Heading into the off-season, the number one priority for the Tampa Bay Rays was finding a catcher who could be the undisputed starter and give them quality not only behind the plate but at the plate as well. They got their guy in Wilson Ramos at the Winter Meetings. Now, with glaring holes in the bullpen and a vacancy in left field, the Rays head into the final couple weeks of 2016 with some work to do before the new year.
It’s pretty safe to say barring a blockbuster deal – closer Alex Colome isn’t going anywhere. Brad Boxberger, who led MLB in 2015 in saves, will be healthy and a solid setup man. Erasmo Ramirez, barring a trade, will most likely resume his duties as a clutch long-relief man. Xavier Cedeno, will most likely return for his third year with the team as a quality “lefty specialist.” Beyond those four, there are question marks as to who fills in the other three or four spots in the 2017 ‘pen.
Internally, they could settle on righty Dylan Floro who pitched in 12 games in 2016 and had some nice moments in his limited time. Chase Whitley will get to have a complete off-season now that he’s recovered from Tommy John so he’s a very quality arm to have in the bullpen if he doesn’t find a way to crack the rotation. Lefty, Enny Romero, will most likely get another shot at proving he can finally have a reliable campaign after back to back rough seasons in ’15 and ’16. Minor league arms that could make their MLB debuts are names like Faria, Schultz, and Stanek. If any of those three put together solid springs they could be possibilities the Rays may strongly consider.
Outside the organization there are options for the Rays.
First on my list is righty, Trevor Cahill, who spent the last two years with Joe Maddon in Chicago and put together a very nice 2016 season where he pitched in 50 games for the Cubs posting a 2.74 ERA in 65.2 innings. Cahill, who spent the first six years of his eight year career as a starter, has seen back-t0-back seasons of sub-3 ERA out of the bullpen. Former Angel and Tiger reliever, Al Aburquerque, is another option. The 30-year old righty pitched in just two games for the Halos last year but before that had a pretty successful five years in Detroit including appearing in 72 games for them in 2014 pitching to a 2.51 ERA with 63 punch outs in 57.1 innings that year.
The last name I’ll throw at you might seem like a stretch – but hear me out.
Joba Chamberlain pitched with the AL Champion, Cleveland Indians, in 2016 after bouncing around since leaving the Yankees in 2013 between Detroit, Kansas City, and finally ending up with the Tribe. He was quite impressive last season, pitching to a 2.25 ERA in 20 games. He made just $1M last year so he could come very affordable as a solid veteran presence in what will be an otherwise young bullpen in Tampa.
Left field, for all intents and purposes, is vacant. The Rays need an every day contributor out there to solidify not only their defense but preferable someone who can come through at the dish, as well. Rumors have them possibly re-signing Logan Morrison who would be an option. Another name the team is familiar with is Oswaldo Arcia who is also a free agent they may look to bring back. With Mikie Mahtook having an awful 2016 and Nick Franklin not a natural outfielder, let’s say the Rays look outside for help.
Sure he’s 36 years old, but Rajai Davis played in 134 games last season for the Indians and had himself a pretty solid post-season, as well. He also swiped an AL-leading 43 bases and hit a career-high 12 home runs. He might be too expensive for what would be a one-year rental type deal but the Rays have done that in the past with wily veterans nearing the end of their careers. Why not Rajai? Jeff Francouer is another veteran name that comes to mind. The Rays would be his ninth team heading into his 13th season in MLB but he’s seen some success and come cheap.
The Rays could very well platoon left field with the likes of Mahtook and Franklin but I’ve never been a fan of platooning at any position. Chances are, they bring in a free agent or two and see what they can produce in spring training. As January nears we’re that much closer to baseball, my friends. Keep it right here for any and all updates on your Tampa Bay Rays as the off-season continues.