Friday, July 1, 2011

Bootcheck Leaves Bulls

Interesting games last night. Not sure I want to write about them. According to the radio broadcast the second game of the double header was Chris Bootcheck’s last game. He had exercised the opt-out clause in his contract with the Rays.

Here’s a question for Rays’ management: What’s the point of all these opt out contracts?

With the departure of Chris Bootcheck, the Bulls have lost their third talented ballplayer in as many weeks. Bootcheck was preceded out the door by Cory Wade, now pitching for the New York Yankees and Chris Carter, now hitting .346 for the team that’s tied with the Bulls for first place in the South Division, the Gwinnett Braves. All three are now reported to have originally signed minor league contracts with clauses that said that if they weren’t called up they could move on. How many other Bulls have out clauses in their contracts? We don’t know.

As a general rule, the comments about the Tampa Bay Rays here at WDBB are made with with what I hope is seen as good humor. But it sure is tough to watch good ballplayers leave the Bulls, players whom we fans never knew weren’t going to spend the season with the team. Bulls fans have been blindsided again and again and again.

A week or so ago a fellow fan remarked to me that the Bulls didn’t seem to be playing like a team this year. Something to that?

Sitting up in the stands at the DBAP a few of us keep fairly close watch on this team. We keep track of things such as noticing who’s on the 40-man roster and who might be going up to or coming down from the Rays. We watch who's improving, having trouble, etc. Bootcheck, for example, was doing a fine job moving from relief to starting and really helping out the team. It really hurts to turn on the radio and discover that one of our best pitchers is pitching his last game in a Durham Bulls uniform.

Did the Rays try to keep him in Durham? Who knows? Reporters who could have been reporting this story haven’t. So we have been in the dark all season (which is now more than half over, I might add). Makes some of us (OK, maybe just me) feel like fools. Are we going to lose any more? Is anybody going to say?

In the abstract, for 2011 Tampa Bay Rays last spring, this may have made sense. The Rays were shedding payroll like there was no tomorrow and the Rays were obviously sweeping up any veteran ballplayer with a remote chance of being able to lend a hand to the Rays, especially if they could be had cheaply. The Rays obviously were also, we now know, more than willing to add opt out clauses to those minor league contracts.

Here’s another question for Rays management: Was any thought given to the impact this might have on their team in Durham? No? I didn’t think so.

Last question: What’s the point of this secrecy? It sounds like everyone under the stands (in their offices and locker rooms) and on the field at the DBAP knew about these contracts. Just not anyone in the stands. For that matter, if last night was Bootcheck’s last stand you’d think the print reporters would have mentioned it. They haven’t. Nor have any roster moves been announced at the usual places.

Well, maybe we have a reason for my fellow fan’s observation that the Bulls don't seem to be playing like a team this year. They aren’t.


  1. Secrecy of the Opt Out clause adds trade leverage?

  2. Someone who's party to the contract must think secrecy is important. Not sure which party, though. And I don't think it has anything to do with trades. But remember that I'm an amateur at this business of baseball.

    I don't think players on minor league contracts are often traded — released and hired by another team, yeah, but not traded. But could be wrong. Expand. How would it add leverage?

  3. The Rays are going to regret for a long time not promoting Cory Wade when his opt-out came due. He was excellent for the Dodgers in 2008. He battled arm injuries the next 2 years. His dominating numbers at Durham this year proved he had regained his pre-injury form. Sonnanstine, Ramos, or Russell were all good options for demotion, or even a position player like Brignac. Friedman gets a lot of praise, but he made a terrible decision to let Wade leave.

  4. Rays have made it fairly obvious this is not a season they expect to win. Hiring guys with opt-outs is likely cheaper, and I'm sure they didn't promote Wade because he probably had MLB incentives (e.g. play a certain # of games up and get paid more).

    It's hard to remember as a Bulls fan, but AAA is for development, not for having winning teams.

    If you think right now is bad as a fan, wait until the Rays dip to about 8 games out. The sell-off will commence and the Bulls will have to replace BJ, Farnseworth, Damon, etc. Our anemic lineup (lately) will be worse without Jennings, Johnson and Lopez. Pitching will be AA team quality.

    I have a trip that overlaps the Gov. Cup this year, but I'm not too worried I'll be missing Bulls baseball, honestly.

  5. Secrecy? Best example I can think of at the moment comes from spring training. When they send 26 players to a team with a 24-man roster and I ask: "Which ones won't be on the active roster?"

    Usual reply: "I don't think that's something we're going to release." By the way, the players already know.

  6. Thanks, Stacy.

    I was figuring that the players knew. The minor league management has got to know. I was pretty sure that some members of the press knew but agreed not to go public. Maybe not.

    My problem is that I don't see what purpose the secrecy serves.

    I'm putting together a list of all the Bulls who signed minor league contracts with invitations to spring training, and who have some major league experience. My guess is that almost all of them have opt-out clauses. I'll put the list up in a separate post tomorrow or the next day and see if anyone will verify.

    Looks like Ekstrom, Swindle, Delaney, and Hayhurst are the only ones left.

  7. As for not promoting Wade because the Rays would have had to pay him MLB incentives: isn't the reason the Rays signed Wade in the first place last Novenmber was hoping he would do excellent in Durham, and then they would promote him? Why sign him, watch him do excellent, and then let him leave at a time when Rays had a player (Sonnanstine) ripe for release??

  8. Is it also possible, it's the Yankees after all, that these contracts are written in such a way that even if the Rays had said, "come on up", the player could refuse? I can easily imagine the Yanks simply offering more money.

  9. Chris: I always appreciate your comments on raysindex; great to get perspective from someone on the Durham scene. With opt-outs, up until the actual date, he is Rays property, and Wade wouldn't have been able to refuse, as long as the Rays paid him what the contract stated (it couldn't have been THAT much). 2 more scoreless innings for Wade today. 8 innings, no runs, 5 hits, 1 walk, no inherited runners scored, 1 win. What a shame for the Rays.

  10. Thanks, Anon. Always good to have some input from folks who, unlike me, actually know what they're talking about.