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ESPN's Keith Law ranks Rays farm system 23rd again

Though Rays officials feels they have made significant additions to their farm system via the series of off-season trades, ESPN's Keith Law is apparently not impressed.

Law released his annual pre-spring rankings Wednesday and had the Rays 23rd, the same spot they were last year; the Cubs are No. 1.

The column is behind the ESPN Insider paywall, but the gist of Law's explanation is that while the Rays added "some talent" through trades, their draft record "has been among the most disappointing" in the game and they have to get more big-leaguers with their top picks.

Baseball America's organizational rankings have not yet been released; they rank a pair of players acquired this off-season as the Rays top two prospects, and two others brought in since July in the top six: 1. OF Steven Souza, 2. SS Daniel Roberston, 3. SS Willy Adames and 6. SS Adrian Rondon.

 














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Matt Moore "in a good spot" after throwing from mound

LHP Matt Moore reached the next significant milestone in his recovery from Tommy John surgery Tuesday, throwing off the mound for the first time.

Moore made 15 throws from about halfway up the bullpen mound at the Trop and said it couldn't have gone better.

"It felt pretty good," he said. "I've done a lot of dry reps and a lot of towel stuff (where he goes through his pitching motion with a towel in his hand rather than a ball). To feel on line going toward home plate and getting on the hill, it was good to have that feeling."

Moore, 25, is targeting a return to the Rays rotation sometime in June. He had the surgery April 22 after leaving his second start with elbow discomfort.

The rehab process can be a grind, but Moore said he is doing well mentally and physically.

"I would have thought a while ago I would have been nervous, but I was looking forward to it," Moore said. "And I felt like I had a lot more that could have come out. That's a feeling I've had the last month or so, and that's a feeling I like to have. I think we're in a good spot right now." 

 

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New commissioner Manfred willing to help Rays, but says stadium is a "local issue"

 While calling it a "local issue,'' new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said he will do whatever asked to help the Rays, as well as the Oakland A's, get their stadium situations resolved.

  "I think it's always important to bear in mind that stadium construction is fundamentally a local issue - the owner, the local government, the local communities have to be committed to the project,'' Manfred told MLB Network Radio on Sirius/XM.
  
"I share your view that Tampa and Oakland are situations that need to be addressed, and believe me I will be making myself available to both owners, both clubs to play whatever role they want me to play in helping them get their situations resolved because I do think both of them are really important to the game.''

  Manfred previously spoke highly of Montreal, which has been speculated on as a potential relocation site, telling the New York Times it is "a great city" and that, "I think with the right set of circumstances and the right facility, it's possible.''

 

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Jake McGee throws for first time since elbow surgery

Rays LHP Jake McGee took the latest step in his recovery from December elbow surgery, playing catch for the first time since on Monday at the Trop.

McGee is aiming for a mid- to late-April return.

He had arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body in his left elbow.

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Sandberg to Durham as Rays set staffs

UPDATE, 5:19: The Rays have released the full staffs, with a couple of other interesting notes: Longtime - and very well-respected - Rays minor-league catcher Craig Albernaz will make his coaching debut as a member of the staff at rookie-level Princeton, and Jorge Moncada was promoted to assistant pitching coordinator to fill the void left by Kyle Snyder's promotion to Triple-A Durham.

DEVELOPING: The Rays are in the process today of announcing their minor-league coaching staffs.

As we've been reporting, Jared Sandberg has been promoted to Triple-A Durham to replace manager Charlie Montoyo, who joined the big-league staff.

Michael Johns moves up to advanced Class A Charlotte to take Sandberg's place. 

Reinaldo Ruiz will be the new manager at Class A Bowling Green.

Sandberg will be joined in Durham by new pitching coach Kyle Snyder and returning hitting coach Dave Myers.

More info to come.

Here are that staffs that have been announced:

AAA DURHAM
Manager: Jared Sandberg
Pitching coach: Kyle Snyder
Hitting coach: Dave Myers
Athletic trainer: Mike Sandoval
Conditioning coach: Bryan King …

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Ben Zobrist thanks Rays, fans in heartfelt ad

The ad placed by the Zobrists appeared in Sunday's Times.

The ad placed by the Zobrists appeared in Sunday's Times.

After a week to come to grips with the trade to Oakland, former Rays INF/OF Ben and Julianna Zobrist shared their feelings about his former Rays bosses and teammates, and the Tampa Bay fans, in a heartfelt ad that ran in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times.

