Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Brad Miller not guaranteed to be Rays' everyday shortstop

With interest in their pitchers high, the Rays may well still make big changes, such as working a deal with the Cubs to bring in Javier Baez to play short or adding an impact bat elsewhere that requires a subsequent shuffle.

But if not — or if they instead deal one of their pitchers for a younger starter/prospects, as also was discussed last week in Nashville — they could head to spring training with only one front-line position battle, at shortstop.

Brad Miller was acquired from Seattle with the idea that the lefty swinger would have the first shot at the everyday job, though there is the matter of a considerable difference in his splits — a .756 on-base plus slugging percentage against right-handers, .574 vs. lefties.

That creates the possibility of at least a timeshare, if not a legit competition with Tim Beckham, a righty hitter who in his first extended big-league action was a more equitable .725 vs LHP, .676 vs. RHP. Switch-hitting Nick Franklin could be another option, though after his disappointing injury-marred 2015 season he could be better served by regular duty at Triple A. Another factor is Miller — whom the Rays have sought for years — is the most versatile of the three, having played 35 games in the outfield last year for Seattle, in addition to second and third.

"We would like for somebody to kind of take the reins and become our shortstop," manager Kevin Cash said. "We were kind of in a similar position last year, and Asdrubal Cabrera did that. So hopefully we can figure some stuff out in spring training and each individual makes the most of the opportunities they will be presented."

TV TIME: Principal owner Stuart Sternberg seemed to make news last week in telling the Tampa Bay Times it would be "a few years from now at least" until the Rays got a new TV deal, and the presumptive riches that come with it. But that was based on widespread media reports that the deal expired after 2016, which he said were "wrong" but wouldn't say when it did. And that is based on the working terms of the contract, not that the Rays executed an option or otherwise extended it to see where the market went or how/if their stadium issue was resolved.

PROSPECTING: OF/1B Jake Bauers, acquired from San Diego in the Wil Myers trade and impressive as he hit his way to Double A in 2015 and had a solid fall league showing, was the big riser in Baseball America's ranking of the Rays' top 10 prospects, moving up to fourth. The list: 1. LHP Blake Snell; 2. SS Willy Adames; 3. RHP Brent Honeywell; 4. Bauers; 5. OF Garrett Whitley; 6. OF Mikie Mahtook; 7. RHP Taylor Guerrieri; 8. RHP Jacob Faria; 9. 1B Casey Gillaspie; 10. SS Daniel Robertson. … Baseball Prospectus' rankings have Snell, Adames, Honeywell, Guerrieri, Whitley, SS Adrian Rondon, Robertson, C Justin O'Conner, 1B/3B Richie Shaffer, Faria.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: No surprise, but the Rays found out at the meetings that "everyone" has interest in Gold Glove-winning CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is not a free agent until 2021. … LHP Jake McGee sure seems a good fit for the Dodgers after their trade for Aroldis Chapman was scuttled. … Rule 5 pick OF Tyler Goeddel has a decent shot to stick with the noncontending Phillies, who can more easily carry/hide an unproven position player, as they did last year with OF Odubel Herrera. OF Joey Rickard, not as much with the Orioles. … The Pirates and Brewers, who both have had prior interest, could be a fit for a trade of 1B James Loney. … After seeing video of Nationals star Bryce Harper leaping on to a platform 55 inches off the ground, Rays OF Steven Souza Jr. did him three better. See Souza's 58-inch leap on tampabay.com/blogs/rays. … Cabrera got the multiyear deal he was looking for from the Mets but only a slight raise (if that given taxes), from $7.5 million to $8.25 million per. … ESPN's Jim Bowden gave the Rays a "C" for their offseason thus far. … Coming off a rough season in Anaheim, former Rays OF/Tampa product Matt Joyce will likely wait until teams sort out their needs in January to sign.

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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