NEW YORK — No, the Rays won't sit tight the whole offseason without changing their roster. That's not their style. There's going to be a trade or two. They'll dump somebody whose salary exceeds his value. With only maybe $30 million or so committed, they'll have some money to spend to maybe add a bat. And if there is suddenly a demand among other teams for experienced game openers, well, they're the ones to call.
But, as principal owner Stuart Sternberg was saying, for the first time in maybe a decade, since the front end of their six-year run of success, the core of the team that finishes this season will be the one that starts the next.
"It clearly isn't going to be precisely what you're seeing out there now," he said. "But you look around, and especially once we add maybe another piece or two from the minor leagues, you're looking at your team for next year. Having said that, stuff happens, as with us, so I never discount any of that."
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But having said that, he pretty much accounts, without naming names, for the bulk of the position-player side of the roster.
"It looks like a chunk of the infield is there,'' he said. "It looks like the outfield is there. … If (Michael Perez) continues to show what he's shown to this point, you've got your catchers in place.''
So with some details to be determined, the Rays would seem set with an infield group of Willy Adames, Christian Arroyo, Jake Bauers, Matt Duffy, Daniel Robertson and Joey Wendle. In the outfield, a base of Kevin Kiermaier, Austin Meadows, Tommy Pham, Mallex Smith. Behind the plate, Perez joining Jesus Sucre.
The pitchers? That's a little more challenging. The arms are in-house, but the makeup of the staff is a little harder to define, beyond some obvious answers such as Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and, when healthy, Brent Honeywell.
"I defy anybody in our organization, you guys (in the media), or any of the readers to — off the top of their head, without pen and paper — to name our 15 pitchers,'' Sternberg said. "You never have enough, as certainly we've seen this year. Just to name the guys that will be back (from injuries). … The relievers. The relievers turning into starters. Some starters becoming relievers. A couple of guys getting stretched out. There's no embarrassment of riches, believe me, because there isn't the ace sort of guys we've historically had. But we've got a long line of very, very capable, competent major-league pitchers."
Overall, Sternberg is relatively pleased with how the season is playing out, though it certainly hasn't gone as planned. Here are his thoughts on some other subjects:
Sternberg figured on 80-something wins, and with a 60-59 record going into Wednesday's game against the Yankees, that seems doable, though an excessive amount of injuries, more than could be planned for, made it tougher. Still, he said, "we put together a very competitive team. If things had broken well on the injury side, we'd be in the hunt for the playoffs.''
Before finishing asking if they plan to stick with the opener pitching plan next year, Sternberg answered: "Of course. I thought the question was going to be, 'How many other teams do you see doing it?' It's a no-brainer for us. It's silly." That said, Sternberg acknowledged plans could change, depending on the development of some pitchers, such as Jake Faria, Glasnow, Honeywell and Snell. "A lot of it depends, like in football, if you've got a couple of certain (style) guys for whatever reason you're going to play that type of game,'' he said. "If a few of those guys step up and become No. 2s, then we're going to have a different plan.'' By the way, he expects six or so teams to at least give it a try next year.
Critics be damned
The Rays drew a lot of criticism for parting ways with most of their veterans during the winter and spring, and Sternberg said the satisfaction is in seeing the plan work out, knowing the team won't hit on every deal. Still, he said, "Looking back at the fullness of the offseason to now, I don't think anybody watching the game or a fan of the team would undo any of the moves other than (trading Corey Dickerson to the Pirates). I'll even go back to last August and the trade of our No. 1 draft pick (Tim Beckham to Baltimore). See how people like (pitching prospect) Tobias Myers before it's over.''
Sternberg said he expects Chris Archer, traded at the deadline to Pittsburgh, to look back fondly on his time in Tampa Bay. "Chris was a great Ray,'' he said. "I'd like to think that given the way he succeeded here, this is going to be a place he's always going to consider his launching pad. … Unfortunately, it's not like we won a World Series with him or got to the Series. But he was certainly instrumental."
Sternberg said seeing the group play together led him to re-evaluate his evaluation process: "Nobody's setting the world on fire, and it might be for the better. I think the thing I didn't give enough credence to, even though I knew it was very important, is the fact that these guys have played together and won together (in the minors). And I think that is more important than I might have thought in the past.''