Each offseason is challenging for the Rays, given the requisite turnover and ensuing creativity necessary to field a competitive team on a limited budget.
This one looks to be particularly vexing.
Money will again be tight, numerous big holes on the roster need to be filled (including first base, closer, DH and at least platoon catcher) and there will be incessant, near-daily speculation about LHP David Price's future, rumored trades, etc.
The Rays don't share, nor even set, an official payroll figure for each season, but based on what top team officials said after finishing last in attendance, assume at best it will be around the same $60 million they had in 2013.
Figure about $23.6 million is already committed to five players, with 3B Evan Longoria, RHP Joel Peralta and LHP Matt Moore signed and 2B Ben Zobrist and SS Yunel Escobar's options to be picked up.
If they keep Price, he looks to make at least $13 million, assuming another one-year arbitration-framed deal. (And exploring dealing him will be a very complicated and time-consuming process.)
They have 10 other players potentially eligible for arbitration who made close to $11 million last season and most of whom will get nice raises, including a first-timers RHP Jeremy Hellickson (headed to $2.5 million to $3 million) and LHP Jake McGee (around $1.3 million), so some might have to be nontendered or dealt.
And they have nine free agents, including 1B James Loney, closer Fernando Rodney, primary C Jose Molina and DH Delmon Young. Plus a tough decision on a $6.5 million option on OF David DeJesus.
It will be particularly interesting, since the Rays don't typically preempt the market, to see what offers surface for Rodney, who blew eight saves, and Loney, who had a good year but might be viewed as similar to Casey Kotchman coming off 2011, when he got a one-year, $3 million deal. Also, whether the Rays would commit to Young as the primary DH with two other right-handers (Longoria and Wil Myers) in the middle of the lineup.
Trading Price for young, low-salaried prime talent obviously makes for an easier fit. But the Rays have to weigh that vs. knowing they are better with him and have the chance to be a strong contender in 2014. Also, it's fair to wonder if their efforts to get a new stadium aren't better served by keeping Price and fielding a competitive team.
It should be all quite interesting.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Bench coach Dave Martinez is reported to be a candidate for the Cubs managerial job. … BBWAA awards week starts Nov. 11, with the AL and NL rookie announcements. … Boston radio/TV talker Michael Holley said on Comcast Sports Net he was tired of the narrative about the "cute" and "cuddly little" Rays: "I hate their story more than I hate their team." … MLB.com's Richard Justice, on the other hand, wrote that the Rays "are one of the most efficient, best-run businesses in this country." … Best wishes to Jonathan Gantt, who leaves the Rays PR staff for a gig at Clemson. … Who would have guessed the ex-Ray in the Braves starting NLDS lineups would be Elliot Johnson and not B.J. Upton? … Among eight Rays playing for Salt River in the Arizona Fall League are 2012 top pick INF Richie Shaffer and 2012 top minor-leaguer OF Todd Glaesmann.