The Rays' sudden leap from doormat to contender has started to catch up to them. One of the side effects of winning is that player salaries rise, and Tampa Bay's target payroll for next year is $70 million. So the Rays saved $8 million next year and $24 million overall by dealing Scott Kazmir to the Angels for third baseman Matt Sweeney, lefthander Alex Torres and a player to be named.
Kazmir is a two-time all-star who holds most of the significant Rays pitching records, but he also has a career-worst 5.92 ERA this year and a lot of mileage on his arm for a 25-year-old. The move makes sense for both clubs, though, as the Angels need pitching, they easily can absorb Kazmir's contract and no doubt have noticed his success against potential playoff opponents Boston and New York.
Not only can Tampa Bay use the salary savings to retain Carl Crawford and pay for raises in arbitration, but it also can replace Kazmir with blue-chip prospect Wade Davis. There's also word that the player to be named will the most talented part of the package, perhaps infielder Brandon Wood or righthander Jordan Walden.
Almost all draftees sign a standard contract that allows for just four variables: the signing bonus, an optional $2,500 contingency bonus, an incentive bonus plan tied to advancement through the minors and a college scholarship plan. To have his bonus spread over multiple years, a player must sign a major league contract (and immediately be placed on the 40-man roster) or qualify as a two-sport athlete.
Under MLB rules, a club can pay out the bonus for a two-sport athlete over as many as five years. Deciding who qualifies is at the sole discretion of the commissioner's office, and there's no set definition. Joe Mauer and Tate had football scholarships, so they were obvious. But Lastings Milledge gave up football after his sophomore year of high school, and MLB still determined that he was a two-sport athlete. There was no way that Crawford Simmons, the Royals' 14th-round pick this year, could have played both baseball and golf at Georgia Tech because of the concurrent seasons, yet he qualified too.
The commissioner's office has a liberal interpretation of two-sport athletes because the rule allows clubs to reduce the present value of a deal. For instance, the Padres gave Tate a high school-record $6.25 million bonus as the No. 3 overall pick. His contract provides for $1.25 million within 15 days of approval and then $1.5 million, $2 million and $1.5 million on January 10 of each of the next three years, making it worth $5,920,919 in present dollars.
This year, 10 players signed two-sport deals in the first 10 rounds. Their bonuses ranged from $6.25 million for Tate to $200,000 for Angels 10th-rounder Jake Locker, who's starting at quarterback for Washington. The discounted value ranged from 12 percent for Red Sox third-rounder David Renfroe ($1.4 million bonus) to 4 percent for Locker ($200,000), with an average discount of 7 percent.
I thought the Cubs were overly aggressive when they promoted Castro from the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2008 to high Class A Daytona for Opening Day. But Castro has handled himself well there and after an August promotion to Double-A Tennessee, batting a combined .297/.342/.383 with 25 steals. Those aren't A-Rod numbers, but they're more than fine for a 19-year-old.
Castro still has a lot of development to do, both in adding strength to his 6-foot-1, 160-pound frame and in polishing his game. He has quick hands and strong wrists, which allow him to make contact (just 47 strikeouts in 444 at-bats) and bode well for his future power potential once he fills out. He's an average runner who also could develop plus speed as he gets stronger. He also has all the tools to be an above-average defender as well.
Castro has a ceiling of an all-star shortstop. There's a big gap between his present and potential ability, because he's so young, but the early returns are very positive.
Nava won three straight batting titles, in the West Coast Conference in 2006 (.395 for Santa Clara), independent Golden League (.371 for Chico) in 2007 and the Cal League last year. Any chance of running his streak to four years ended when he spent the first 2½ months of this season on the disabled list with abdominal and oblique injuries.
Nava isn't a prospective everyday player, because of his age, his less-than-conventional body (5-foot-10, 200 pounds) and the tag that all he can do is hit. His other tools aren't bad, though, as his power, speed and arm are all decent.
The Red Sox are loaded with outfielders and outfield prospects, hurting his chances of reaching Fenway Park, but it's impossible not to root for a guy who has beaten the odds as much as Nava has so far. He was only 4-foot-8 when he entered high school and 5-foot-5 when he graduated, and he spent his first two years at Santa Clara as the team's manager.