ST. PETERSBURG — The end of the World Series is the beginning of free agency and the unofficial start to building for 2020 for the Rays and others teams.
By rule, catcher Travis d’Arnaud, outfielder Avisail Garcia and infielder Eric Sogard became free agents Thursday, the day after the end of the Series, as do hundreds of other players around the game.
Lefty reliever Hoby Milner elected free agency after being outrighted off the 40-man roster, and outfielder Johnny Davis will become a minor-league free agent on Monday, having initially been outrighted to Triple-A Durham.
The Rays have some interest in bringing back each of the three big-league free agents, but that will be dependent on the contract terms they are seeking.
D’Arnaud would seem to be of the highest priority, because he fills a position that typically has the least amount of options, a front-line catcher who can also provide offense. Though a quick deal is not likely, the Rays will be well-served to get an early sense of what d’Arnaud, 31, in February, is looking for in terms of years and dollars, and to get a read on the market to sense what teams may also be bidding for him.
The Rays were desperate for catching help when they acquired d’Arnaud in May for $100,000 from the Dodgers, who signed him a week earlier after his release by the Mets (who paid the bulk of his $3.515 million salary), and he went on to be a key player for them, hitting .263 with 16 homers with a .782 OPS.
The Rays also have catchers Mike Zunino, who had a disappointing season in the majors, and Michael Perez, who spent much of the season in the minors.
Garcia was also the product of a bargain deal, signing a one-year $3.5 million free agent deal after being non-tendered by the White Sox, and delivered, hitting .282 with 20 homers, 72 RBIs and a .796 OPS. Garcia, 28, played primarily rightfield, and the Rays would need to replace him in the field and in the lineup.
Sogard, 33, a lefty hitter who can play second, third and the outfield, was acquired in late July from Toronto for two minor-leaguers. He played in only 37 games for the Rays, missing the last several weeks of the regular season with a bruised right foot, hitting .266 with three homers, 10 RBIs and a .732 OPS.
Milner spent most of the season at Triple-A Durham, pitching in only four games for the Rays before being sidelined with a cervical nerve issues. Davis was signed out of the Mexican League to provide a pinch-running option, appearing in eight games.