Sunday, April 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays set to explore winter meeting options

For a team coming off a disappointing 80-win season, the Rays head to Nashville for this week's winter meetings feeling pretty good about themselves.

They have been unexpectedly busy early in the offseason, though without any marquee additions.

But they are confident the small parts they added — SS Brad Miller, DH/1B/OF Logan Morrison, RH reliever Danny Farquhar, C Hank Conger — can make a big difference. And they are certain they can't have as many injuries as last year (right?), banking on key players who missed large chunks of the season, such as starters Matt Moore and Drew Smyly and LF Desmond Jennings, to be healthy contributors all season long.

So while other teams wander the vast Opryland geodome with specific shopping lists, the Rays will spend a lot of time dreaming country big, creatively concocting complicated multiplayer, several-team transactions that would allow them to make significant improvement by restructuring the team while keeping their payroll as planned to less than last year's $72 million. Yasiel Puig, anyone?

"We don't see a glaring need for the ballclub right now," baseball operations president Matt Silverman said. "We could go into camp and feel good about the team that we could field and the depth that we would have in the minor leagues.

"That gives us the freedom to explore a number of deals. At this time of year, big deals are explored, many things are talked about, a lot of rumors fly and there is usually very little substance to them. But we certainly have the freedom to explore some of those wild ideas and see if it takes us in a certain direction."

A big reason they are in that position is that they have the one commodity every team desperately wants — quality, cost-efficient pitching.

That's why you have heard about the Astros and others inquiring on relievers LH Jake McGee and RH Brad Boxberger, and will hear more, given how they compare favorably to Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman and other available closer types.

And that's why there will be chatter this week about Smyly, Moore, Erasmo Ramirez, Jake Odorizzi, maybe even still rehabbing Alex Cobb — basically any starter not named Chris Archer or Blake Snell.

Forget ace LHP David Price getting his $217 million. With market prices resulting in a mediocre starter such as LHP J.A. Happ being handed $36 million over three years by Toronto, the Rays can offer some attractive alternatives — Smyly for $4 million in 2016 with two more years of control, Moore for $5 million this season, plus three team-option years for a total of $26 million.

For now, the Rays, who already dealt RHP Nathan Karns, are sounding rightfully reluctant about further trading from their stockpile, Silverman insisting they can't be "too cavalier" as they've seen how "fleeting" depth can be given last year's spate of injuries.

"We don't rule anything out," he said. "But we're very cautious about exposing ourselves and finding ourselves in a position where we don't have the pitching depth and the talent that we need."

But, like anything else, there is always a right price. And that's where the creativity comes in.

Part of the Rays' philosophy, almost to a point of pride, is to say they never have to do anything.

For example, they're perfectly happy to keep both McGee (who will make around $5 million) and Boxberger (a pre-arbitration bargain at around $550,000), knowing how deep that makes the back end of their pen. But if they get offered enough, that duplication could be a luxury better converted to needed assets.

The one deal they certainly would like to make — now, later, in spring training — is trading 1B James Loney, and they would be willing to eat a chunk of his $8 million salary to do so. That would allow them to use Morrison at first and open up a spot to add prospect Richie Shaffer or potentially a more proven bat to the lineup.

So they'll talk this week, about pretty much everything and anything (except, realistically, Archer, 3B Evan Longoria and CF Kevin Kiermaier), and from what it sounds like they would be looking to acquire present-day pieces, not another haul of prospects.

"We look at the club as one that can compete," Silverman said. "And so because we have that confidence in the group and we feel like we have the talent to compete for a playoff spot, we keep a stronger focus on this year.

"But we're always balancing the present and the future, always trying to make sure we have the runway of players and prospects to stay competitive given our financial resources. That factors into the way that we look at trades and the way that we evaluate potential moves. It's never just about the present, it's never just about the future, but it's finding the right balance. If we have too much depth in one particular area we're probably doing ourselves a disservice because that means we're not utilizing it to supplement another area. Given the way we construct our team, given our finances, we don't have the luxury of depth if we want to have the talent across 25 guys to compete."

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

Comments
Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Members of the Rays organization sent their thoughts and prayers to former teammate Danny Farquhar, who was hospitalized Saturday night in Chicago in stable but critical condition after suffering a brain hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm.Farqu...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays on Sunday: 1:10 vs. Twins

Rays on Sunday: 1:10 vs. Twins

Sunday vs. Twins1:10, Tropicana FieldTV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 760-AM (Spanish)Tickets: $20-$300; available at Tropicana Field box office, raysbaseball.com, surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of game.Promotion: Mascot socks for kids 14 a...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

* Is it time to take the leap and believe this is the real Blake Snell? He talked a good game this spring and pitched well in his debut, but that rough second outing raised old doubts. But a good outing in Chicago and two dominant ones on the homesta...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

When the Rays, in the opening weekend of their 20th anniversary celebration season, brought back and honored the inaugural 1998 Devil Rays squad, it got us thinking unexpected thoughts, such as which was a better team:The first one, or the current on...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

ST. PETERSBURG – Let's be clear here, the Rays still have a long way to go, and a lot of ground to make up.But seeing them play like they did Saturday in beating the Twins 10-1, putting on a solid all-around show in cobbling their first three-g...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays will go forth with four starters

Rays will go forth with four starters

ST. PETERSBURG — Three weeks was enough for the Rays to officially ditch their three-man rotation plan.Starting Sunday, they will go forth with Yonny Chirinos as their fourth starter.Which is a five-star idea.The flaws in the three-man plan ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Twins, with a familiar look

For starters: Rays vs. Twins, with a familiar look

UPDATE, 4:17: CF Kevin Kiermaier was back at the Trop, and at one point on the field with a glove on his left hand and protective wrapping on his right, the day after surgery to repair a torn UCL in his right thumb. He said the surgery went "as good ...
Published: 04/21/18
Rays will go forth with Chirinos as fourth starter

Rays will go forth with Chirinos as fourth starter

The Rays have made it official – or as official as things can be with them – in naming RHP Yonny Chirinos as the fourth starter in their rotation.The Rays had been using three, and two "Bullpen Day" slots when playing five straight days.B...
Published: 04/21/18
Archerís sparkling start precedes surreal finish

Archerís sparkling start precedes surreal finish

By now, we presume you've had a few hours to digest the Rays' improbable 10-inning triumph Friday night.So instead of rehashing the whole bizarre body of work, how 'bout a closer look at the workmanship. Specifically, Chris Archer's.Partially lost in...
Published: 04/21/18
Now Batting in Double A: Biggio, Bichette and Guerrero

Now Batting in Double A: Biggio, Bichette and Guerrero

HARTFORD, Conn. — Craig Breslow is 37 years old, with a dozen years of experience as a left-handed reliever in the major leagues. He is pitching now for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, just getting to know his teammates. In their openin...
Published: 04/21/18