 

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Ryan Dempster's "Top 10 Reasons Cubs Hired Joe Maddon" from Rays gets laughs in Chicago

The annual Cubs convention is an even bigger deal than usual this year, with the hiring of former Rays manager Joe Maddon among the reasons for the increased excitement. And former Cubs pitcher and current front office special assistant Ryan Dempster had some fun with Maddon - and indirectly the Rays - in a Letterman-style Top 10 list he performed Friday night (courtesy mlb.com):

"The Top 10 reasons the Cubs hired Joe Maddon:"

10. "We misheard and thought he knew (actor) Eva Longoria."

9. "We're trying to set the Guinness Book of World Records for most fired managers."

8. "We needed someone who would take the leftover Harry Caray glasses."

7. "The Cubs' bus keeps breaking down so we figured, 'Hey, we can use his RV.' "

6. "Most managers take shots from the media; Joe Maddon buys shots for the media."

5. "We have a young team here in Chicago, and if 60 is the new 40, well, we need someone to manage all of our toddlers."

4. "(Model wife of former Cub/current Rays OF David DeJesus) Kim DeJesus told us to."

3. "He's the son of a plumber and, let's just face it: the Wrigley bathrooms need a ton of work."

2. "We just feel bad for anyone who lives in Florida."

1. "Well, because of all the other managers we tried to tamper with, none of them called us back.''

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Rays arbitration update: Jennings first, all cases settled, Cobb gets $4M

Times files

UPDATE, 1:43: Smyly, who was eligible for the first time as a Super Two, settled for $2.65M, plus the chance at an additional $25,000 if he makes 28 starts and $25,000 more if he gets to 30.

UPDATE, 1:38: Several of the players who reached settlements have performance bonuses included in their 1-year deals. The biggest is Rivera, who can get an extra $200,000 based on the number of games he starts at catcher, up to 105. McGee can get an additional $25,000 for 65 and for 70  games, Forsythe an extra $25,000 for 400 plate appearances.

UPDATE, 1:23: The Rays ended up settling with Cobb for $4-million, while McGee got $3.55M, Jaso got $3.175M, Rivera got $1.2M, and Forsythe got $1.1M. Still haven't seen the number on Smyly.

UPDATE, 1:07: The Rays reached settlements with the six remaining players on one-year deals, so there will be no cases headed to a hearing. We'll post the settlement figures as we get them.

UPDATE, 12:41. RHP Kevin Jepsen agreed to a one-year deal at $3.025-million. Jepsen, acquired for OF Matt Joyce, had a 2.63 ERA through 74 appearances with the Angels. …

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Rays Sternberg named to MLB Executive Council

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg was named to Major League Baseball's Executive Council.

Selection to the powerful eight-member panel that advises the commissioner - and soon to be new commissioner Rob Manfred - on major issues is the latest indication of Sternberg's stature among owners. He previously has served on several top committees, including as chairman of the Diversity Oversight Committee.

"This is the beginning of a new epoch for the sport, new ideas and new approaches,'' Sternberg said. "I am pleased to have been chosen to participate at this exciting time.''

Sternberg's appointment comes at an interesting time as resolution of the Rays stadium issue will be one of the issues Manfred will take on from outgoing commissioner Bud Selig.

Also named to the council, for four-year terms, were Rangers co-owner Ray Davis, Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt, Braves chairman Terry McGuirk, Pirates chairman Bob Nutting, Twins CEO Jim Pohlad, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. DeWitt will chair the Council.

 

 

 

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Nats GM confident ex-Ray Escobar won't be a problem

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo made it quite clear on a conference call with Washington area reporters today he was quite pleased to get former Rays SS Yunel Escobar from the A's, reiterated plans to play him at second base, said they were confident Escobar would not cause problems in their clubhouse and attributed his poor defense last season to injuries and the Tropicana Field turf. …

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Rays set Fan Fest for Feb. 21

Mary McCall of Brooklyn, New York, tries the hula hoop during last season's Rays Fan Fest at Tropicana Field. She was visiting a friend. Asked if a Rays fan, McCall's response: "I am now."

Times files (2014)

Mary McCall of Brooklyn, New York, tries the hula hoop during last season's Rays Fan Fest at Tropicana Field. She was visiting a friend. Asked if a Rays fan, McCall's response: "I am now."

