(This story was updated Nov. 24 with news of Travis d’Arnaud signing with Braves)
ST. PETERSBURG — As good as the Rays feel about keeping the bulk of their 96-win team intact, and with most of the offseason work still ahead of them, they do have some holes to fill.
And, for the impatient among us, with only 81 days until the first spring workout.
Catcher is still the most pressing, as the Rays remain in talks to bring back free agent Travis d’Arnaud. (D’Arnaud on Nov. 24 signed a $16 million, two-year deal with the Braves.)
How his price is impacted by the hefty $73 million, four-year deal the top catcher on the market, Yasmani Grandal, got from the White Sox could be interesting. Also, how the market shifts as the Brewers, having lost Grandal, are now looking for a starter, as apparently are the Reds, Angels and Blue Jays, and there aren’t many other free agent options. Related, the Sox could now make 2019 starter James McCann available in trade.
Getting clarity, if not resolution, by the Dec. 2 deadline to tender contracts would help, as the Rays decide what to do with veteran Mike Zunino, whose down year makes his projected $4.9 million arbitration number tough, and worth exploring alternatives. They also have Michael Perez as an option.
There’s more the Rays could use, such as a right-handed hitting outfielder, as Avisail Garcia is also a free agent, and a veteran reliever. But they feel pretty good about third base, evidenced by last week’s decision to let Matt Duffy go.
Yandy Diaz seems to be first for time at third, though the Rays said the decision to DFA Duffy was also made based on the depth of having Mike Brosseau and Daniel Robertson, plus lefty swinger Joey Wendle. (Also worth noting, lefty slugger Nate Lowe got a look at third last year.)
“We’ll let things play out this winter and see where we’re at,” GM Erik Neander said. “Yandy, we expect to be fully healthy and feel good about him over at third if that’s the way it goes. Joey is somebody we can kick around. Looking at our personnel in total, Robby and Bross, those guys will be in the mix to get some of that opportunity. We like some … of the different things we can do there to match up.”
Diaz, before a July 22 foot injury that sidelined him until the final day of the season, hit .270 with 14 homers, 38 RBIs and an .823 OPS in 78 games, making 45 starts at third. He can also play first and DH.
Duffy, who didn’t return messages, is sure to get a job somewhere, especially if he can show teams he is healthy going into the season.
A different kind of video review
Even before the details of the Astros’ sign-stealing plans became public, there has been increased awareness, suspicion and paranoia around the game, and thus room for miscommunication. That’s what was said to be the reason Rays scout Jason Grey was removed, briefly, from Yankee Stadium while working an ALDS game vs. Minnesota. Grey was shooting camcorder video of the pitchers, a common duty for scouts sitting behind home plate, including Yankees scouts working games at the Trop. But a Yankee Stadium security guard saw Grey taping and enforced the no recording device rule that covers fans, The Athletic first reported. A call to the Yankees baseball operations department got Grey back in an inning or two later, and both sides now consider it a misunderstanding, and one that teams want to make sure there are uniform rules on.
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Top prospect Wander Franco played only a week in the Dominican league, hitting .192 for the Gigantes, before the Rays decided a break would be better for the 18-year-old coming off his first full pro season. … With Jose De Leon still having to establish himself as a big-league pitcher, the minor-leaguer coming from the Reds likely won’t be a top prospect, and not named until the spring. … The Orlando group clearly wants its own team, pitchman Pat Williams confirming to WDAE 95.3 FM there is no interest in sharing Rays games with St. Pete. … The Princeton, W. Va., Rays, along with most of rookie-level Appalachian League, are among 42 minor-league teams MLB wants to drop as part of negotiations on a new contract. Florida State League teams in Daytona (Reds) and Kissimmee (Braves) are also on the list. … Bench coach Matt Quatraro remains in the mix for the manager’s job in Pittsburgh, where Ben Cherington just took over as GM. … Just me, or did the Rays appear to be saying something in their statement about Orlando’s interest in getting a team, noting they are “proud of our strong fan support” there and “pleased to see their enthusiasm” about MLB. … Hirings for minor-league coordinator positions are almost done. … Latest award for the Rays is milb.com’s Farm System of the Year, based on quality of prospects, winning affiliates and contributions to the big-league club. … Hall of Famer Wade Boggs told some funny stories at the Grassroots Baseball book signing in Tampa last week, including being recruited at Plant High by then Pittsburgh football coach Johnny Majors to play quarterback. … Though the Rays added five prospects to their 40-man roster and traded a sixth, Cristopher Sanchez, to the Phillies, Baseball America has outfielder Moises Gomez among the first 15 players who could be taken in the Rule 5 draft.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.