Lots to talk about in what should be interesting week for Rays
This has the potential to be a busy week for the Rays, as they are set to formally add OF Colby Rasmus to their roster and are working on several other additions:
* Rasmus agreed to terms Jan. 9 on a reported 1-year, $5-million deal, but due to a review of his extensive medical history (3 surgeries last year) and some administrative issues, they have yet to finalize and announce the deal. That should happen today, or Tuesday. Rasmus, 30, hit .206 with 15 homers, 54 RBIs and a .641 OPS last season for Houston, limited to 107 games. The Rays are banking on a return to his 2015 form, when he hit .238 with 25 homers, 68 RBIs and a .789 OPS. Rasmus, a lefty hitter, is expected to play LF, but can also play RF and serve as a backup in CF, providing solid defense.
* In adding Rasmus, the Rays have to make room on the 40-man roster. The most likely options to make room are trading RHP Erasmo Ramirez, ditching either reliever RHP Eddie Gamboa or Ryan Garton, or dropping OF Jason Coats, who had been claimed on waivers recently from the White Sox.
* In an effort to fill the void at 2B created by trading Logan Forsythe to the Dodgers, the Rays seem likely to shift Brad Miller there from 1B and take advantage of a buyers market given the number of 1B-type hitters still on the market. Though it would seem their priority is to sign a right-handed hitter, they could actually add one of each, maybe even a lefty who can play better defense and a righty who is a more potent hitter. The Rays have expressed interest in on multiple players - one agent said he thinks they checked in on every available option - they seem to be working fron this list, with my guess at the priority order:
1. Chris Carter. The most bang for the buck given his power (41 homers for Brewers last year; 33 on average last four), but not much of a defender at first and can't play anywhere else. And he strikes out a lot.
2. Mark Reynolds. Less power and production, but more defensive ability at first and flexibility to play 3B or the OF if needed.
3. Mike Napoli. Best hitter of the group, but seems likely to get a longer term/richer deal than Rays would want to commit to. Unless he finds the opportunity with Rays more appealing.
4. C.J. Cron Seemingly without a job in Anaheim, has had some success (.278-16-69-.792 last season), and the added benefit of four years of control, including this season at pre-arb prices. But he costs them a player when they can buy production at a reduced price elsewhere.
5. Billy Buter. The best bargain in that he costs only the minimum since Oakland is paying his $10-million salary, but doesn't come with reputation of being a great fit, given clubhouse issues in Oakland. Hit .284 with a .752 OPS for A's and Yankees last year in 97 games (between 1B and DH), but only five homers.
If they opt to also sign a lefty hitter - which will require some roster shuffling, which we wrote about on Sunday - there are also several options:
Logan Morrison was acquired in trade last year, got off to a miserable start, then battled his way back to some decent numbers before losing playing time to Miller at 1B and then sustaining a season-ending wrist injury which required surgery.
Pedro Alvarez has big-time power, 22 homers in 109 games last year for the Orioles, but is not much of a help defensively. With Corey Dickerson seemingly the lefty-swinging DH it would be hard to add Alvarez unless he could play the field.
Other possibilities are Ryan Howard (who does have that big house in Clearwater), Adam Lind and Justin Morneau.
And then there is the Matt Wieters possibility, The switch-hitting catcher is still on the market, and if he is looking for a one-year "pillow" deal as agent Scott Boras has been known to seek, the Rays could be an interesting landing spot. Though they previously signed C Wilson Ramos, he is recovering from knee surgery and may not be ready to play until sometime in May, not get behind the plate until June and may be limited in how much he can catch, so there may be more opportunity for Wieters than it appears. And his familiarity with the AL East, and his feelings about not being re-signed by the Orioles, could all work to the Rays' benefit.
* The Rays are also likely to add another veteran reliever in their efforts to improve the bullpen. That market is also somewhat flush, and is expected to start to break this week. While the Rays likely won't out-bid teams for the top options, such as Joe Blanton, here are a couple of possibilities:
And others still available (per mlbtraderumors.com):
Among left-handers, Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan are likely to be the top choices. That could make these lefties among the more likely for the Rays:
J.P. Howell (the well-respected ex-Ray)