The need to upgrade.
Arguably the busiest team this off-season, it’s no secret that the Tampa Bay Rays have been looking to upgrade. Most recently the Rays were in on the Chris Carter – Mike Napoli sweepstakes. With both of those guys signing elsewhere over the last week, where does that leave the Rays? Do they still need to upgrade offensively?
The options that remain in free agency aren’t going to blow away any of the guys projected to break camp with the big league club. Let’s assume that maybe an upgrade could be had at catcher, first base or even second base. Going through the free agent market, and evaluating that versus what the Rays have now, here is what I’ve got…
The Rays went out and spent $12.5M in guaranteed money to bring in the services of an all-star backstop. Albeit an injured one in Wilson Ramos. I don’t see the Rays dishing out more money to a guy like Matt Wieters, regardless of the market drop. Expect Kevin Cash to allow youngster Luke Maile the opportunity to start come April.
The only way Wieters makes sense is if it were a two or three-year deal. This would allow the team to part ways with Logan Morrison after the season and slide Wieters to first. The former Orioles catcher would be an upgrade over Morrison, so if the deal is made Morrison then becomes expendable. But why would the Rays have been so quick to bring Morrison back if the thought of a better-affordable option existed?
Further, it could be the reason Wieters is still available. Other suitors may be looking at him as a first baseman, while he still wants to catch. If he was holding out thinking that teams in need of a catcher were going to come calling…that may have been his downfall this offseason.
That brings me to first base. It makes sense for the Rays to look for upgrades. However, I’m not going to consider Ryan Howard an upgrade, and nor should you. Unless the Rays are going to make yet another trade, it appears the team is set.
Matt Duffy will play shortstop and the Rays have three options at second base. Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, and Tim Beckham. The Rays aren’t in the business of shopping for higher priced talent when they have a viable option in house – Franklin batted .270 last year in 60 games.
However, a second baseman that belts 25-30 homers, has 75+ runs batted in…I can’t blame them for giving the job to Miller either. His 30 bombs last year would have put him fourth among second basemen in all of baseball (Brian Dozier, Robinson Cano, Roughned Odor). Beckham seems like a platoon guy who will see time all over the infield. The team is not going to do anything with third base or the outfield at this point.
So where do the Rays need to upgrade?
The short answer – they don’t.
It will be nice for Duffy to attend spring training with the team, after joining via mid-season trade. The addition of Ramos, Colby Rasmus, and potentially Rickie Weeks, not to mention a full season of Alex Cobb (Tommy John surgery). On paper, this team is significantly better than the shell of a team we saw at the end of 2016. The best move right now could be no move at all.