Rays Roundup: Moore in 2012 Rotation?


Posted Dec 16, 2011


In this week's edition of Rays Roundup: Matt Moore's new deal may have secured him a rotation spot, J.P. Howell will be back with the team in 2012 but Andy Sonnanstine will not, the Rays acquire ground-ball wizard Burke Badenhop from the Miami Marlins, and catcher Kelly Shoppach returns to the Red Sox.

INSIDE PITCH

Rookie left-hander Matt Moore got considerable security when he agreed to a long-term contract. He also may have gotten himself a spot in the Rays' Opening Day rotation.

Moore's deal is worth a guaranteed $14 million over five years, and with three options and escalators, the contract could max out at close to $40 million over eight years.

Of more immediate benefit, the deal removes financial incentive the Rays would have to keep Moore in the minors at the start of the 2012 season, eliminating any concerns about accelerating his eligibility for arbitration or free agency.

With Moore available from the start of the season, the Rays are now considered even more likely to trade one of the current starters -- right-handers Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann are considered the top candidates -- to fill other needs, primarily at first base or designated hitter.

Moore's deal could turn out to be tremendously team-friendly, as he would max out at a salary of $10 million in 2019, but there is also considerable risk for the Rays, specifically if he were to be injured.

Moore, 22, came up at the end of last season, appearing in three regular-season games and two playoff games. His contract is the longest and richest ever given to a pitcher who had such little service time in the majors.

He went a combined 12-3 with a 1.92 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 27 starts between Class AA and Class AAA this year.

NOTES, QUOTES

--LHP J.P. Howell will get the chance to redeem himself for an unsuccessful 2011 return from shoulder surgery, as the Rays chose to tender him a contract. "We're big believers in who J.P. is and what he's done to put himself in position to have a good 2012 season," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "J.P. is one of those guys you bet on." Howell was 2-3 with a 6.16 ERA over 46 appearances after rejoining the Rays in May; he missed all of 2010 following shoulder surgery.

--RHP Burke Badenhop, a groundball specialist, was acquired from the Marlins to give the Rays an added weapon in their bullpen. Tampa Bay sent minor league C Jake Jefferies to Miami in the deal. Badenhop is at his best when batters hit his sinker into the ground. He had a 58.5 percent groundball rate last season that was 10th highest among all pitchers who worked at least 60 innings.

Jefferies, 24, split this year between high Class A Charlotte and Class AA Montgomery, hitting a combined .238/.282/.327 with two homers and 32 RBI. He was a third-round pick by Tampa Bay in the 2008 draft.

--C Kelly Shoppach made his departure from the Rays official, signing a one-year, $1.35 million deal with the rival Red Sox. The Rays declined a $3.2 million option on Shoppach, who was one of their primary catchers in 2010-11, but there was some chatter that he might be brought back at a lower price. The Rays signed C Jose Molina in November.

--Rico Brogna, a nine-year big-leaguer who spent most of his time with the Phillies and Mets, was hired as a pro scout.

--RHP Andy Sonnanstine was the lone player of the Rays six arbitration-eligibles to be non-tendered. Sonnanstine didn't get much opportunity last season, limited to 14 appearances before a July demotion, and only 15 for the season. He went 0-2 with a 5.55 ERA. Executive VP Andrew Friedman said that while Sonnanstine was a big part of the Rays' past, the team didn't see him as a fit in the future. "We felt like there would be better opportunities for him elsewhere," Friedman said.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 -- Big-league wins for RHP Andy Sonnanstine from 2009-11 after he had 13 victories in 2008.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was relieved with how it turned out." -- LHP David Price, on avoiding a confrontation with a man who was urinating on Price's car, then pushed him and took a swing at him.



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