First of all this would have been alot easier had we posted this about a week ago before Dukes decided he was a psycho killer. I'm actually pretty nervous about this as i'm sure Deeray has a much better plan than me, anyway here goes nothing
Its clear to me that the rays have two strengths: OF and young SP. And their biggest weakness is their bullpen. Yes Reyes has been effective for now but is he a long term solution? Probably not, plus they just can't get to the guy anyways. I actually dont suggest the rays make alot of trades, especially for their infield. Instead i think they just need to find a way to stay semi competitive while they wait for uber prospects Longoria (3B, 10th prospect by baseball prospectus), and Brignac (SS, 11th prospect). They have a solid fit at 3B once Iwamura comes back who is signed for 3 years. This should give Longoria enough time to develop in the minors.
The rays have actually found themselves in a sticky situation by not trading Dukes/Baldelli when they still had the chance. Baldelli is still their best chip at this point. I think they are just going to have to wait it out with Dukes and hope that something good happens. Baldelli is signed through 2008 with club options through the next two years. Despite his injury I think they can still show-case him enough to get a deal done by the trading deadline. I think a trade to a team like the Nationals would be the best bet. The combination of church/langerhans/logans in CF has been pretty disappointing so far. The nationals have already expressed interest in moving Chad Cordero, and Rauch has proved to be effective as a replacement. Cordero would most likely need a new contract to get a deal done but i dont see him commanding too much value with a semi-disappointing year last year, at least i doubt the rays have to pay more than the $9 million they pay baldelli. I honestly could see a Baldelli for Cordero trade happening straight up, but if the nationals wanted more the rays could throw in fossum who's been poor this year but had limited success in the past.
The rays starters have been piss-poor at this point and I think its time to ramp this team up for the future. Kazmir and Shields are obviously mainstays, but lets bring up Hammel and Sonnanstine. Both have been effective at AAA posting good ratios and showing decent control. Sonnanstine probably has more potential long term (60 K/12 BBs). Niemann is actually ranked as a better prospect by baseball prospectus but the other two seem to be front of him. However, the bullpen needs help so I dont think it would hurt to bring Niemann up to pitch long relief and then move into the rotation when they need/ready to. All and all I think the rays look good long term and should be a very competitive team soon. Heres what my lineup looks like (this is with Iwamura who's coming back soon enough, so i figured its legit):
3B Iwamura (long term longoria)
SS Harris (long term Brignac)
SP Hammel (keep the rooks at the bottom so we dont overstress)
LOOGY - The rays dont actually have a lefty in their BP right now but Camp has been used to get a single out or two a couple of times so I'll say him for now
Mop up - Ryu
Middle - Orvella
Middle - Niemann/Stokes
Setup - Reyes/Cordero
Closer - Reyes/Cordero (I think you stick with reyes in the closers role because hes been successful, but cordero will probably want the role sooner or later)
Anyway i'm usually not too keen on prospects on other teams and contracts and such so i'm not sure how i did here. I know the niemann in the bullpen move might not be very popular, but i tried to do a lot of research here so all and all I think i did pretty well. The rays do look very competitive soon so I'd say watch out. Critique away