The Rays have set their annual Fan Fest for Feb. 21 at Tropicana Field, with free admission and parking.

There will be the usual kids activities, autographs (some free, some for a fee that goes to charity), a "yard sale" of game-used merchandise, appearances by Rays players and coaches. Details on the autograph pricing, which last year topped out at $125 each for the biggest-name players, will be announced on a later date.

In conjunction with the announcement, the Rays are offering a special Fan Fest Flex Pack that includes a Kevin Kiermaier Bobblehead, available via raysbaseball.com.

Here is the full release from the team: …

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Ben Zobrist: 'Part of my heart is still stuck in Tampa Bay'

Ben Zobrist heard plenty of trade rumors over the last few months about his future with the Rays.

That still didn’t prepare him for Saturday, when Matt Silverman made the call he hoped he’d never make to give Zobrist the news he never wanted to hear.

“I didn’t hear probably every word that came out of his mouth,” Zobrist told the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday afternoon. “My head was kind of thinking pretty fast at that moment.”

A day after being traded to Oakland in a five-player deal, it sounds like it still is.

Zobrist ignored his calls and text messages Saturday until his phone died. He reserved Sunday to return messages, thank people in Tampa Bay and start thinking about the next stage of his career in Oakland.

“I was hoping that I would be able to stay in Tampa Bay for at least this year,” Zobrist said. “I understand, of course, their perspective in trying to get some younger guys and fill some other holes. Obviously I understand the baseball side of it. It’s tough, but I’m thankful for all my time I was able to spend there.” …

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John Jaso 'super excited' to return to Tampa Bay Rays

John Jaso figured his name would come up on the trading block. As he passed the long offseason by running through hypothetical scenarios, he kept coming up with ways to end up back with the Rays.

“If I was the Rays, I would definitely try to get me over there,” Jaso said.

His thought was a product of wishful thinking to return to Tampa Bay, not cockiness, and it came true Saturday, when Oakland sent the catcher/designated hitter back to the Rays as part of the five-player Ben Zobrist deal.

Jaso was drafted by the Rays in 2003 and made his major-league debut in 2008, the year the team advanced to the World Series. Jaso and Zobrist were the Rays’ top two hitters during their 2010 playoff run.

He left for Seattle in 2012 and spent the last two years in Oakland, where he batted .267.

But Jaso still lives in St. Pete Beach and hoped that any trade would send him back to the Rays.

“Coming back to the Rays, I’m super excited about it,” Jaso said. “I’m stoked.”

The Rays viewed Jaso as a hitting addition, said Matt Silverman, the team’s president of baseball operations. Jaso has had concussion issues but said he feels fine now and has worked with a specialist in Pittsburgh. …

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Ben Zobrist's place in Rays history

The Rays traded Ben Zobrist to Oakland on Saturday. You can read the details of that deal here.

Let's take a look at where Zobrist ranks in Rays history in some notable statistical categories:

Walks: 542 (First)

Doubles: 229 (First)

Games played: 1,064 (Second)

Runs scored: 565 (Second)

Wins above replacement: 36.6 (Second)

Hits: 1,016 (Second)

Triples: 32 (Second)

RBIs: 511 (Third)

On-base percentage: .354 (T-third)

Steals: 102 (Third)

Home runs: 114 (Fifth)

Slugging: .429 (Eighth)

Batting average: .264 (10th place)

Source: Baseball Reference

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Rays trade Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar for John Jaso and two Oakland prospects

Ben Zobrist’s career with the Rays is over.

The Rays traded one of the most versatile and decorated players in club history Saturday, along with shortstop Yunel Escobar, to Oakland. In exchange, Tampa Bay receives former Rays catcher John Jaso along with two prospects, shortstop Daniel Robertson and outfielder Boog Powell, and cash considerations.

"This has been a difficult transaction for all of us to stomach," Matt Silverman, the Rays' president of baseball operations, said in a conference call with reporters. "There are a lot of heavy hearts in the organization today."

Also Saturday, the Rays formally announced the signing of free agent infielder Asdrubal Cabrera. The two-time All-Star agreed to a one-year, $7.5 million contract.

Zobrist was named the Rays’ MVP by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America last season after batting .272 with 52 RBIs. He spent at least seven games in all three outfield spots, plus shortstop, second base and designated hitter. Zobrist led the Rays with 5.03 wins above replacement, according to ESPN. …

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