Thursday, January 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays Tales: Rays keep adding depth

Trying to boost attendance for their playoff push, the Rays have taken on the hash-tagged marketing slogan #OneMoreGame. In trying to make sure they get to the postseason, Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman has apparently adapted it to #OneMoreGuy. Friedman has been more aggressive this year — or at least more successful — in adding stretch-run players than in any of the previous five seasons of their winning era, making four potentially impactful acquisitions in RHP Jesse Crain, OF David DeJesus, LHP Wesley Wright and DH/OF Delmon Young. "I feel like we have arguably the deepest roster we've ever had," Friedman said. "We've got a lot of talent, we've got a really good group of guys, and the last month here is going to be really fun." More on them, right.

It's a sprint and a marathon

The Rays on Friday started a rugged run to the end of the season: 37 games in 38 days, with four road trips, including Monday's one-day visit to Kansas City and 10 games in Oakland, Anaheim and Seattle starting Friday. Executive VP Andrew Friedman said the schedule "definitely factored" into the Rays' decision to add players. They hope adding will allow them to better manage their bullpen, rest position players with less of a dropoff and be prepared for inevitable surprises (injuries, etc.). "I think it puts us in the best position to pivot out of different things that might happen and provide us with a tremendous amount of depth going down the stretch," Friedman said.

Come September

At this stage, every game is important. But once the Rays get through the next week, they believe they really will be well positioned as they take advantage of the Sept. 1 roster expansion to start playing with what could be a pool of at least 30 players, all with legitimate roles and considerable value.

For example, activating Luke Scott off the DL and calling up Delmon Young would give them a pair of experienced DH/pinch-hitters with power. Getting RHP Jesse Crain healthy would take some of the high-leverage load off Joel Peralta. Adding RHP Brandon Gomes would allow RHP Jamey Wright to be used later in games. Bringing up C Chris Gimenez would make it easier to pinch-run for a catcher. Plus, LHP Matt Moore should be back in the rotation.

Manager Joe Maddon — no surprise — said he welcomes all possible options and moves he'll be able to ponder: "We try and look at every potential moment that's going to occur and try to react in advance of that and have it filled. So having a (David) DeJesus and a Delmon to augment what we've already got, that's pretty good stuff right there. The bench will be very thick on a nightly basis. My biggest concern is guys not being tired and guys being healthy, and we've got to really be on top of that."

Friedman said they may do callups in waves, a few Sept. 1, others as needed because having Triple-A Durham in the playoffs allows the players to remain active.

'Trader' Andrew

Rays exec VP Andrew Friedman has added four helpful players in the past month:

RHP Jesse Crain

Deal: Acquired July 29 from White Sox for players to be named or cash considerations

Status: All-Star has yet to pitch (or even throw off mound) but is said to be progressing well from shoulder strain that has sidelined him since late June. If healthy, could be welcome September boost to bullpen.

LHP Wesley Wright

Deal: Claimed off waivers Aug. 12 from Astros

Status: Had made two good outings, one not so good entering Saturday. Can be used as lefty specialist with strikeout stuff in sixth-seventh innings, allowing Rays to save Jake McGee, Joel Peralta for higher-leverage work.

DH/OF Delmon Young

Deal: Signed Thursday to minor-league deal

Status: Ex-Devil Ray, released by Phillies, will work back into game form at Double-A Montgomery, likely be called up Sept. 1. Should be primary DH vs. lefty pitchers, key pinch-hitter. Has pennant-race/postseason experience, success.

OF David DeJesus

Deal: Acquired Friday from Nationals for player to be named or cash considerations.

Status: Lefty swinger will be in lineup regularly against right-handed starters with ability to play all three outfield spots well, plus pinch-hit. Versatility and experience make lineup and bench deeper.

Left, right, left …

Bolstering the bullpen is a big plus with the roster additions. But the most noticeable impact will be the Rays' ability to customize their lineups to counter the opposing pitcher, especially when the scouting reports and data call for a strong right- or left-handed attack. "We could really match up well against different people," manager Joe Maddon said. Here, for example, is how they could go almost all right- and almost all left-handed:

vs. LHP

CF Jennings (R)

2B Zobrist (S)

3B Longoria (R)

RF Myers (R)

DH Young (R)

SS Escobar (R)

1B Loney (L) or Rodriguez (R)

C Lobaton (S) / Molina (R)

LF Rodriguez (R) or Fuld (L)

vs. RHP

CF Jennings (R) or LF DeJesus (L)

2B Zobrist (S)

3B Longoria (R)

DH/RF Joyce (L)

RF/DH Myers (R)

1B Loney (L)

LF DeJesus (L) or CF Jennings (R)

C Molina (R) / Lobaton (S)

SS Escobar (SS)

Money matters

Though it's always relative compared with their opponents, the Rays took on money to get better and deeper, roughly $4.5 million for the four new players. "A real financial outlay," exec VP Andrew Friedman said. That's about $2.5 million for David DeJesus, with $1 million in salary (of $4.25 million base) plus a $1.5 million buyout on a $6.5 million contract; $1.5 million for Jesse Crain ($4.5 million base); and $250,000 for Wesley Wright ($1.025 million base). Delmon Young, released by the Phillies, comes for less than $100,000 for a month's work. "We're fortunate with the ownership group we have and their commitment and focus on doing everything we can to win games," Friedman said.

Rays Rumblings

The Rays' "solid but unspectacular" uniforms were 18th in MLB and 59th overall in pro sports in Paul Lukas' ESPN Uni Watch rankings. The Bucs were 37th and the Lightning 89th. … The Molina family reached the 3,000 hit mark last week: Bengie had 1,317, Yadier has 1,154 and Jose 539 through Friday. … New OF David DeJesus' wife, Kim, is a contestant in the upcoming season of CBS's The Amazing Race. … Manager Joe Maddon finalized plans to live in his new 40-foot RV for spring training. … The Rays are producing an AL "Rookie of the Year Watch" sheet touting LHP Alex Torres, OF Wil Myers and RHP Chris Archer. … Triple-A Durham last week retired No. 10 for Chipper Jones, who played there in '92 when the franchise was a Braves Class A affiliate. Previously retired: 20 for longtime manager Bill Evers, 18 for Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, 8 for Crash Davis of Bull Durham fame. … Sun Sports debuts a Kelly Nash-hosted Inside the Rays episode on Archer at 5 today. ... … A prime reason Maddon doesn't hold more team meetings? He gets his message out through reporters: "The best way to have a team meeting is just to talk to you guys. We do it every day."

Got a minute? with Evan Longoria

Best meal you can make?

Jaime (Edmondson, his girlfriend) calls it Zuppa Tuscana . It's like an Italian-style sausage soup with potatoes and a chicken-broth base.

Must-see TV?

I've got a lot going on right now, probably Ray Donovan.

Band/singer you'd like to be onstage with?

Kid Rock.

Dream vacation spot?

The more I think about it, it's my couch in Arizona. Traveling now, especially having a child, it's much nicer to go home and relax.

Celebrity crush?

I still like Jessica Biel.

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