As excited as the Rays are by their return in the big trade with Kansas City, they do have to deal with the void left by James Shields' departure.
Of the many ways the pitcher will be missed, manager Joe Maddon most specifically is concerned about the 30 to 40 innings he pitched more than the other starters, averaging 220 over the past six seasons, and that the bullpen doesn't have to absorb the additional work.
That means after LHP David Price, the Rays need more from Jeremy Hellickson, who has worked 189 and 177 innings in his two full seasons; Matt Moore, who had 177 as a rookie this year; Jeff Niemann, who has yet to top 180 in four seasons; and, if he wins the No. 5 job, Alex Cobb, who has 177 between Triple-A Durham and the majors.
"If we can get that from the group that's there, then we'll be fine," Maddon said.
He doesn't want the pitchers to believe they need to do anything differently, just that they should.
"I don't like to use the term 'step up.' I don't want them to 'step up.' I want them to continue to make progress, to continue to work the process," Maddon said. "They have another year of experience. Even though they have great work ethic, I would anticipate it's going to be better. Even though their preparation has been good, I want it to get better. Find those innings through method, as opposed to just saying, 'I've got to step up.' So the methodology has got to continue to get better that permits them to become 200-plus-inning pitchers."
FARM REPORT: In trading Shields and RHP Wade Davis last week, executive VP Andrew Friedman said one goal was to "replenish" their system with players capable of continuing the Rays' success.
Mission accomplished, says Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis: "Adding Wil Myers, who's one of the top three positions prospects in baseball, along with a solid midrotation type in (RHP) Jake Odorizzi and also (LHP) Mike Montgomery and (INF) Patrick Leonard boosts what was a middle-of-the-pack farm system to one I anticipate we'll put in the six to 10 range when we do our next rankings. That may seem odd that a single trade can do that, but Wil Myers is that good."
Baseball America's revised Rays prospect rankings has Myers No. 1, followed by RHP Chris Archer, RHP Taylor Guerrieri, SS Hak-Ju Lee and Odorizzi.
CHARITY CASE: Running his Thanksmas meal program in Tampa Bay and Hazleton Integration Project in Pennsylvania back to back last week was a bit mentally draining but also rewarding for Maddon. "I've been more concerned with the mechanics of things, just making sure it's all working and it's all happening," he said. "You see the results and meet the people. I know they're pleased, so I can see that we're making a difference. And that's good."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: One way to eliminate the financial reasons to have Myers open in the minors next year would be to sign him to an (initial) Evan Longoria/Moore-like long-term deal. … Payroll commitments (including arbitration estimates) are around $49.5 million for 21 players; team president Matt Silverman noted they made the playoffs twice when in the $40s and have missed when higher. … Uniform numbers for the new players are being worked out, but don't expect to see Shields' 33 or B.J. Upton's 2 used for at least a year. … Price said he'll have his AL Cy Young Award plaque in the clubhouse for the others to see before giving it to his parents. … Two odd trade tidbits: Montgomery and Shields graduated from Hart High in Newhall, Calif.; Myers and '12 first-round draft pick Richie Shaffer were the Nos. 1-3 North Carolina prep position prospects in the '09 draft. … The Roberto Hernandez who was with the Rays from 1998-2000 and is now retired played in Cleveland in 2007 with the Roberto Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona) the Rays are working to sign. … MLB Fan Cave applications are being taken at mlbfancave.com.
With Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton (after Rocco Baldelli), the Rays had the makings of quite a talented outfield trio — and, as each player has reached free agency, an expensive one. Their free agent deals total nearly $350 million.
Player Carl Crawford B.J. Upton Josh Hamilton
FA deal$142M, 7 yrs $75M, 5 yrs $125M, 5 yrs
From Red Sox, From Braves From Angels traded to Dodgers
2013 salary$20M $12.45M $15M
Rays deal$31.5M *$20.6M *$3.96M signing bonus
Drafted2nd round, '99 1st round, '02 1st round, '99
* approximately, includes signing bonus