Monday, January 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays may be on the hunt for catching

The Rays believe the improvements to their offense eventually will show their significance. And they are confident the early season issues with their pitchers — a lack of aggressiveness from the starters and consistency from the relievers — will be worked out.

But from the look of the first two weeks, they may need to go out and find help behind the plate. Serious help.

It sounds as if they are more in the browsing mode now, content with Chris Gimenez and planning to give Jose Lobaton another opportunity when (if?) his sore shoulder feels good enough for him to come off the disabled list sometime next month. Plus, it's a bit early to engage teams in significant trade talks.

But if Lobaton doesn't come back strong, or soon, the Rays will have to look hard for someone to at least share time with veteran Jose Molina.

Plus, the Rays have had issues early with Molina. Most obvious, the pitchers have to adjust to how he catches, strategically (notice his number of mound visits) and physically, as he sets up on the edge of the plate and at a slight angle. Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged last week "it might" have something to do with the early pitching woes.

Plus, there are the "Molina Rules." Maddon has to manage around not starting the 36-year-old career backup too often, seemingly not more than three straight days, preferably two. Also, Molina hasn't hit much, with 10 strikeouts, one walk and six hits.

The three biggest-name catchers considered to be available at some point this season are A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox, Geovany Soto of the Cubs and Kurt Suzuki of the A's. (Though the typically under-the-radar Rays may be looking elsewhere.)

Pierzynski, 35, making $6 million in the final year of a deal, would be an intriguing one-year fix, especially given his spunky attitude. Soto, 29, makes $4.3 million with another year of arbitration eligibility and has 20-homer power. Suzuki, 28, would be more of a long-term acquisition. He's signed for $5 million this season and $6.45 million in 2013, and has a $9.25 million vesting option for 2014.

On a lower tier, possibilities could be Miguel Olivo (Mariners), Chris Snyder (Astros), George Kottaras (Brewers) and Bobby Wilson (Angels). From the Triple-A ranks, there is a guy hitting .321 for Cincinnati's Louisville club named Dioner Navarro. Nah.

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