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Don't expect Tampa Bay Rays to move quickly to add offense

The Rays might seek another bat to replace the "retired" Manny Ramirez, but likely not for a couple of months.

In part, that's because there really aren't any quality players available this early. Trade talk doesn't typically start until mid to late May and doesn't warm up until after the June draft. Players who were released, weren't in camps or are in the independent leagues probably aren't going to be of enough help, and some, such as Jermaine Dye, have announced their retirement.

But the Rays need time to evaluate what they have. Until they get third baseman Evan Longoria, who was injured in the second game, back at the end of the month, they can't make a true read on how bad, or good, their Manny-less offense might be and how much is realistic to expect from Sam Fuld, B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce.

Also, they need time to evaluate the players they called up. Infielder Felipe Lopez seems like a temporary replacement, but first baseman Casey Kotchman could — if he showed enough offensively — be a longer-term answer, maybe for the next few seasons.

There is also the issue of money. Though the Rays, in theory, saved most of the $2 million they were to pay Ramirez, the replacements are costing them almost as much: Lopez gets a $1 million salary (with up to $1 million in incentives starting at 350 plate appearances) and Kotchman $750,000 (with $400,000 in incentives). And since neither can be sent back down without going through waivers, the Rays could lose them and still end up paying the bulk of their salaries.

Top outfield prospect Desmond Jennings, off to a hot start at Triple-A Durham (.345 with two homers, five RBIs in nine games), would be another option, especially if Fuld cools off or gets hurt.

"We are big on depth and focused on it a lot this offseason; we didn't expect it to get tested this early," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "So it's a balancing act for us that we want to get a truer sampling to get a sense of what areas we need to be aggressive in trying to target from the outside."

Don't expect Tampa Bay Rays to move quickly to add offense 04/16/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 16, 2011 7:10pm]
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