Thoughts I would start of this year's thread with long time beat writer Marc Topkin's ST preview
A few things to look for ...
What they did: Traded right-hander Shields to the Royals; signed right-hander Hernandez (formerly Fausto Carmona).
What it means: Subtracting a 200-inning workhorse and the acknowledged veteran leader of an otherwise young staff is risky business. Their hope is that right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who didn't get through six innings in 14 of 31 starts last season, and lefty Matt Moore, who was inconsistent as a rookie, are ready to shoulder more innings (each threw 177) and responsibility as the Nos. 2-3 starters behind Cy Young Award-winning ace lefty David Price. Shields' "replacement" will come from which two make the rotation from the trio of right-hander Alex Cobb (impressive in most of his 23 starts last year), Jeff Niemann (coming back from a season lost to injuries) and Hernandez. Cobb probably has an edge.
What we say: The rotation is clearly weakened, though Moore could close the gap quickly.
What they did: Traded right-handers Davis to the Royals and Badenhop to the Brewers; lost left-hander Howell as free agent (Dodgers); re-signed free agent right-handers Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth; signed Hernandez and right-hander Jamey Wright (minor-league deal).
What it means: A strong bullpen is more vital with the potential of an increased workload in Shields' absence. The back end is intact, with Farnsworth, setup men Peralta and lefty Jake McGee, and righty closer Fernando Rodney, who would make the Rays happy if he is just close to as good as he was as last year. The void will be the 70 innings of better-than-you-thought "bridge" work by Davis, who made a team-high 23 appearances of more than one inning. Cesar Ramos is set to take Howell's spot as the other lefty. Badenhop will be replaced as the ground-ball specialist by Hernandez or Wright (or both).
What we say: There are questions, but there is depth, too. Overall, even.
What they did: Lost first baseman Peña (Astros) and infielder Keppinger (White Sox) as free agents; designated for assignment infielder Elliot Johnson and second baseman-shortstop Reid Brignac; acquired shortstop Escobar from the Marlins; signed first baseman Loney and infielder Kelly Johnson.
What it means: Improving the defense was a priority, and the additions of Escobar and Loney (considered by some better than Peña and Casey Kotchman) should do it, plus the return to health of Gold Glove third baseman Longoria. Second base looks to be a four-way job share among Kelly Johnson (who also will get time in leftfield), Ryan Roberts, Sean Rodriguez (back to a super utility role) and Ben Zobrist (who will play in rightfield and occasionally at shortstop, too). Jose Molina and either Jose Lobaton or Chris Gimenez will again handle the catching.
What we say: The defense is better, the offense unclear. Even for now.
What they did: Lost centerfielder Upton as a free agent (Braves); re-signed free agent designated hitter Scott.
What it means: For all Upton's supposed flaws, he will be missed, at the plate, on the field, in the clubhouse. Desmond Jennings slides from left to center, where he played 419 of his 455 minor-league games. The corners will be manned by a combo of Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Sam Fuld (a lefty hitter who will face many lefty pitchers), plus Johnson and Roberts (who will get spring looks), Rodriguez, maybe Scott.
What we say: The Rays are weaker, though Jennings could have something to say about that.
Edited by drtooth, 12 February 2013 - 03:30 PM.