ST. PETERSBURG — Rays officials head to baseball's winter meetings in Las Vegas this weekend confident that with a few good additions they can improve their 90-win team into a championship contender.
What they're not clear on is exactly what those moves need to be.
Having filled their "biggest hole" by acquiring right-handed-hitting catcher Mike Zunino, the Rays are looking to add an impact bat to improve their offense and some experience and talent to their pitching staff.
But the versatility and flexibility of their youthful roster leaves them somewhat position agnostic on whether that hitter plays the infield, outfield or DH.
Similarly, they could improve their pitching staff with either a legit starter or a proven closer, or both. But they also have to balance the benefit of a potential addition over the incumbent who would lose playing time. (They lost one possible option Wednesday when 1B Paul Goldschmidt was traded from Arizona to St. Louis.)
"This is less about trying to plug specific holes,'' senior VP Chaim Bloom said Wednesday, "than it is about saying, Okay, we have this group now that did what they did last year, that we feel strongly about their futures, how can we help support that group to put them in the best position to do what we didn't do this past year, which is pop champagne and get to the postseason?''
The Rays have already kicked around plenty of ideas and spent countless hours talking amongst themselves, to agents and other teams about some possibilities.
Plus, they are shopping on a higher shelf than usual given the financial flexibility of their young players also being inexpensive, with only about $32 million in payroll for the current squad. But they are also unlikely to make any significant long-term commitments.
"This is a time to look at a wide array of possibilities,'' Bloom said. "The important thing for us is make sure we balance our opinion that we have a group that is capable right now of competing for the postseason with knowing this is something we want to do not just once, but we want to do year in and year out and have a consistently and sustainably competitive club.''
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.