With a 5-0 shutout win over the Yankees tonight, the Rays at long last returned to .500 at 61-61. As the Rays’ Twitter notes, they have become the fourth team in baseball history to reach .500 after falling at least 18 games below .500, joining the 1899 Louisville Colonels, the 2004 Devil Rays, and the 2006 Marlins.
The Rays fell 18 games below .500 on June 10 following a loss to the Cardinals. Since then, the Rays have won 37 of 56 games — a .661 winning percentage. They have fallen as far back as 15 games in the division, but are now nine games back after the Orioles lost to the Indians in 11 innings.
Their surge is interesting considering they traded away someone who very well might have been their most crucial piece to a playoff run in David Price. The Rays sent Price to the Tigers as part of a three-team trade that also involved the Mariners at the trade deadline. In return for Price, the Rays got lefty pitcher Drew Smyly, infielder Nick Franklin, and minor league infielder Willy Adames.
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.