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Rays 2016-2017 Offseason Review and Grade (In Progress!)

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays will have budget restraints for the foreseeable future. This we know; however, what we also know is that they've become really adept at overcoming some of their financial deficiencies by making some shrewd moves and making the most of their assets.

With that in mind, let's take a look at what's taken place so far this offseason, as the Rays were one of the most active teams in MLB while retooling their roster by a significant amount.

MLB Signings

$14.5M Total for 2017 ($21.65M with all incentives), $10.5M for 2018

*If in MLB, P Tommy Hunter: $1.4M in 2017 (up to $1.5M in incentives), which brings the totals to $15.9M total and $23.15M if all incentives reached

Arbitration Signings

$25.775M Total for 2017

  • Alex Cobb: $4.2M (Arb 3 - Final Arb)
  • Jake Odorizzi: $4.1M (Arb 1) *Won Arb case
  • Erasmo Ramirez: $3.215M (Arb 2)
  • Brad Miller: $3.575M (Arb 1)
  • Xavier Cedeno: $1.3M (Arb 1)
  • Danny Farquhar: $0.9M (Arb 1)
  • Corey Dickerson: $3.025M (Arb 1)
  • Kevin Kiermaier: $2.975M (Arb 1)
  • Brad Boxberger: $1.6M (Arb 1)
  • Tim Beckham: $0.885M (Arb 1)

Minor League Signings

Extensions

  • N/A

Outrighted

Waiver Losses

Completed Trades

Purchased from Minors

Added to 40-man roster

  • SS Willy Adames
  • INF Daniel Robertson
  • P Ryne Stanek
  • P Jaime Schultz
  • P Chih-Wei Hu

Released

Declared Free Agents

  • C Bobby Wilson (Nov 15th, 2016) (link)
  • SS Alexei Ramirez (mid-season addition)
  • RP Kevin Jepsen (mid-season addition)
  • RP Ryan Webb (made $1M in 2016, signed with Brewers)
  • 1B Logan Morrison (made $4.2M in 2016)
  • OF Jaff Decker (refused outright assignment)
  • C Hank Conger (refused outright assignment)
  • OF Jake Goebbert (refused outright assignment)

Issues Resolved

  • Catcher: Obtained a top-end catcher (Ramos) for both 2nd half of 2017 and all of 2018
  • Outfield: Strengthened OF depth (Rasmus and Smith)
  • Pitching Depth: Reloaded P depth after loss of Matt Moore and Drew Smyly (Yarbrough, De Leon, Thompson, Kittredge)
  • Acquiring potential back end RP capable of setting up or closing (Tolleson, Hunter)
  • Creating some room for the promotion of their top infield prospects who project to be ready at some point in 2017 (Adames, Robertson, Bauers, and/or Gillaspie)

Issues Remaining

  • Acquiring a RH power bat for and settling the 1B/DH situation (offer out to Wieters)
  • Adding a LHP RP

Opening Day Budget

Comments

Despite dealing two of their regulars from the 2016 season in Logan Forsythe and Drew Smyly, the Rays have positioned themselves well for an exciting and competitive season, and here’s why:

Arrival of the Gold Glove Brigade

By adding Colby Rasmus and Wilson Ramos to this team, the Rays improved their team substantially in terms of defensive abilities. Both were Gold Glove candidates at their respective positions, and Ramos’ bat will be a welcomed addition to the core of the lineup vs both LHP and RHP.

If healthy enough to provide at least a half season behind the plate, the Rays will boast one of the top catchers in MLB (ranked top 10 by vast majority of media outlets) for the first time in the franchise’s history. I feel like that’s almost been minimized in terms of how that will impact the Rays and their pitching in particular.

Mallex Smith, who is also a Gold Glove caliber outfielder, also adds to the outstanding defensive abilities for the Rays and provides depth at all 3 outfield positions.

With improvement also expected defensively in the infield by not having Miller at SS, whether he is replaced by Matt Duffy or Willy Adames throughout the year, the Rays pitchers should benefit greatly from a stellar defensive team on the field.

Rotation Help

One thing that gets missed by many analysts is that yes, the Rays were able to trade for outstanding young arms when dealing away Forsythe and Smyly, but they also are going to benefit from the addition of Alex Cobb to the rotation. Adding him is the akin to signing a #3 caliber free agent arm since they weren’t able to benefit from his talents for the vast majority of 2016. His presence on and off the mound will certainly help out the rest of the staff and brings some much needed experience to the team.

The addition of Jose De Leon and Ryan Yarbrough to the pitching depth allows for many rotation and pen options to be envisioned and only strengthens an already impressive corps of arms, making it a deeper pool of talent to draw from on the mound than what the Rays had to work with in 2016.

Pen Depth

Then we have the addition of Tolleson and Hunter to the pen depth, both RP who could become a key setup caliber part of the pen and is cost-friendly enough to allow for more pen investments to be made should they be required. They are not far removed from his most dominant seasons and could turn out to be a very important addition to the 2017 pen.

Minors Depth

Finally, let’s not forget the potential impact of those who have been added to the 25-Man roster. The team can now call upon them when ready and/or needed with little hesitation. Not only are their best MLB ready, but they have openings (position player wise) to challenge for playing time this year. The quality of those players is outstanding and should really help take the Rays season up a notch overall.

With few resources but a lot of talent in house stemming from years of smart transactions, the Rays are in an enviable position. They arguably have more pitching than the vast majority of teams to use, they have one of the best defensive teams in MLB, and they now have an offensive team that may be ready to take a step forward as they begin to get upgrades from their minors system.

Remaining Needs

Another dominant LH RP would be the next most obvious need, and possibly one more outfielder to help the early months from the bench.

It would also be helpful to increase the OBP numbers of this lineup, and adding speed, two areas where Smith and Ramos could already improve substantially. If the Rays were to land a big RHB, this grade would be upgraded substantially but still is very positive overall.

Pending Overall Grade: A-