With two weeks until the opening of spring training, the Rays feel good about their roster, especially their depth and versatility.
Assuming all key players make it through spring, the only thing they seemingly have to do by April is find a way to dispose of 1B James Loney, who is said to be in tremendous shape.
That would allow Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce to share first, with Corey Dickerson getting a chunk of his at-bats at DH and their preferred outfield alignment of Desmond Jennings in left, Kevin Kiermaier in center and Steven Souza Jr. in right, with Brandon Guyer as the top backup (and starter somewhere vs. lefty pitchers).
But there is more they can, may and, perhaps, should do, ranked in order of most to least likely:
• Add a proven reliever: The trade of LHP Jake McGee left a hole in the back of the bullpen that the Rays can't fill internally.
A signing is more likely given the number of arms still on the free-agent market, probably to a minor-league deal. Though RHP Tyler Clippard may prove too expensive, RHP Ryan Webb, along with RHPs Tommy Hunter and Burke Badenhop, are among legit possibilities.
Or the Rays could use their surplus of hitters to trade for a reliever, with the Indians, Nationals, Rangers and Angels among the teams that could fit. Adding a reliever with options would be a bonus as the pen could use some flexibility.
As it is now, they have RHPs Brad Boxberger, Alex Colome, Steve Geltz and Danny Farquhar and LHPs Xavier Cedeno and Enny Romero, with RHP Andrew Bellatti and non-roster LHP Dana Eveland competing.
• Trade Jennings or Guyer: The Rays feel they are better and deeper keeping both, knowing there will be days when Kiermaier and Souza aren't the best matchups and that Jennings is also their next best centerfield option.
It can work, though that assumes a) Jennings, who has played 28 of their past 190 games, is healthy and ready to have the kind of season they've been waiting for and b) Dickerson, already adjusting to a new league and altitude, can handle the DH role, which he says he is okay with.
Or they could trade one — Guyer may bring more, per some evaluators, though Jennings provides savings given his $3.3 million salary — and open more at-bats for Pearce and/or Morrison and others, with Mikie Mahtook potentially getting the last spot.
• Sign SS Ian Desmond. The longer the Sarasota-born free agent sits on the market, the more his price drops — and the more the sliding scale shifts toward it being worth giving up the No. 13 draft pick, whether in a low base salary, an additional year of control or both.
Signing Desmond would, in theory, add another powerful bat to what is already a more dynamic lineup. But it would bump Brad Miller, who was acquired to play short, into a utility role.
Desmond, who turned down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nats, still seems likely to end up elsewhere. But the longer this goes on, the more the chance he makes the short drive to Port Charlotte.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Expect to see the full Fox Sports Sun TV crew back: Dewayne Staats, Brian Anderson, Todd Kalas, Rich Hollenberg, Emily Austen, Orestes Destrade and Doug Waechter. … Though LHP Drew Smyly won, can't imagine he enjoyed sitting through last week's arbitration hearing listening to the Rays argue why he didn't deserve a 41 percent raise to $3.75 million. … One reason the Rays will play only one game, and in the afternoon, on the planned March 21-22 Cuba trip was concern about the quality of the lights at Havana's Estadio Latinoamericano. … Fox Sports' Jon Morosi tweeted: "Mark it down: I just called @RaysBaseball a 2016 playoff team on @MLBNetworkRadio." … 3B coach Charlie Montoyo, who spent eight seasons managing Triple-A Durham, was elected to the International League Hall of Fame. … Best wishes to ex-Ray Jonny Gomes who, tired of waiting for a big-league offer, is headed to Japan, signing with Rakuten for $2 million with $1 million in incentives. … Don't expect a re-engagement with LHP C.J. Riefenhauser, who this offseason was traded from the Rays to the Mariners to the Orioles, then designated for assignment. … Numbers for new Rays: Dickerson 10, Miller 13, Morrison 7, Pearce 28.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected].