Report: Rays agree to terms with Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez

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Oh, what a night.

Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the Rays have agreed to terms with both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, pending physicals.

According to Heyman, Damon will receive a $5.25 million base salary with $750,000 worth of incentives based on attendance. Ramirez will get $2 million guaranteed. That’s right. Just $2 million. I think we have a new winner for best bargain contract of the offseason.

Are we sure the Rays are in rebuilding mode? Goodness. The American League East should be fun to watch this season.

Anyway, the additions of Damon and Ramirez all but guarantee that top prospect outfielder Desmond Jennings will begin the season with Triple-A Durham.

It’s not clear if Damon or Ramirez will be the primary left fielder in Tampa Bay, but let’s just state the obvious and say that either would be a tremendous downgrade from Carl Crawford.

UPDATE: Ken Davidoff of New York Newsday writes that agent Scott Boras conceived the idea of Damon and Ramirez as a package deal. Yeah, Damon’s deal isn’t necessarily a bargain, but at the combined price of $7.25 million, can you really complain?

UPDATE II: Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports that Ramirez’s contract does not include any incentives. So, it’s a flat $2 million. Jeff Francoeur is making more ($2.5 million) than Ramirez this season. Just saying. He’ll take his physical with the Rays on Monday.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.