Examining Rays search for a bat
The Rays have already filled several holes this offseason, from picking up first baseman James Loney and shortstop Yunel Escobar to providing pitching depth with righthander Roberto Hernandez.
They acquired outfield prospect Wil Myers, the key chip in the James Shields-Wade Davis trade to the Royals, who could be an intriguing offensive addition for years to come. But Myers may still start the season in Triple-A Durham.
So executive vice president Andrew Friedman said they're still looking for a "bat or two" to add for next season.
The question is, what are their options?
*Just a few weeks ago, the Angels appeared a potential trading partner with available bats, thanks to the signing of OF Josh Hamilton making a glut in their roster. But after Anaheim traded DH Kendrys Morales to the Mariners, OFs Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo can now slide into spots their very potent lineup and may not be on the table.
*Another free agent option, Yankees postseason hero DH/OF Raul Ibanez, is signing with Seattle as well, and C A.J. Pierzynski signed with the Rangers.
*DH/OF Lance Berkman told the Houston Chronicle last month that the Rays were one of four teams to "kick the tires" and show interest. And it would have appeared that with the Astros signing ex-Ray Carlos Pena, it'd give Tampa Bay a better chance to pick up the six-time All-Star. But Berkman recently told Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal he isn't even sure that he'll play in 2013. Still one to keep an eye on.
*With the Diamondbacks signing free agent OF Cody Ross, they're in a position to move an outfielder such as Jason Kubel. Kubel, a left-handed hitter with some pop (30 homers last season), is not a great defender by any means, but could work for a team in a platoon situation or at DH. The problem is when it comes to the Rays, they already have a left-handed hitting corner outfielder (Matt Joyce). Plus, Kubel is due $7.5 million next season, and has a $7.5 million mutal option for 2014 (or a $1 million buyout). Unless Arizona would pick up some of the money, it'd be surprising to see the Rays pay that much, especially with their payroll where it is.
*The Rays reportedly pursued RF Nate Schierholtz, but he ended up signing a $2.25 million deal with the Cubs earlier this month.
The Rays spent a lot of money last offseason to upgrade their offense, between the signings of Luke Scott ($5 million) and Carlos Pena ($7.25 million). But their best pickup may have been the relative bargain, INF Jeff Keppinger, who flourished in his utility role and became arguably their most consistent hitter.
With the "big-name" options waning this winter - and the Rays having already traded two starting pitchers - you can probably expect Tampa Bay to go that route again, taking a chance on a complementary bat and hoping for a bounce-back type season.
-- JOE SMITH