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Job one for Rays: Getting a read on Travis d’Arnaud’s market

Rays Tales: A quick deal is unlikely, but the Rays will need a sense of what catcher can get as a free-agent to plot their course.

ST. PETERSBURG — Free agency starts once the World Series ends, and the Rays will have to get busy quickly.

Getting a read on what catcher Travis d’Arnaud is looking for, how robust his market will be, a timetable and their chances of re-signing him would seem to be first in setting the Rays’ offseason agenda, even though a quick deal is unlikely.

If the Rays can re-sign d’Arnaud, who turns 31 in February, they have their top catcher and a productive right-handed bat for the middle of their lineup. He was a key and clutch contributor, after being acquired in May, though he did falter in September (2-for-19 in October). Overall he hit .263 with 16 homers with a .782 OPS for the Rays.

That d’Arnaud greatly enjoyed playing with the Rays and working with hitting coach Chad Mottola is a factor, as is the team’s solid relationship with agent Joel Wolfe. D’Arnaud’s injury history and past inconsistency also will be considered.

A multi-year deal will be a necessity, though going from two to three years could be an issue. Of larger concern is the cost.

Ex-Ray Wilson Ramos got $19 million over two years from the Mets last offseason. That seems like too much for d’Arnaud. Robinson Chirinos took a one-year deal from the Astros for $5.75 million. That seems like too little.

Two years, at around $15 million might seem reasonable, at least to the Rays.

There aren’t a lot of appealing frontline catchers on this year’s market, which could drive up d’Arnaud’s price. Basically, Yasmani Grandal, assuming he declines a $16 million mutual option with the Brewers, Chirinos, Jason Castro, Austin Romine, Martin Maldonado, Jonathan Lucroy, Al Avila. Maybe three others depending on options: Yan Gomes, $9 million, Nats; Welington Castillo, $8 million, White Sox; Tyler Flowers, $6 million, Braves.

The d’Arnaud decision has broader impact on what now will be a 26-man roster.

If he stays, the Rays seem more likely to move Mike Zunino, whose projected $4.9 million arbitration salary is too much in a backup role.

If d’Arnaud leaves, the Rays have to think hard if they have enough faith in Zunino bouncing back from his rough .165 average, 9 homers, .544 OPS season. To give Michael Perez a chance. Or to look elsewhere (once again). Plus without d’Arnaud they have more of a need to add a productive right-handed bat elsewhere, perhaps making it more of a priority to re-sign free-agent outfielder Avisail Garcia.

And until they have a good read on what’s most likely with d’Arnaud, it’s hard to do much else.

Bloom is off the Rays

Chaim Bloom’s hiring as Red Sox chief baseball officer is set to be announced Monday. Though Bloom had a contract as Rays senior vice president, the team gets no compensation as he is leaving for a promotion. … Whatever the structure, the Rays are likely to absorb Bloom’s duties internally. … Having Andrew Friedman go to the Dodgers and Joe Maddon to the Cubs in the same 2014-15 offseason was a bigger loss, but seeing Bloom heading to the AL East-rival Red Sox seems potentially more damaging for the Rays. … Bloom’s biggest initial challenges would seem to be dealing with the front office bureaucracy and Boston media/expectations.

Rays rumblings

Tricia Whitaker is expected to return as the Rays’ in-game TV reporter; Alex (Corddry) Chappell and Michelle Margaux each left after one season. … Current Jays manager/ex-Rays coach Charlie Montoyo predicted in September that current bench coach Matt Quatraro will soon get a manager’s job, and interviews with the Giants and Pirates validate his candidacy. … Jim Bowden said on MLB Network Radio that the Nats’ December 2014 deal to get Trea Turner from the Rays for Steven Souza Jr., after they got him from the Padres in a package featuring Wil Myers, was Washington GM Mike Rizzo’s best “by far.” … Kevin Cash winning Sporting News’ AL manager of the year award was a nice acknowledgment by some peers (he got four of 12 votes); voting for the bigger BBWAA award, announced mid November, will be more interesting. … Tropicana Field game host Allie Krings is having an interesting offseason, spending six weeks as a host for the Disney on Ice Celebrate Memories touring show. … The Rays extended their contract with Triple-A Durham for two more seasons through 2022, which will be their 25th. … Only on Twitter could the Rays and retail giant Walmart end up in a spat. Walmart’s account in a reply referenced the Rays being knocked out of the playoffs; the Rays responded that “this is why we’ll be shopping at Target.’’ … Pitching coach Kyle Snyder is the latest Ray to buy a house in St. Petersburg. … Besides being named a Gold Glove award finalist, centerfielder and bow-fishing enthusiast Kevin Kiermaier was also pretty excited last week to land what he called “a 43.2 pound buffalo carp.” … Outfielder Tommy Pham tweeted that shortstop Willy Adames was 100 percent deserving of a Gold Glove finalist spot. … New Angels manager Joe Maddon will be back in the Tampa Bay area this week for a Thanksmas charity event put on by his Respect 90 Foundation. … For the second straight year, the Rays had the best combined winning percentage of domestic minor-league affiliates, their seven teams going 428-319, .573, with four making the playoffs. … Former Devil Ray and current ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez reportedly is the leading candidate for the Mets managerial job. … Maddon’s pitching coach reportedly will be Mickey Callaway, a former Devil Rays right-hander who was Cleveland’s pitching coach and, more recently, Mets manager. … Two former Rays are being mentioned for pitching coach jobs with new Phillies manager Joe Girardi; Larry Rothschild, 65, if he is let go by the Yankees, and Dade City native Dave Eiland, 53, who started the season with the Mets but was fired.

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

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