Normally, this is doodling time. Spring training is less than a month away, and it's time to scribble lineups, plot batting orders, sort out final roster battles.
But not yet with the Rays, who look a hitter or two short of having a team to put down on paper.
They still need a DH. Maybe another outfielder. Conceivably both.
The DH spot is wide open, and a free agent seems likely, though the money, of course, will be a factor as the payroll is already in the $55 million range (plus incentives) and thus unlikely to go much higher.
The list of candidates has obviously been thinned, but there are still some interesting options, topped by two familiar names: Luke Scott and Delmon Young.
Scott, a 34-year-old lefty who was with the Rays last year, was somewhat productive in 2012, hitting .229 with 14 homers, 55 RBIs and a .724 on-base plus slugging in the 96 games he played. His $6 million option was declined, and he got a $1 million buyout.
Young, a 27-year-old righty whom the Rays traded in November 2007, did a little more for the 2012 AL champion Tigers, hitting .267 with 18 homers and 74 RBIs, though with a .707 OPS, in 151 games (118 as DH given his declining defense in the outfield). The Tigers let him go after paying $6.75 million, and he is coming off November ankle surgery.
Neither, in theory, should be in a position to demand too much money. And both offer some — some — positional flexibility.
Other candidates? Former Ray Dan Johnson is still out there. So is Aubrey Huff, for that matter. Old pros Jim Thome and Carlos Lee. Injury risks such as Travis Hafner and Juan Rivera.
The outfield is even harder to figure. With Desmond Jennings set to move to center (the price on Michael Bourn isn't coming down enough), there seem to be two primary options:
a) Playing Matt Joyce in left and Ben Zobrist in right, with Ryan Roberts or Sean Rodriguez the primary second baseman; or
b) playing Zobrist at second and Joyce in right and using a platoon in left of Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer, or a more experienced right-handed hitter to be added (Ben Francisco?).
Sometime in the next week or two, there should be an addition or two. And then the doodling can begin.
NUMBERS GAME: New SS Yunel Escobar gets No. 11, 1B James Loney 21, RHP Jake Odorizzi 23, LHP Mike Montgomery 31, RHP Roberto Hernandez 40. OF Wil Myers, who isn't on the 40-man roster, will wear 60 in spring. C Jose Lobaton switches from 21 to 59, Guyer 11 to 10. Nos. 2 (B.J. Upton), 33 (James Shields) and 39 (J.P. Howell) likely won't be used this season, a classy nod by equipment/home clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland to the tenure of the departed veterans.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: After looking at some play-by-play opportunities, Todd Kalas will return for his 16th season as TV pre-/postgame host. Sun Sports colleague Laura McKeeman, meanwhile, made it to the semifinal round of the Miss America pageant. … Interesting that MLB bought (for a reported $1.2 million) the domain name rockies.com; rays.com remains property of a Seattle seafood restaurant. … Myers, INF Tim Beckham and LHP Frank de los Santos were sent to MLB's rookie career development program in Washington. … Minor-league coaching staffs should be announced this week. … Westmoreland's staff packs the equipment truck for Port Charlotte on Jan. 30. … Andy Freed and Dave Wills launch the weekly Countdown to Opening Day radio show Feb. 7.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]