ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden kicked off the new year by outlining some of the biggest risks that teams across Major League Baseball have taken thus far this winter. A pair of decisions made in Cincinnati topped Bowden’s list – though plans to move Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation have been rumored for years and there is zero reason (aside from inexperience) to believe that Shin-Soo Choo isn’t capable of handling center field, so neither move should truly come as a big surprise. Bowden specifically points to four other risky moves, two of which directly involve a pair of players discussed here at S2S at length over the course of the past month – Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Wil Myers and Detroit right-hander Bruce Rondon.
Myers was the centerpiece of Tampa Bay’s deal with Kansas City and is expected to be the major offensive addition the team has sorely needed to pair with Evan Longoria. They’ve long had success in developing pitching within the Rays organization, but finding the homegrown and cost-controllable talent on the offensive side of things has been a much different story in recent years. Ultimately the team was forced to deal some of that pitching in order to acquire the impact bat they’ve been unable to grow themselves, and Myers fits that bill well after being widely viewed as one of the game’s top prospects. Considering the team’s financial state, however, Rays GM Andrew Friedman has already publicly stated that the team intends to start Myers at Triple-A Durham to start the season – a move that will prevent his arrival at free agency for a year and a tactic that’s become widely popular across the game.
Bowden contends, however, that the team is risking their playoff chances for the 2013 season by making a financially-motivated decision with Myers. He asks a valid question, when you look at the offensive production that the team is already in need of replacing after the losses of B.J. Upton and Jeff Keppinger via free agency. An uncertain early season offense coupled with the absence of James Shields from the starting rotation, there’s reason to question how it will affect Tampa Bay’s chances in 2013. The AL East has gotten more competitive this winter and it won’t be any easier for the Rays to compete if they get off to a poor start in April and May. Myers will have an impact on the Rays upon his arrival, it’s just uncertain when that arrival will be.
Over in Detroit, it’s long been speculated that the team could be considering Rondon – one of the hardest throwing relievers in all of the minor leagues – towards the backend of their bullpen in 2013. Few question whether he has the “stuff” of a potential closer, but many, including Tigers manager Jim Leyland, have made no secret in reminding the public that there is no guarantees when it comes to a pitcher’s ability to handle such a role. Sources within the organization first confirmed the possibility of such a move in late November and the public stance of the organization since has been consistent.
Detroit made it to the World Series this past year, before ultimately falling to the San Francisco Giants thanks, in part, to the deficiencies of their bullpen. There have been numerous options available on the market this winter who’ve been linked to the Tigers – notably Rafael Soriano, who remains unsigned, and Joel Hanrahan, who was traded to Boston last week – but the team has remained steadfast in their commitment to give Rondon an opportunity to win the job in Spring Training. With the makings of a winning roster already in place, Detroit’s taking a risk by not solidifying the last remaining hole that might have kept them from putting up a better fight this past October.