Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' decisions on which contracts to tender could determine offseason direction

In theory, the Rays are looking for up to five frontline position players.

Two are absolute necessities, as there are no in-house candidates to play first base or DH, leaving the Rays to explore pretty much every trade and free agent option. (And thus creating plenty of rumor-mill fodder.)

Three others would be welcome additions: an outfielder, to replace B.J. Upton in either center or left with Desmond Jennings sliding over; a second baseman or shortstop (or both), depending on what they do with Ben Zobrist; and a catcher, allowing Jose Molina to return to the backup role for which he is better suited.

And though it's still relatively early in the offseason, decisions made by Friday's deadline to tender contracts could dictate some of the Rays' direction.

For example, they could cover second base (and narrow Zobrist's options to short or outfield) by keeping Ryan Roberts. But his projected salary of around $3 million through arbitration seems too expensive, and he could be one of their several potential nontenders. Another option at second is some combo of Sean Rodriguez (who requires some thought at about $1 million as well), Reid Brignac, Elliot Johnson and even Tim Beckham.

For another, they could fill leftfield by platooning arb-eligible Ben Francisco and Sam Fuld, but Francisco could approach $2 million, making him another possible nontender.

And players nontendered elsewhere — Baltimore's Mark Reynolds? — could be fits.

MAKING A PITCH: LHP David Price used his always entertaining @DAVIDprice14 Twitter account to send Thanksgiving wishes to OF Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins' last untraded star, with this message: "stay in fla … just come play for the rays please!!! We would love to have you." Stanton responded: "that means I wouldn't have to face u … Tempting Ha!"

FREE-FOR-ALL: The Rays could have interest in INF/OF Chone Figgins, the Brandon High product designated for assignment by Seattle who has a successful history with manager Joe Maddon in Anaheim. … Also potentially, in INF/OF Ryan Raburn, a Durant High product designated by Detroit. … 1B/DH Lance Berkman told the Houston Chronicle the Rays are one of four teams to express "tire-kicking" interest; he may be more interested in the Astros. … RHP Matt Buschmann, a Vanderbilt mate of Price, re-signed after going 7-8, 3.98 at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham. … C Nevin Ashley, a Rays farmhand for six years, signed a minor-league deal with the Reds. … Upton is looking to make a decision this week, with both the Braves (who brought in former manager Bobby Cox to impress during his visit) and Phillies considering him their top choice. … The D'backs and Yankees are interested in INF Jeff Keppinger.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Of the two young lefty pitchers added to the 40-man roster, Felipe Rivero is considered more polished while Enny Romero (their No. 6 prospect per Baseball America) has better stuff, including a 92-97 mph fastball. … The Royals' stock of position players and quest for another starter makes them a logical trade partner. … Condolences to farm director Mitch Lukevics on the passing of his wife, Karen, who lost a lengthy battle with cancer. … INF Leonardo Reginatto, the first signee from the team's Brazilian program, was a key player in the World Baseball Classic upset run past Panama; he spent 2012 at short-season Class A Hudson Valley. … Maddon will announce Friday that his Hazleton Integration Project has reached an initial goal, buying a building to serve as a community center in his Pennsylvania hometown. His second annual fund-/awareness-raising event is Dec. 14-16.

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