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How the Rays are dealing with a late start to their postseason

Rays Tales: Research now, action to come as Rays get caught up after playoff run. Plus, TV rating info and rumblings.
Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, on left, along with Erik Neander, center, senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager, and Chaim Bloom, senior vice president of baseball operations, address the media during a press conference at Tropicana Field Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Oct. 19
Updated Oct. 19

ST. PETERSBURG — Truth be told, the Rays would rather be behind starting their offseason work every year since it meant their season went longer. Having had a week to get past the disappointment of being eliminated by the Astros, Rays officials have been working hard to get caught up on prepping for next season.

“When you’re in the postseason, you’re focusing so much energy on winning each game and each series, and you also want everyone in the organization to stay in the moment and enjoy it,” senior VP Chaim Bloom said Friday. “If that means we get a bit of a late start to the offseason, we’ll sign up for that every year. But our people are tireless and always looking ahead, and behind the scenes there’s already been a lot of work on staff, on programs, on planning for 2020.”

Moves will start happening after the end of the World Series. The day after, the Rays will remove their three free agents — catcher Travis d’Arnaud, outfielder Avisail Garcia and infielder Eric Sogard — from the roster. Within five days they’ll reinstate two players on the injured list, relievers Jose Alvarado and Hoby Milner. Others may be outrighted off the roster then. Signings can start on the sixth day.

Tougher decisions come over the next month. The Rays have to decide by Nov. 20 how many advanced prospects to add to the roster, and how to make room, so that they’re protected from Rule 5 draft selection. Catcher Ronaldo Hernandez, infielders Vidal Brujan, Jake Cronenworth, Kevin Padlo seem most likely.

And by Dec. 2, how many of their nine arbitration eligible players get tendered contracts. Catcher Mike Zunino (a projected $4.9 million), infielders Matt Duffy ($2.9 million) and Jesus Aguilar ($2.5 million) seem the biggest questions. Tommy Pham’s projected $8.6 million seems high, but he’s likely to stay. So, too, is Zunino, especially with d’Arnaud likely leaving. Duffy and Aguilar may be gone.

Also of note, the Rays have made November trades the ast five years, which is another way managing the roster.

“Our job is to consider every possible way to improve and we’ll be busy all winter doing that,” Bloom said. “Our players showed that they’re a talented, capable and deep group as is, and we like the position we’re starting from.”

Managerial musings

Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro is a legit candidate for the Giants manager job, interviewing Thursday. But Jim Bowden wrote for The Athletic the Giants “should first try and trade for” Rays manager Kevin Cash as “there would be no better replacement” for retiring Bruce Bochy. Cash, signed through 2024, isn’t going anywhere. … Former Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton, currently Rocco Baldelli’s bench coach with the Twins, is getting a lot of consideration with the Pirates, and perhaps elsewhere. … Joe Maddon going back to the Angels is a great circle-of-life fit, and his positivity will be a plus in leading the team through the messy fallout from Tyler Skaggs’ drug-related death. … There’s chatter Maddon will hire pitching coach Mike Butcher, who initially followed him to Tampa Bay, then went back to the Angels and then the D’backs.

TV time

Though attendance at the Trop increased only 3.3 percent from 2018, TV ratings on Fox Sports Sun were up 23.7 percent, the fifth-largest increase, per Nielsen data compiled by Maury Brown for Forbes.com. The Rays’ 3.03 rating for prime-time games was 16th best overall, as was the average of 57,000 households (which isn’t all that many when you think about it). Rays games ranked as the top cable program and No. 2 overall.

Rays rumblings

Special assistant Tom Foley, who has been with the Rays since 1996 and spent 16 years on the coaching staff (after playing 13 seasons in the majors), is considering retirement when his contract expires Oct. 31. … Nick Anderson was the only Ray, and the only reliever, on Baseball America’s 15-player-rookie team. The Minnesotan also won the Twins Diamond award as the Upper Midwest player of the year. … Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander are 1-2 in either order on any list of top 2019 AL pitchers, but how did the players pick Chicago’s Lucas Giolito over Charlie Morton as the other finalist for their outstanding pitcher award? … Willy Adames is emerging as a player and a celebrity, joining David Ortiz, Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Juan Soto as A-list guests for Pedro Martinez’s Nov. 1 charity gala in Boston. … No Rays won minor-league Gold Gloves, unless you count outfielder Jesus Sanchez, traded to the Marlins July 31 for Anderson. … Montreal will host March exhibitions between the Blue Jays and Yankees. … After seeing prospect Shane Baz hit 96-100 mph with a slider at 89-92 in the Arizona league Fall Stars game, ESPN’s Keith Law wrote “the stuff is ridiculous, but his arm is consistently late and I do wonder if that will affect his command or durability over time.’’ … Aaron Slegers, who pitched in one game during an unexpected August call-up and later was dropped from the roster, elected minor-league free agency.

Key offseason dates/announcements

Day after World Series: Free agency filing starts

Nov. 3: Gold Glove awards

Nov. 4: Finalists for BBWAA awards

Six days after World Series: Free agent signings start

Nov. 6: Wilson defensive player awards

Nov. 7: Silver Slugger awards

Nov. 11-14: GM meetings

Nov. 11: Rookie of the year awards

Nov. 12: Manager of the year awards

Nov. 13: Cy Young awards

Nov. 14: MVP awards

Nov. 18: Comeback player of the year awards

Nov. 19-21: Owners meetings

Nov. 19: Top DH awards

Nov. 20: 40-man rosters set

Dec. 2: Contract tender deadline

Dec. 9-12: Winter meetings

Dec. 12: Rule 5 draft

Jan. 10: Arbitration figures exchanged

Jan. 21: Hall of Fame voting

Feb. 13: First pitcher/catcher spring workout

Feb. 17: First full-squad spring workout

Feb. 22: Spring opener, at Red Sox, Fort Myers

March 26: Regular-season opener, vs. Pirates

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays

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