Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Waiting out market could work out for Rays in pursuit of a bat

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Another option came off the board — well, the computer screens — for the Rays on Monday as Steve Pearce decided against a comfortable return to Tampa Bay to take $12.5 million over two years from the Blue Jays.

While that may be a loss — though how big may be based on how quickly and effectively Pearce recovers from elbow surgery — it is not defeat for the Rays.

Far from it.

As much as the early prices in the free agent market — in both years and dollars — have been too hefty for the Rays, there is a growing chance there will be a reward on the back side for them.

What will be required is patience, and flexibility, in terms of roster and, yes, money, which we know can be their most challenging currency.

But if the Rays are willing to wait, maybe until late in the offseason, there is such a glut of outfield/first base/DH-types available that they should be able to land a pretty good bat.

Joey Bats?

Probably not quite as powerful as the former Blue Jays slugger known formally as Jose Bautista, though he is among the free agents who to this point don't have a fit in the shrinking market, as the Astros signed Carlos Beltran, the Blue Jays Kendrys Morales and Pearce, the Mets Yoenis Cespedes and the Yankees Matt Holliday.

And who knows how appealing that short drive for Bautista from the Trop to his house in Tampa's West Shore area could be on a one-year, incentive-laden deal that would allow him to go back onto the market in 2018 unencumbered by draft pick compensation and get the big bucks.

But in simplistic terms, the hitters' market is going to evolve into a high-stakes game of musical chairs.

And as they wait through the winter, that could play into the Rays' favor as having at-bats to offer a hitter with limited other opportunities could land them a bargain, on the kind of one-year contract with reasonable base salaries — maybe with incentives, or an option — they prefer. It could be similar to the 2010-11 offseason, when they ended up with Johnny Damon (who worked out) and Manny Ramirez (not so much). Or even last offseason, when they got Pearce and traded for Corey Dickerson in January.

"Oftentimes we find that being patient helps us," senior vice president Chaim Bloom said Monday during the winter meetings. "We're able to pick up players later in the offseason that we might not have been able to access earlier. But sometimes there could be an opportunity that's only there for a certain period of time. … When we talk about weighing options, a lot of it is weighing timing, and when do you want to jump on different possibilities."

The Rays, of course, aren't the only ones looking, which complicates things. The Indians, who won the waiting game in signing Mike Napoli for $7 million plus incentives last winter, are prowling around again, and the Orioles, Rangers and Royals are among others.

But there look to be plenty of choices.

Among the better hitters still on the market: Pedro Alvarez, Bautista, Ian Desmond, Carlos Gomez, Edwin Encarnacion, Napoli and Mark Trumbo.

Among those on a lesser tier, thus more likely to be available for the Rays: Billy Butler, Chris Carter, Ryan Howard, Adam Lind, Mitch Moreland, Brandon Moss, Colby Rasmus and Michael Saunders.

Waiting for the free agent market to shrink also allows the Rays to further survey the options when they trade a starting pitcher. Depending on the arm being discussed, an elite level bat such as George Springer (Astros) could enter the conversation or, more likely, someone with big upside like Jorge Soler (Cubs).

And eventually there will be some veteran hitters being offered at big discounts as teams work to stay under the luxury tax limits.

Typically, the waiting is the hardest part. For the Rays this offseason, it may be the best part.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

Comments
Rays journal: Jake Faria struggles in loss to Yankees

Rays journal: Jake Faria struggles in loss to Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG — After being formally eliminated Monday from the postseason chase, the Rays on Tuesday turned their focus to addressing some issues for next season.One is what to make of RHP Jake Faria, whose follow-up season to his impressive ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Already playing well, Rays’ Tommy Pham promises more

Already playing well, Rays’ Tommy Pham promises more

ST. PETERSBURGTommy Pham has been doing some impressive things for the Rays since coming off the DL after coming over from the Cardinals in a July 31 trade.Like hitting .357 in 32 games, posting a 1.087 OPS and reaching base in a career-best 27 strai...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Tuesday’s Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Tuesday’s Rays-Yankees game

LHP Jalen Beeks didn't make a good showing with his pitching, allowing three runs on four hits and two walks over 32/3 innings and throwing 65 pitches to do so. But he did open eyes with a running, sliding catch of a pop-up near the Rays dugout.Manag...
Updated: 8 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, with Faria on the hill

For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, with Faria on the hill

UPDATE, 5:47: Expect LHP Jalen Beeks to pitch tonight after Faria.UPDATE, 5;45: Longtime Rays minor-league pitching guru Dick Bosman to retire, has been with organization since 2001. Pitched parts of 11 seasons in majors, threw no-hitter for Indians ...
Published: 09/25/18
Rays journal: Sound familiar? Yankees make Monday a ‘Bullpen Day’

Rays journal: Sound familiar? Yankees make Monday a ‘Bullpen Day’

ST. PETERSBURG — In an effort to line up their pitching staff for the postseason, the Yankees stole a page out of the Rays playbook Monday night. New York designated the game  a "bullpen day" and did it ever use its bullpen.RHP Jonathan Ho...
Published: 09/25/18
Playoffs gone but goals aren’t for Rays to finish season

Playoffs gone but goals aren’t for Rays to finish season

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' postseason hopes, as unlikely as they had seemed, officially ended with Monday's 4-1 loss to the Yankees, manager Kevin Cash speaking for many saying they should be proud of what they did.And that doesn't mean they do...
Published: 09/25/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Monday’s Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Monday’s Rays-Yankees game

LHP Ryan Yarbrough wasn't horrible, but he wasn't fooling anybody as the Yankees scored three in his five innings, rapping five hits, including four doubles. Yarbrough, who hadn't lost since July 21 and has a rookie-high 15 wins, also walked two, hit...
Published: 09/24/18
Updated: 09/25/18
For starters: Kevin Kiermaier out of lineup as Rays host Yankees

For starters: Kevin Kiermaier out of lineup as Rays host Yankees

Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier is out of the starting lineup tonight against the Yankees with a sore shoulder. He will be available if needed.The same goes for SS Willy Adames, who was held out Sunday due to illlness. Mallex Smith takes over...
Published: 09/24/18
Snell wins No. 21 as Rays beat Blue Jays 5-2

Snell wins No. 21 as Rays beat Blue Jays 5-2

TORONTO — Blake Snell doesn't look like he can be stopped.He pitched again for the Rays in Sunday's 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays, he dominated again and he won again.That's both a major-league-leading and team-record-breaking 21st victory for...
Published: 09/23/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Blue Jays game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Sunday’s Rays-Blue Jays game

Part of what makes LHP Blake Snell so good is his deep, high-quality repertoire, having four above-average pitches, which is more than most. When fastball command isn't sharp, he can still beat you with an assortment of top-notch curves, sliders and ...
Published: 09/23/18