After the dust of October settled on the 2013 season, DRaysBay held a round table to predict the moves the Rays would make in the coming months. I asked the writing staff to predict who would be playing' first base, who would be designated the primary catcher, to predict which high-leverage bullpen arms would be acquired, and to guess whether Price would be traded, and where to.
Here's how the writing staff performed:
First Base: James Loney
Stephanie Katz was the only one to predict that the Rays might bring back James Loney.
There was only one precedent for the Rays to pay top dollar to a first baseman in the past, and that was Carlos Pena's $10.25M salary in the final year of his contract extension. It was a bold choice, especially given the wide market need for first basemen (Texas, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee).
Steve Kinsella listed Loney as a back up plan if the cheaper options, such as Corey Hart or Mike Morse sign elsewhere, but ultimately settled on Corey Hart. Allie and Chris made the same guess.
Stand out predictions in this category were Ian's prediction that the Rays would finally use a platoon at first base of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay (yeah right!), and my own suggestion that the Rays would trade for the Athletics' defense-first Daric Barton (totally reasonable!).
Catcher: Jose Molina AND Ryan Hanigan
At the time of publication, the Reds had already made Ryan Hanigan available by signing Bryan Pena to a multi-year deal, with two catchers already on the roster. Hangian -- known for his superior ability to frame pitches and a great mind for calling game -- immediately became a target for every saber-friendly baseball team.
Still, a few ventured different guesses. Stephanie predicted A.J. Pierzynski would be signed by the Rays, assuming a contested AL East battle for catcher would remove other options, but he would sign with Boston on a one year deal once the Yankees brought in Brian McCann on a moster deal and the Rays did their dealing. Ian and Drew also made a unique selection in Kurt Suzuki, due to market restrains.
However, Hanigan would be the most popular candidate in our survey, tabbed by Kyle, Steve, Chris, and myself.
The second most popular selection was the previous primary catcher, Jose Molina -- who would sign another two year deal and return to Tampa Bay two days after we published the roundtable. This was the predicted move of Michael, Allie, and Preet.
The following week, the Rays scooped Hanigan up in a three-way trade with Arizona and Cincinnati, signing him to a three year extension as part of the acquisition, and declaring him the primary catcher. The elder Jose Molina's two year deal to return was given the context of returning to back up role at backstop.
That same trade that netted Hanigan would also provide one of three bullpen arms acquired by the Rays this off-season. None of which we predicted.
High-Leverage Arms: Grant Balfour, Heath Bell, Juan Carlos Oviedo
Nearly everyone expected another Rays reclamation project. Names like Octavio Dotel, Joba Chamberlain, Carlos Marmol, Ryan Madson, K-Rod, Luis Ayala, Joel Hanrahan, Matt Lindstrom, Randy Choate, David Aardsma, and Chad Gaudin were all candidates mentioned and sound very Rays-like.
Also mentioned was Jesse Crain, one of two relievers the Rays acquired last year in hopes they would recover from injury and help the 'pen down the stretch. That gamble never paid off, and Crain went to Houston.
Instead, the Rays went wild, bringing in Heath Bell as mentioned above, signing former high-leverage arm Grant Balfour on a two year/$12M deal, and re-signed the other reliever they rehabilitated in former closer Juan Carlos Oviedo. The former closer, formerly known as Leo Nunez, signed a major league deal.
Oviedo's circumstance makes Crain the closest guess, as mentioned by Stephanie and Kyle.
David Price: Never traded!
The final prediction revolved around where David Price would be traded to, should he be sent off. The Dodgers were a popular destination, but ultimately he was never traded -- as predicted by Ian, Stephanie, Allie, and myself.
No one was able to guess more than two of the four. Each correctly predicted that the Rays would retain David Price, while Stephanie guessed correct on James Loney, Allie guessed correctly on Molina's return, and I was correct in my Hanigan prediction.
But the real winner was Erik.
There was also a poll for the predictions, and Allie's guesses of Corey Hart, Jose Molina, Mark Lowe (MiLB bullpen arms only), and Price staying won the tally with 27% of the vote.