Baez was My Closer Option
The more and more I heard that the Tampa Bay Rays were seeking a possible closer candidate for the 2010 season, the more the name of former Rays closer,and free agent Danys Baez pops into my mind as an option. Before the recent two-day whirlwind that landed the Rays former Braves reliever Rafael Soriano, I thought that Baez might be the Rays best option based on the high ceilings to salaries wanted by free agent and reliever out in the market place this winter.
Baez was seeking a roster spot with a team on the Atlantic coast to be closer to his family, who reside in Miami, Florida. And that fact totally played in the Rays court if the team tried to negotiate a contract. But the two sides never met and the phone lines remained silent between them. The kicker is that I know first hand that Baez would love to return to the Rays because of the direct the team is headed in the next few years. He saw the mass improvement and was excited to possibly be a part of the resurgence of the Rays.
Even though it has been a few years since he was last with the Rays (2004-2005) the team has now formed a firm foundation and have established themselves in the American League East division. And with Baez’s being a part of that first thrust towards respectability, he also holds a positive historic mark on the Rays past. A reunion of the two seems more and more possible before todays news.
Baez held the second spot on the Rays All Time Saves leader board with 71 career saves. And during his first season(2004) with the Rays, he became only the second Rays reliever ever to post at least 30 saves in a regular season for the team. During his second season, he became only the second Rays pitcher to post 40 saves in a season. With this, you start to see his level of constant rising to the moment by the Rays former closer.
I could see Baez maybe signing with the team for about $5 million plus incentives, but still be under that “$7 million mark” that Rays team owner Stuart Sternberg is warning will not be in the Rays picture this season. But there are plenty of other reasons why the Rays could have considered Baez before bringing in,or trading around for another arm this off season. All the Rays front office really had to do was open their individual minds and the Rays record books to see the value of including Baez on this team.
During 2004, Baez’s 30 saves ranked sixth best in the AL, and he had a save opportunity in 43 percent of the Rays 70 wins that season. Baez might have only been 30-33 in total save opportunities, but in a wild twist, he ended up as the games winning pitcher during all three blown saves. Baez also converted 18 straight saves from June 16th, to September 24th, to provide a positive benchmark towards the type of consistency that Baez could of produced for the Rays in 2010.
Another interesting sidebar about Baez was he converted 12 out of 12 saves opportunities away from Tropicana Field and he saved 25 out of 26 opportunities against American League foes during the 2004 season. Opponents batted for a .191 average against him with men on base, and a lowly .091 batting average when the bases were loaded in 2004. Baez did the job of closing down the opposition during his first season with the Rays.
And that high level of consistency kept going in 2005 when he improved his save total for the third time in his professional career. Baez saved a career high 41 saves during 2005, and was rewarded during the season as a Rays representative at the 2005 All Star game. Baez also became the first Major League Baseball pitcher to save over 40 games on a sub .500 team in MLB history. Baez ended up saving 62.1 percent of the total Rays wins (67) for the season. And Baez went an impressive 7 for 7 against the New York Yankees in save opportunities, tying the Yankees team record of save against them in one season set by former White Sox Bobby Thigpen in 1990.
And one of the reason I really felt like he could be the possible answer for the Rays was most of his career has been set in the American League, and he has been a closer in the competitive A L East and knows the stress and pressures of the division. But all of this logic and statistics might be thrown away now with the addition of Soriano top the Rays staff. The Rays have made their decision on their possible 2010 closer and the Baez idea will be again thrown on the back burner.
I am a bit upset that the team would not even consider Baez, but maybe they are seeking another direction of not including any of the past, and thrusting towards the future. I guess I will just have to catch Baez sometime during 2010 somewhere along the sidelines during Batting Practice and just personally let him know he was the guy I wanted to see close in 2010. I will keep an open mind with Soriano and hope that he can be that guy at the back end of the game to provide some stability and some exciting Rays moments for 2010.
As I always say, I guess we shall see………….