Winter meetings preview: Five hitters for Rays to consider

There is both power and average available depending on what Rays want to spend.
WILL VRAGOVIC   |   TimesSeattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) singles in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.
WILL VRAGOVIC | TimesSeattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) singles in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.
Published December 7

With 1B Paul Goldschmidt traded to St. Louis, Marlins C J.T. Realmuto may be the best overall righthanded hitter available, but the trade cost and fit don't work for the Rays. Seattle OF Mitch Haniger also is likely too pricey. Some names on the "others" list may prove to be more realistic options, such as Detroit's Nick Castellanos. But starting with the best fit, here's five workable possibilities:

1. Nelson Cruz, OF/DH, free agent (Mariners)

Best free-agent power bat available, with majors-most 203 homers since start of 2014 season, but turns 39 in July. Made $14 million last year; seems like a great fit if, and maybe a big if, willing to take a one-year deal.

2. Carlos Santana, 1B/DH, Mariners

Switch-hitting former Indians standout is coming off slightly down year with Phillies and certainly available in Seattle, but Rays may want some help with the $35 million he's due over two years.

3. Jose Martinez, 1B/OF/DH, Cardinals

With Goldschmidt added, Cardinals have even less room for 30-year-old who is a pretty good hitter (.309 career average, .850 OPS) and very bad fielder. Cheap, too, with four years until free agency.

4. Andrew McCutchen, OF, free agent (Yankees)

All-around talent would force Rays into an outfield/DH rotation, but if he's willing to take a short-term deal at 32 after making $14.75 million in 2018, he and his career .859 OPS would be worth it.

5. Yasiel Puig, OF, Dodgers

There's likely to be frustration and controversy, and not much veteran leadership. But the bat can play big, and a motivated Puig in his last year before free agency could be something special.

Other possibilities:  Jose Abreu, DH/1B, White Sox; Nick Castellanos, 3B/RF Tigers; Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH, Indians;  Evan Gattis, C/1B, free agent (Astros); Adam Jones, OF, free agent (Orioles);  D.J. LeMahieu, 2B, free agent (Rockies); Wilson Ramos, C/DH, free agent (Phillies); J.T. Realmuto, C, Marlins.

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