Much like after the 2010 season the Rays and several players are most likely to part ways following this season. And much like following the 2010 season it appears that at least one of the starting pitchers will be dealt. There certainly will be plenty of new faces on the roster when the Rays arrive in Port Charlotte in February the question I have is which of the cast of assumed to be gone characters will be there as well.
The name leading the list is B.J. Upton (28 years old, .251/.303/.444, wOBA of .328, wRC+ of 111) who will most certainly find a new home in 2013. A free agent at the end of the season it is anticipated that he will seek a multi-year deal in the neighborhood of 9-10 million a season. Could the Rays step up and offer him a contract that would keep him roaming centerfield for them in 2013? A secondary question surrounding B.J. Upton - will the Rays make him the 1 year 12.5 million dollar offer in order to receive compensation for him under the new MLB system? When discussing his trade value in July this was assumed as a no way proposition but with his August and September performance it may be safe to assume a sufficient multi-year deal is coming his way.
Jeff Keppinger (32 yrs, .329/.374/.436, wOBA of .353, wRC+ of 128) is having a career year for the Rays and will most certainly be looking for a 2-year deal around 8-10 million. As stated by many of the DRB posters in an article titled Rays Should Use Winning As Leverage And Extend Jeff Keppinger the Rays should not sign a guy coming off a career year they should instead focus on finding the next Jeff Keppinger (a list of interesting names were provided in the comments section).
The Rays hold a 2013 club option on Luke Scott (34 yrs. .215/.265/.423, wOBA of .265, wRC+ of 88) for $6M which includes a $1M buyout. Scott has had a disastrous year after missing most of the 2011 season due to shoulder surgery and was on light duty for most of spring training. After getting off to a hot start in April he battled injuries on and off for much of the remainder of the season and never found his hitting groove. His numbers reflect an unusual lack of discipline at the plate with a walk rate (5%) less than half of his career norm (10.4%) and the number of pitches he swings at outside the strike zone of 36.6% which is more than 11 points higher than his career norm of 25.9% It is unlikely that the Rays pick up the option and gamble $5M on him finding his old groove but he and the Rays may find commong ground and strike a new deal for 2013.
Jose Molina (37 yrs. .203/.267/.312, wOBA of .259, wRC+ of 63) may be the least attractive member of the soon to be departed list and unlike Upton or Keppinger there isn't a value concerning offensive production. One of the offseason goals for the Rays will be to find an everyday catcher who provides defense and a little more production with the bat. If that goal is attained the question of who should be the backup will need to be answered. Will the Rays go to the younger Jose Lobaton (who is out of options) or keep the prototypical veteran backup in Molina.
EDIT: (h/t Mr. Maniac): Jose Molina has a 2013 option worth 1.8M option for 2013 with a $300K buyout.
J.P. Howell (29 yrs, 1-0, 3.00/4.58 ERA/FIP) had one of the biggest turnaround of any Rays reliever during the season. From May 12th to June 13th he allowed 11 ER over 8IP (12 appearances) and it appeared his roster spot was in jeopardy. Something changed and he turned a corner and delivered 27.1 innings of scoreless baseball which greatly improved the Rays bullpen and also improved his value on the open market. Left handed relief pitchers are a valuable commodity and he has performed well in the best division in baseball and will most likely be rewarded
Joel Peralta (36 yrs, 1-6 3.45/3.08 ERA/FIP, 2 Saves) has had a very solid season. He has seen an increase in the ability to strike hitters out as he has struck out 32.1% of batters faced which is well above his career norm of 21.7%. The 36 year old Peralta has stepped in to the 8th inning role for the Rays and with the exception of a few long balls surrendered he has answered the bell each time. During the season he was caught with pine tar in his glove and suspended for 8 games. While the league was preparing to suspend Peralta Joe Maddon was adamant that in know way should this be viewed as Peralta cheating as most other pitchers do it to. Maddon seemed more concerned with protecting Peralta's integrity than he was with the actual question of the pine tar in the glove. Could Joel Peralta feel more at home in Tampa than anywhere else based on the support shown by the front office and Maddon after the pine tar incident?
Kyle Farnsworth (36 yrs, 1-5, 3.47/2.97 ERA/FIP) missed most of the first half of the season with elbow inflammation. His best stretch of baseball includes 13 straight appearances from August 3rd through September 7th of scoreless relief. His elbow and age may scare many teams including the Rays away but he could also be another very good value sign if the arm is sound.