by Jason Martinez
Click HERE to go to 2012-13 OFFSEASON TEAM PAGE
Click HERE to hear the 2012-13 OFFSEASON PREVIEW PODCAST
TAMPA BAY RAYS OFFSEASON PREVIEW
As has been the case for the past few seasons, the Rays head into the offseason with a number of holes to fill on their roster and an abundance of starting pitching depth. They won 90 games on the strength of that pitching staff. The lineup wasn't quite good enough in 2012 and hey could potentially lose two of their top performers, free agents B.J. Upton and Jeff Keppinger.
Not having a wealth of position player prospects ready to fill holes in the outfield and first base, GM Andrew Friedman will once again be bargain hunting in free agency for his small-market Rays. They've yet to pull the trigger on a trade of starting pitching for hitter, but this might be the offseason it happens.
STARTING LINEUP ANALYSIS
Evan Longoria is the starting third baseman. That's about the only certainty when it comes to the starting lineup. Desmond Jennings will start in center field or left field and Matt Joyce will start at one of the corner outfield spots. Ben Zobrist will be the starting shortstop, second baseman, or right fielder, depending on how the offseason plays out. Now for the uncertainty.
The Rays could use an upgrade at catcher, but at least they have options in place. Veteran Jose Molina has a $1.8M club option for 2013 while Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos will also be in the mix for playing time. Both Lobaton and Chirinos have hit in the minors but are unproven at the big league level.
First baseman Carlos Peña's disappointing season might keep his price down in the Rays' range. If they feel he can bounce back, he could try and re-sign him for another year and around $5 million. The 34 year-old hit just .197 with 182 K. He did hit 19 HR and walked 87 times in 160 games. Luke Scott could play first base if he has his $6M club option exercised, but he may be a better fit as the designated hitter given his extensive injury history. The free agent market for first baseman is extremely thin.
Acquiring another outfielder could be a priority. Sam Fuld, Ben Francisco, and Brandon Guyer are in-house candidates but better in backup roles. If they find it easier to acquire middle infield help, and with top prospect Hak-Ju Lee possibly a half-season away from becoming the team's starting shortstop, maybe they go with Reid Brignac and/or Sean Rodriguez as a stopgap and have Zobrist play second base or right field. Former #1 overall pick Tim Beckham, who is playing second base in the Arizona Fall League, could also be in the mix for a starting job next spring.
STARTING PITCHING ANALYSIS
David Price and James Shields, who will have his $9M club option exercised for 2013, would get the Rays a huge return in a trade. Jeremy Hellickson's value is also high. Matt Moore might be the one starter who is untouchable, although the return would also be tremendous. To bring back an impact bat in a trade, one of them would have to go. Of course, they could shop #5 starter candidates Alex Cobb or Jeff Niemann, but the return would be much less.
Talented prospects Chris Archer and Alex Colome could make it easier for Friedman to trade one of his big four starters. If he chooses to hold on to his pitching depth, Archer or Niemann could be moved to help a bullpen that is losing at least two pitchers to free agency.
RELIEF PITCHING ANALYSIS
Not only did Fernando Rodney's $2M deal for 2012 turn out to be one of the biggest values in baseball, he also has a club option for $2.5M in 2013. He did just have one of the best season's ever for a reliever so picking up that option may be the biggest no-brainer of the offseason. Joel Peralta, Kyle Farnsworth, and J.P. Howell could depart as free agents but Wade Davis and Jake McGee should be ready to step into the primary setup roles in 2013.
There isn't much depth behind them, although Cesar Ramos and Brandon Gomes should be able to handle middle relief roles and Burke Badenhop is a solid long reliever. Double-A closer Kirby Yates, who posted a 2.65 ERA with 94 K in 68 IP last season, is one of a handful of minor leaguer relievers ready to make the jump to the big leagues at some point in 2013.
TOP OFFSEASON PRIORITIES
4 Setup Man
2012 HITTING STATS
2012 PITCHING STATS