ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays are going to look different next season, that's for sure.
The team on the field won't be the same, not with Carl Crawford leaving, Carlos Peña possibly joining him and a pressing need to move some pieces around to boost the offense. The bullpen definitely won't be the same, not with Rafael Soriano and pretty much the rest of the entire crew (assuming Dan Wheeler's option is declined and Lance Cormier is non-tendered) headed to free agency.
But the rotation should look pretty much the same.
There has already been speculation around the game that with the payroll going down and hefty increases coming for Matt Garza, to close to $6 million in his second year of arbitration, and James Shields, from $2.5 million to $4.25 million, the Rays would be looking to make a trade. Plus, David Price and Jeff Niemann will both make around $1 million.
But the plan as of now is to keep the band together, and if anything make it deeper with Jeremy Hellickson likely to join in some role. It could be — assuming all are healthy — that Hellickson works out of the bullpen in something of a long relief role.
Or given the need for late-inning relievers — and more time for Jake McGee to show if he can be their future closer — that Niemann or Wade Davis gets shifted to the pen.
A trade would be more likely after next season, allowing more time for development and sorting out of the young arms the Rays have coming, such as Nick Barnese, Alex Cobb, Alex Colome, Joseph Cruz, Matt Moore and Alex Torres.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: The players don't get paid for the postseason, but did Dioner Navarro — almost assured to be non-tendered — not think how much further damage he did to his future value and reputation by going home (to Riverview!) rather than staying with the team? … Senior VP Gerry Hunsicker's name has come up in connection with the Mets GM job, but he is not interested in leaving. … Bench coach Dave Martinez, already mentioned as a candidate for manager jobs with the Cubs, Blue Jays and Marlins, could show up on the Brewers' list, too. … First the Nats supposedly had interest in Crawford; now mlb.com reports that if they don't re-sign Adam Dunn, Peña is "at the top of their list." … Nice touch by the Rays to give opening-game first-pitch honors to scouting director R.J. Harrison and farm director Mitch Lukevics, two guys who put in long hours and are an integral but unheralded part of their success. … There's a website (and Twitter page) dedicated to Soriano, called MFIKY.com. … Still trying to figure out why Todd Kalas and Brian Anderson have to be in a studio in Houston to host the Sun Sports postgame show about games in St. Petersburg and Arlington. … Interesting excerpt from Howard Bryant's ESPN.com column on the state of the Rays: "According to sources, baseball commissioner Bud Selig has instructed Rays management not to make significant financial investments in the area until attendance indicators improve, suggesting the team could be investing in potential relocation sites." … Also, Selig told ESPN radio there is "a concern" about the Rays attendance and the market, and he plans "to have a lot of conversations" in the offseason with principal owner Stuart Sternberg.