The Rays Tank: Decisions That Will Define the Rays Offseason

 

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Yesterday marked the first real hurdle of the 2011/2012 Hot Stove League with teams and players being required to pick up or decline contractual  options for 2012. The free agent filing is underway and teams now have an exclusive negotiating window until 12:01 a.m. Thursday morning to negotiate with their own free agents. After the window closes shut the door to free agency swings wide open for all 30 major league teams to bid on players. The Rays are expected to be a very busy team this offseason as they have numerous needs and decisions to make. As we get ready to embark on the long dark journey between the end of the World Series and the start of spring training let's discuss the areas the Rays will have to address.

 

  • Will  the Rays trade James Shields? He is coming off arguably the best season of his career and his value is certainly at a peak, especially with a contract that has him under team control with three club option years 7 million in 2012, 9 million in 2013, and 12 million in 2014, but the Rays have other starting pitchers they can deal (Cot's lists an additional 6 million that may be earned based on incentives but no specifics are given).
  • Most teams would like to have 8 competent starting pitchers to get through a season--the Rays have 9. James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, Alex Cobb, Alex Torres, and Chris Archer. All but Archer have experience at the major league level.
  • The Rays will most certainly trade either Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann this winter and Andrew Friedman should be able to get a nice return based upon the number of pitching starved teams that Andrew Friedman can bargain with.
  • The Rays could shop a young controllable high ceiling pitcher in Chris Archer in exchange for a  young controllable high ceiling position player. Not all teams are blessed with pitching depth and many teams have the financial flexibility to buy a position on the free agent market much more readily than an arm.
  • How much less would the combined Niemann or Davis and Chris Archer deals net the Rays relative to a James Shields trade? 
  •  Dealing one of Davis/Niemann and Archer would still leave the Rays with Alex Torres and Alex Cobb in AAA as depth.
  • Kyle Farnswoth's option has been picked up but he did finish 2011 with elbow soreness. Will the Rays put more emphasis on veteran bullpen depth to mitigate the risk of a Farnsworth injury? 
  • Unlike last winter the Rays have support in their bullpen with lefties Jake McGee and Cesar Ramos and right handed pitchers Brandon Gomes and Joel Peralta. The Rays will have a decision to make on whether or not to bring JP Howell back as part of the bullpen mix and if so, at what cost?
  • After looking at the pitching staff the question becomes who is going to catch them? The Rays did not pick up Kelly Shoppach's option so as of today the Rays have Robinson Chirinos, Jose Lobaton, John Jaso, and Nevin Ashley on their 40-man roster. The Rays will need to either sign a catcher or trade for one. 
  • Catcher is not the only infield spot that requires Andrew Friedman's attention. Reid Brignac is coming off a dismal year and Sean Rodriguez can not be trusted to fill the shortstop role everyday because of his inability to hit right handed pitching. 
  • Of course, the Rays will have to address the first base situation. The Rays received a stellar all around year from Casey Kotchman in 2011 but many feel that season will not be duplicated. Another organization may offer Kotchman a contract based off of his 2011 production which would price him out of Tampa Bay.
  • To trade BJ Upton is one of the more interesting decisions the Rays will have this winter.  Some, like myself, believe the Rays should be "all in" in 2012 and keep the outfield of Desmond Jennings, BJ Upton, and Matt Joyce for 2012. Others believe that another team may trade a couple of the aforementioned areas of need and the Rays may be able to use some of the freed up money to shore up another. 
  • What are the odd that the Rays re-sign Johnny Damon in 2012? 
  • Are the local newspapers helping drive the stadium debate? Site friend Noah Pransky takes a look.
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