1. Rays

Curt Casali “disappointed” to be dropped by Rays, but understanding

The 2016 starting catcher is appreciative of the opportunity but now looking for work elsewhere as a free agent.

Having gone from being the primary catcher in 2016 to only a September callup in the season just completed, Curt Casali wasn't that surprised to be dropped off the Rays roster this week.

But after five years in the organization, and parts of four in the majors, it's still tough to have to say goodbye, having been outrighted and cast onto the free agent market as the Rays have Wilson Ramos as their starter and apparently plan to keep Jesus Sucre as the backup.

"Obviously I'm disappointed that the Rays have made the decision to move on," Casali said. "In reality though, I understand the move. They have two outstanding catchers on their team and I wish them the best of luck.

"I'll always be grateful for the opportunity they gave me to break into the big leagues. And I'll also be even more grateful for the friends I've made there over the past five years."

Casali, 29, started a team-most 62 games in 2016, but hit only .186 and, with eight homers and 25 RBIs, posted just a .609 OPS.

Sent to Triple-A after the Rays signed Derek Norris late in this past spring to be the starter until Ramos returned mid-season from knee rehab, Casali provided valued leadership for the Durham Bulls while performing better offensively, hitting .263 with five homers, 48 RBIs and a .698 OPS. He played in just nine games for the Rays after his September recall.

Given that he will be out of options next season, the Rays would have either had to keep him in the majors or expose him to waivers and potentially lose him anyway.

Casali, who was drafted and signed by the Tigers out of Vanderbilt, should be well positioned for an opportunity stick in the majors as a backup elsewhere given his age and upside.