Rays Silverman: 'Hellbent' on getting team back into contention
The Rays top baseball officials put a wrap on their poor 2016 season Tuesday, saying they were disappointed by what took place in going 68-94 but confident of and committed to improving.
"We're hellbent on getting this team back into contention,'' baseball operations president Matt Silverman said.
Manager Kevin Cash and Silverman both said they believe they have a good core of players, but that internal improvements and external additions are needed.
"We have a lot of the guys in house, but we're going to need to make some changes and we're going to need to bring in some new players, too,'' Silverman said. "The core is intact, the core is talented, and if you listen to the players talk, if you listen to Kevin and the coaches, they will tell you, too. There is still a lot of confidence, there is still a lot of optimism within our clubhouse, and that bodes well for next year.''
Silverman said the bullpen is a top target area for enhancement, and Cash said that improving baserunning is going to be a priority for spring training, which starts Feb, 12.
Cash and Silverman said they felt like they already had held the press conference given how they dropped from contention in mid-season and have talked repeatedly about what went wrong.
"We're incredibly disappointed with this season, and especially how it went south so early,'' Silverman said. "That feeling, that disappointment, it gnaws at us, it gnaws at (principal owner Stuart Sternberg), it gnaws at (team president) Brian Auld, gnaws at us, and gnaws at the players. And we don't want that to happen again.
"It's a talented club and there were several bright spots that give us a lot of hope going into next year. But when you are 25 games out of first place, there aren't enough bright spots.''
In short, they believe that with SS Matt Duffy healthy the infield defense will be improved and that keeping CF Kevin Kiermaier on the field, and having better depth behind him, will help, making the defense and pitching better.
"It's tough to sit here and tell you guys that we feel good about things with a lot of our core players, but we honestly do,'' Cash said, noting the late-season improvements of Steven Souza Jr. and Corey Dickerson, plus the addition of Duffy, who underwent surgery on his left foot. "Those are three big, big pieces to our club next year that we are feeling pretty good about.''
Silverman said the challenge grows given payroll disparity in the league - with no increase expected from the approximate $68-million they started this year with, including players they let go - but they remain confident they can get back into contention.
"We have to play better baseball,'' Silverman said. "For us to win, we have to fire on all cylinders. That means in the front office we have to make good personnel decisions, that means Kevin and the coaches have to manage the games properly, the players have to execute. We have to be clean.
"We have to do things better than we have done. We've worn this this year. We've seen a lot of the bad this year. It also helps us to identify that and be able to learn from it.''