Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays in market for the bat they hoped Richie Shaffer would be

Some fallout after a frenzied Friday in which the Rays changed 30 percent of their roster:

• Giving up on 2012 first-round pick Richie Shaffer was surprising, and though Rays senior VP Chaim Bloom said the trade to Seattle was "not to slight Richie," it's obvious how much he played his way out of their plans with a poor 2016 followup to his 2015 breakout while fellow prospects Casey Gillaspie and Jake Bauers made big strides.

More telling, the Rays have a need for what Shaffer should have been, a right-handed option to Brad Miller at first with enough bat to also DH. Instead they will be looking for that guy, with serious interest in bringing back free agent Steve Pearce, pending the status of his recovery from elbow surgery and the market price. The Blue Jays are among others reportedly interested.

• Though the Rays ditched one of the "Banished Brothers" in dealing Taylor Motter with Shaffer, INF Tim Beckham looks for now to be part of the roster for 2017, as the potential of his offensive contributions — his 1.3 wins above replacement was their seventh best in 2016 — outweighs past transgressions.

• Of the six pitchers added to the roster, three have the potential to help this season, with hard-throwing RHP Ryne Stanek, a 2013 first-round pick, a candidate for a bullpen spot and RHPs Jaime Schultz and Austin Pruitt options as rotation depth or conversion to relief work. Of the others, LHP Jose Alvarado, 21, seemed an unexpected addition since he pitched in middle relief at Class A (3.06 ERA, 85 Ks, 55 BB, 50 H in 702/3 IP). But Bloom raved about him, noting his "phenomenal arm" with a 100 mph fastball and sharp breaking ball and calling him a late bloomer "with tremendous upside" whose combo of stuff is "really hard to go out and find." (But they said similar things about LHP Enny Romero.)

• Being "right in the thick of things" after making an offer for C Jason Castro is an interesting position given the Rays don't typically venture into the free agent market this early in the offseason and rarely win any bidding. Castro's strong pitch-framing skills and lefty bat with pop make him a good fit (career .753 OPS vs. right-handers), especially to pair with righty-swinging Curt Casali or Luke Maile, though his overall offensive record isn't much. Given projections, Castro's price will reach $15 million for two years or $20M-plus for three, and it seems unlikely the Rays would go that far. Other lefty/switch-hitting free agent options are thin (Al Avila? Dioner Navarro?), but maybe a trade for a discounted veteran such as Miguel Montero?

• Adding eight prospects, second most in the majors, to protect them from the Rule 5 draft seemed high, but the Rays might have been wise in doing so given chatter the new labor agreement will expand rosters to 26, making it easier for teams to carry a selection.

• Trading a starting pitcher remains very much in play. With RHP Chris Archer the most sought-after and LHP Drew Smyly (and his approximate $7 million salary) the Rays' preferred target, it might be that RHP Jake Odorizzi is most likely to get dealt. And ESPN's Jim Bowden says the same.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: INF Juniel Querecuto, called up in place of Beckham and Motter then dropped from the roster, signed a minor-league deal with the Giants. … The Rays are offering a holiday flex-pack special, offering five lower-level tickets starting at $75 that includes a Rays Ugly Sweater hat. … 3B Evan Longoria's 10th-place vote in the AL MVP balloting was the only one for a Ray in the four major BBWAA awards.

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