle.” 

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Rays-Mariners trade: Meet Ryan Yarbrough

Ryan Yarbrough

MILB.com

Ryan Yarbrough

Here's a breakdown on left-handed starter Ryan Yarbrough, acquired from Seattle along with outfielder Mallex Smith and shortstop Carlos Vargas in exchange for pitcher Drew Smyly:

The 25-year-old lefty was the Southern League Pitcher of the Year after going 12-4 with a 2.95 in 25 starts last season at Double A Jackson.

Rays GM Erik Neander said Yarbrough is not far away from reaching the big league level, though he will likely spend 2017 at Triple A Durham. Neander said Yarbrough has a good fastball and changeup and a "very usable breaking ball."

With a fastball in the low-90s, both Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com project Yarbrough as a mid-rotation starter or a strong left-hander out of the bullpen.

A Lakeland native, Yarbrough was drafted in the fourth round in 2014 by the Mariners.

 

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Rays-Mariners trade: Meet Carlos Vargas

Here's a breakdown on shortstop Carlos Vargas, acquired from Seattle along with outfielder Mallex Smith and left-handed starter Ryan Yarborough in exchange for pitcher Drew Smyly:

The shortstop, who turns 18 in March, joins a growing list of young, talented shortstops in the system.

Vargas made his pro debut last year in the Dominican Summer League. He played 62 games and hit 242 with a .344 on-base percentage and a .391 slugging percentage. He hit seven home runs, drove in 35 runs and scored 41 times.

Neander said the team is very familiar with Vargas.

"Granted, (he's) very far away and a lot of distance away from where he is and the major league level. But Vargas is a player that is very dynamic," Neander said.

From MLB Trade Rumors: "In writing about Vargas last spring, (Baseball America's) Ben Badler noted that (Vargas) has too many moving parts in his swing but has displayed a strong baseball IQ and an impressive ability to make adjustments at the behest of the Mariners' staff. Badler also credited Vargas with above-average raw power, an ability to hit the ball the opposite way, and an above-average arm with a quick release." …

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Rays-Mariners trade: Meet Mallex Smith

  Mallex Smith had a slash line of 238 batting average/.316 on-base percentage/.365 slugging percentage in 72 games last season with the Braves.

Getty Images

Mallex Smith had a slash line of 238 batting average/.316 on-base percentage/.365 slugging percentage in 72 games last season with the Braves.

The Rays and the Mariners once again hooked up on a trade and, once again, the Rays shipped a pitcher to the Northwest for a package of prospects.

This time it was Drew Smyly, who was traded Wednesday for outfielder Mallex Smith, shortstop Carlos Vargas and left-handed starter Ryan Yarborough.

Here's a breakdown on Smith:

The 23-year-old has something the Rays roster could use— speed. Capable of playing all three outfield spots, Smith is best in center field. Rays GM Erik Neander called him a "dynamic player" and an "impact athlete."

Smith can change a game with his legs as his 230 steals in 399 minor league games suggests. He led the minor leagues with 88 steals in 2014. Add that to what Kevin Kiermaier can do on the bases (21 stolen bases last year in 24 attempts) and the Rays will have a base running duo that has the potential to remind fans of the days of Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton.

That should help an often stagnant offense produce more runs. …

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Rays agree to deal with OF Rasmus, according to reports

The Rays have agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus, right, pending the outcome of a physical.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

The Rays have agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus, right, pending the outcome of a physical.

The Rays have agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus pending the outcome of a physical.

The team would not comment on the news first reported by Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.

Rasmus, 30, a center fielder for most of his eight-year career, figures to play left field and DH for the Rays while serving as a major league-caliber backup for center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. He also has experience playing right field.

The left-handed hitter has career splits of .241 batting average, .311 on-base percentage and a .434 slugging percentage. He has hit at least 22 home runs in a season four times with a high of 25 in 2015 with the Astros.

A first-round pick by the Cardinals in 2005, Rasmus played three-plus years with the Blue Jays before going to the Astros in 2015 as a free agent.

His addition adds another left-handed bat to the outfield with Kiermaier and Corey Dickerson.

Dickerson could find himself serving more as a DH next season.

Rasmus made $15.8 million last season after accepting the Astros' qualifying offer following a season in which he batted .238 with a .475 slugging percentage with 25 home runs and 61 RBI in 137 games. …

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Rays announce personnel changes with the organization

The Rays announced these organization moves today:

         -James Click has been promoted to vice president, baseball operations;

-Bill Wiener, Jr. is now vice president, employee and community initiatives and will jointly oversee the newly-formed employee and community engagement department;

-Jennifer Lyn Tran has been promoted to vice president, human resources and organizational engagement and will jointly oversee the newly-formed employee and community engagement department;

-Brian Richeson is now vice president, corporate partnerships;

-Jeff Tanzer is now senior director, ticket sales & service and will oversee the ticket sales and service department;

-Eric Weisberg is now senior director, marketing & creative services and will oversee the newly formed creative services department;

-Jonathan Erlichman has been promoted to director, analytics;

-Matt Fitzpatrick has been promoted to director, ticket services & technology;

-Warren Hypes has been promoted to director, creative services;

-Josh Muirhead has been promoted to director, season ticket services;

--Graham Tyler has been promoted to director, baseball operations

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Rays spring tickets on sale Jan. 13

Rays spring training tickets go on sale at 10 a.m., Jan. 13 exclusively at raysbaseball.com/spring. They will be available at 10 a.m., Jan. 14 at the Charlotte Sports Park box office, Rays Tampa Store at 400 N. Tampa St., at the Tropicana Field box office or by calling (888) 652-7223.

Rays Insider subscribers can participate in a special online presale on Jan. 12. Deadline for registration is noon, Jan. 11.

Ticket prices range from $10 to $32. Season tickets for the 18-game home schedule begin at $325.

The Rays open the home slate at Charlotte Sports Park at 1:05 p.m., Feb. 25 against the Pirates.

 

Pitchers and catchers will work out for the first time on Feb. 14. The first full squad workout is Feb. 19.

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Gillaspie among Rays minor leaguers invited to camp, also 8 sign minor league deals with camp invites

First baseman Casey Gillaspie, the Rays minor league player of the year in 2016 and who has a chance to play in the big leagues in 2017, is one of 10 minor leaguers invited to Rays spring training camp.

The Rays also announced today they signed eight players to minor league deals with invites to major league spring training.

The free agents are: LHPs Dana Eveland and Justin Marks, RHPs Diego Moreno and Neil Wagner, C  Michael McKenry, INF/OF Ryan Brett and OF Shane Peterson.

The minor leaguers are: Gillaspie, RHPs Jeff Ames and Andrew Kittredge, C Nick Ciuffo, C Jonah Heim, 1B/OF Jake Bauers, INF Jake HagerINF/OF Patrick Leonard, OF Johnny Field, OF Dayron Varona and 1B/RF Dalton Kelly.

Gillaspie, 23, hit 284 with a .388 on-base percentage and a .479 slugging percentage in 2016 while splitting time between Double A Montgomery and Triple A Durham. He combined for 18 home runs and 64 RBI between the two spots.

The switch-hitter, taken 20th overall in the 2014 draft, could join the Rays in mid-season and find himself part of a first base platoon with Brad Miller if Miller remains at first base.

Here is a breakdown on the other free agent as provided by the Rays:

  …

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Kalas leaving Rays TV crew, joins Astros as play-by-play voice

Todd Kalas, the popular do-everything member of the Rays on-air TV crew, is leaving the team to fulfill his dream of serving as the play-by-play announcer for a major league team.

Kalas will join the Houston Astros broadcast for the 2017 season, reuniting with Astros analyst and former Devil Ray Geoff Blum and calling games for the team that gave his father, hall of fame baseball broadcaster Harry Kalas, his first big league job.

“It’s an incredible opportunity,” Kalas told the Tampa Bay Times.

Kalas replaces Bill Brown, who called Astros games for 30 years until his retirement at the end of last season.

“He did a great job,” Kalas said. “I’ll have some big shoes to fill.”

Kalas has been part of the Rays TV team since the inaugural 1998 season. He served mostly as the in-game reporter, conducting clubhouse interviews with the manager and players before and after the games. He endeared himself to Tampa Bay fans by his ability to wade into the stands for mid-game interviews, especially with those fans who popped up in stadiums around the major leagues.

Kalas also filled in for Dewayne Staats and analyst Brian Anderson throughout the season.  …

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