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How to Sustain Success in 2009

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In three steps.

1. Prevent defense regression.

The Rays had a .710 DEF EFF and lead the league in that category. Heading forward we should expect improvements from the outfield due to a healthy Crawford and Upton and no more Gomes or Hinske. On the infield Iwamura certainly has the chance to improve with another year at second and Bartlett's knee should be 100%. That being said the Rays should focus on a platoon mate for Gross (or a full-time right fielder) capable of fielding his position better than the players they're replacing.

2. Prevent bullpen regression.

This is easily the most difficult. Bendix covered it recently on BTB, and really it's a hard thing to predict in terms of definite values. What we do know is that Balfour and Howell are unlikely to be this good next year. What they will regress to, well, we don't know, and that's an issue. The weak spots are/were Hammel, Percival, and at times Wheeler. The latter might be able to be traded. We do have some young arms potentially stepping into the bullpen, but I would hardly be opposed to a buy-low relief arm on the market.

3. Have offensive progression.

We should expect improvements from Crawford, Upton, and Longoria as well as adding a DH and or another right fielder. Assuming these things do happen, and they should, the Rays could possibly end up top 10 in the league in OPS.

Wishlist

With that being said, who should we target in trades and free agency? Here's the (not so short) list of players I've compiled that should provoke interest.

DH

Raul Ibanez

Jason Giambi

Frank Thomas

OFers to platoon with Gross

Kevin Mench

Scott Hairston

Josh Phelps

Gabe Kapler

Nick Swisher

Fernando Perez/Rocco Baldelli

OFers to play full time

Nick Swisher (yeah, both)

Brian Giles

Mike Cameron

Josh Willingham

Corners to replace Hinske

Chad Tracy

Casey Blake

Willy Aybar/Dan Johnson

RPers to pursue

Brian Fuentes

Juan Cruz

Jeremy Affeldt

Brandon Lyon

Chris Sampson

Tom Gordon

Joe Beimel

Dale Thayer/Jeff Niemann/Mitch Talbot/ect.

Minor League FAs for Durham

A lot are to be determined, but Tim Raines Jr. makes sense for manning Durham's center field.

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Feel free to begin rosterbating.