The Rays front office team of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, along with manager Kevin Cash, met with the media today at Tropicana Field. Rays fans know better than to expect jaw-dropping revelations from this disciplined group, but their comments do provide some insight into their priorities for the off season.
Although the Rays are coming off a very disappointing 94 loss season and need to find about 25 additional wins, there was little sense that the team is looking for a top to bottom rebuild. It will come as no surprise to DRB readers that the three priority upgrade areas are catcher, bullpen, and adding a hitter who could slot into an outfield/DH role.
Upgrades in all these areas can come from in-house promotions, trade or free agent signings. Ryne Stanek and Jaime Schultz were mentioned as two in-house options who could play bullpen roles next year. Trade and free agent opportunities are likely to become clearer in the coming weeks. Silverman thought the completed CBA would unleash more hot stove activity. According to Bloom, we are finally hitting the point in the off-season where clubs and agents get realistic about deals. With winter meetings about to start, expect more #hugwatch reports soon.
What to expect in 2017
A Longo-Duffy-Frosty-Miller infield, with KK, Souza, and perhaps Dickerson in the outfield, gives the team a strong core. Predicting the pitching staff is trickier, as all the Rays leadership acknowledge that trading from starting pitching depth is likely. Until the dust from trade activity has settled, it is hard to know who will project as a starter and who will slot into the bullpen.
Nick Franklin has, according to Cash, earned himself a utility role:
I’m still amazed at how well Nick adapted to playing the outfield, he got out there and after a week looked completely comfortable. To know he can do that, go in at second, third even first adds to that versatility we’re always searching for.
New Collective Bargaining Agreement and its impact on Rays baseball
Matt Silverman is not a happy man. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which JT outlined earlier, does little to reduce the disparities between small and large market teams. Silverman noted that teams like the Rays need good access to amateur talent, whether that is domestic or international, to compensate for their inability to compete for professional talent via free agent signings. The new CBA does nothing to improve the outlook for teams like the Rays, Royals or Twins. While he cautioned that he had not yet seen all the CBA details yet, he was not optimistic:
- Ron Porterfield has spent time with Matt Duffy and believes his recovery from surgery is ahead of schedule.
- Cash isn’t worried that Chris Archer’s and Alex Colome’s potential World Baseball Classic participation will hurt their performances. Both are good at monitoring themselves, and Colome is a guy who “doesn’t waste bullets,” able to get game-ready with minimal warm-up. “It’s hard not to be excited for these guys, they get to play in an event where they are representing their country.“
- Rays leadership, like Rays fans, are big Willy Adames boosters. While a jump from AA to MLB isn’t likely, he may not be far off. According to Neander: