Friday, July 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays 'open to everything' to improve in offseason

The Rays take their revamped front office — including, for the first time since 2005, an executive with the actual title of general manager, Erik Neander — to Scottsdale, Ariz., this week for the annual GM meetings.

In any configuration, they figure to have plenty to talk about, given an industrywide trend to start sooner on offseason moves and a need to get better.

"When you only win 68 games,'' baseball operations president Matt Silverman said, "you're open to everything.''

As usual, the Rays will explore myriad scenarios, seeking to fill their primary needs — front-line catcher, several relievers, leftfielder/DH — via trades. Making it more complicated to shop is the price will be different in each discussion.

"The trade market is our primary avenue to address those needs," Silverman said. "It's market-driven based on the teams' interest in our players, what (teams) provide to us that meets those needs, both short term and long term."

Potentially eight deep in a limited free agent market, the Rays will receive considerable interest in their starting pitchers, with at least one expected to be dealt. "We are in listening mode, as we always are, and will be responsive to the market while not taking for granted the value of depth," Silverman said.

No deals are likely this week but expect plenty of talks, and maybe some juicy rumors.

Among potential topics:

1. Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi: The right-handers are the team's most sought-after starters. The Rays are demanding a hefty haul of prospects/young big-leaguers, more so for Archer.

2. Drew Smyly, Erasmo Ramirez: They are the pitchers the Rays would be best to trade given inconsistent performance and projected salaries of $7 million and $3.5 million.

3. Evan Longoria: The third baseman may never have higher value coming off a revived season and with a six-year, $99 million contract palatable to many teams. But indications are the team remains uninterested in dealing him.

4. Brad Miller, alex Colome: Extremely successful seasons raised the value of the infielder and right-hander for the team to keep them, but could the Rays be tempted by a sell-high deal?

5. Kevin Kiermaier: Though the centerfielder is among the least touchables, this could be a big week for him. Despite missing two months with a broken hand, he likely will win his second straight Gold Glove on Tuesday. And he will soon find out if he qualifies for Super 2 arbitration status, meaning a big raise to around $3 million in a fourth year of arbitration eligibility.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Neander is the second GM in franchise history, joining Chuck LaMar. Neither Silverman nor predecessor Andrew Friedman had that title. … Though Neander and Chaim Bloom will have more responsibilities as senior vice presidents and Silverman less day-to-day duty, all will be in involved in trade discussions, each responsible for a segment of teams. … Promoting Neander and Bloom last week might have been a way to keep them from seeking jobs elsewhere and to stockpile brainpower. … Best wishes to Rick Vaughn, who resigned after 20 years heading the Rays' public relations/communications and did more good work than his bosses ever knew. … Early odds from Bovada have the Rays at 66-1 to win the 2017 World Series; the Cubs are 7-2 favorites. … Spanish interpreter and social media whiz George Pappas moves to baseball operations as an international and minor-league assistant. … Right-hander Diego Castillo has impressed in the Arizona Fall League with an upper 90s fastball and slider. One scout references a Colome comparable.

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