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On Astros’ sign stealing, Rays’ offseason moves, awards tally, the M-word

Rays Tales: Team execs on Houston’s big problem, a base for winter acquisitions, trophy time and an upcoming owners meeting.
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) delivers a pitch in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 10 in Houston. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Nov. 16
Updated Nov. 17

Four Rays things to think about:

The sign-stealing accusations against the Astros, thus far anyway, don’t include the 2019 division series against the Rays, though could certainly re-frame the Tyler Glasnow pitch-tipping issue.

How do the Rays view the situation?

“We lost. We don’t cheat. Nothing will change that," Rays president Matt Silverman said.

Added GM Erik Neander said: “We need to worry about our own business and do things the right way. That’s what we can control."

The focus, to this point, has been on what the Astros did in 2017, and there is a video circulating on social media from a game against the Rays and Chris Archer that seems to clearly show how their cheat system worked.

In response to the Tweet, outfielder Tommy Pham tweeted, “This makes me mad as a player."

Talks at last week’s GM meetings provided a base for potential moves, but seemingly with nothing, such as a gauge of what it would take to re-sign catcher Travis d’Arnaud or reported talks with free agent infielder/DH Howie Kendrick, past the preliminary stage.

“I don’t think we have any notable takeaways so far," Neander said Saturday. “It feels like we will have opportunities to improve our club but the specifics aren’t yet in focus."

The next order of business is deciding by Wednesday which prospects to add to the 40-man roster to protect them from being taken in the Rule 5 draft.

The Rays have their usual group of worthy candidates (including Vidal Brujan, Jake Cronenworth, Lucius Fox, Ronaldo Hernandez, Kevin Padlo) and presently only three open spots, so there could be some lesser moves coming.

2019 was the fourth time in franchise history Rays finished in the top four for three BBWAA awards, with Brandon Lowe (Rookie), Kevin Cash (Manager) and Charlie Morton (Cy Young) all voted third, and the fifth they got votes for all four as Austin Meadows was 14th and Morton tied for 21st for MVP. (Plus GM Erik Neander won the second-ever MLB Executive of the Year award.)

The most rewarding season was 2011, when they had two winners, Jeremy Hellickson for rookie and Joe Maddon as manager, with James Shields third in the Cy vote and Evan Longoria 10th for MVP.

Next best? Probably 2018 with Blake Snell first for the Cy and ninth for MVP, Cash third for manager and Joey Wendle fourth for rookie. That’s just ahead of 2010 when David Price was second for Cy, Maddon third for manager, Wade Davis fourth for rookie and Longoria sixth for MVP (matching the highest Rays finish.)

There will be discussion at this week’s MLB owners meeting in Texas about the Rays’ plan to split home games with Montreal in future seasons but it’s not on the agenda for an official report.

Team officials remain in ongoing talks with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, with little public signs of progress, about getting permission to explore the possibilities of doing so before their deal at the Trop expires after the 2027 season.

Owners will discuss the proposed 2020 rule changes, such as expanding rosters to 26, severely limiting September call-ups, and forcing pitchers to face at least three batters or finish a half-inning.

Prospecting

It’s prospect lists season, and notable among Baseball America’s Rays top 10 list is two players getting the top 80 scouting grade, No. 1 Wander Franco for hitting and No. 4 Brujan for running. The rest of the list: 2. Brendan McKay, 3. Matt Liberatore, 5. Shane Baz, 6. Brent Honeywell, 7. Shane McClanahan, 8. Hernandez, 9. Joe Ryan, 10. Josh Lowe.

Rays rumblings

In his properly headlined “Way too early division predictions,’’ mlb.com’s Anthony Castrovince picks the Rays to win the AL East. … If the Rays want to trade for a catcher, the Cubs seem willing to deal Willson Contreras. … Among the 15 writers leaving Cash off their manager of the year ballots were both voters from Minnesota and New York. … Pitchers Ryan Yarbrough and Trevor Richards both got married recently. … Nothing set yet, but Rays officials are considering some new ticketing and seating area concepts at the Trop. Wonder if a flat fee monthly “pass” as some teams have tried would work? … During a visit home to Korea, Ji-Man Choi donated roughly $50,000 during a visit to his high school, and dropped by a kids club and gave some hitting lessons. … Seven Rays minor-leaguers will play for Perth in the Australian league: catcher Roberto Alvarez; infielder Kaleo Johnson; outfielders Niko Hulsizer, Jordan Qsar; pitchers Blake Bivens, Carlos Garcia, Audry Lugo. Blake Butera and Jose Gonzalez will be on the coaching staff. … New Mariners pitching coach Pete Woodworth is a St. Pete native and St. Pete Catholic product who pitched in the minors and scouted for the Rays. … Triple-A Durham ranked atop Baseball America’s list of the “consistently excellent minor league clubs of the 2010s.’’ … With the Astros looking to add veteran starting pitchers, could Archer be a fit in a trade from rebuilding Pittsburgh? … Bench coach Matt Quatraro was a candidate in the Pirates managerial search that should resume with the hiring of Ben Cherington as GM. ... As part of a minors-wide initiative to connect with Hispanic and Latino fans, the Class A Stone Crabs for two series will play as the Frijoles Saltarines de Puerto Carlota (Jumping Beans of Charlotte Harbor). … MLB.com tabbed 2019 first-round draft pick Greg Jones the “best athlete” in the Rays system.

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

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