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Rays winter meetings preview: The search for offense

What they’ve done so far, what they’re looking to do, Hall of Fame possibilities, and rumblings.
Could a reunion with outfielder Steven Souza Jr., shown during a 2016 game, be possible for the Rays?
Could a reunion with outfielder Steven Souza Jr., shown during a 2016 game, be possible for the Rays?
Published Dec. 7, 2019

Rays executives are headed west for baseball’s annual winter meetings.

Here is a look at what they’ve done so far, what players they will consider to add, plus info on the Hall of Fame elections and the usual Sunday Rays rumblings:

The Ray offseason thus far

Key moves by the Rays, through Friday:

ACQUIRED

OF Hunter Renfroe (from Padres)

INF prospect Xavier Edwards (from Padres)

OF Brian O’Grady (from Reds)

INF prospect Curtis Mead (from Phillies)

TRADED

OF Tommy Pham (to Padres)

RHP Jose De Leon (to Reds)

INF prospect Jake Cronenworth (to Padres)

LHP prospect Cristopher Sanchez (to Phillies)

DROPPED

(Designated for assignment, waived, non-tendered)

INF Jesus Aguilar (claimed by Marlins)

INF Matt Duffy

OF Guillermo Heredia

ALLOWED TO BE FREE AGENTS

C Travis d’Arnaud (signed with Braves)

OF Avisail Garcia

INF Eric Sogard

SIGNED

C Mike Zunino (with 2021 option)

OUTRIGHTED TO MINORS

OF Johnny Davis

LHP Hoby Milner (elected free agency)

ADDED TO 40-MAN ROSTER

INF Vidal Brujan

INF Lucius Fox

C Ronaldo Hernandez

INF Kevin Padlo

Potential targets

The Rays are like wise holiday shoppers, finding more interesting options and lower prices than most of us. Here are some obvious free agents (with 2019 teams) they will consider in adding offense, but they are sure to have a longer list:

1B/DH C.J. Cron, Twins

Former Ray hit 25 homers despite thumb injury, but would have to accept limited role.

DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion, M’s/Yankees

Seems like a good fit who has limited other options, but at 37 how much will he have left?

OF Avisail Garcia, Rays

Had solid all-around season, would be welcomed back if he doesn’t find big bucks elsewhere.

OF Kevin Pillar, Jays/Giants

A curious non-tender decision after a 21-homer season, and plays elite level defense.

OF Yasiel Puig, Reds

Talent is enticing, but explosive nature and potential for on- and off-field trouble is a concern.

OF/DH Domingo Santana, Mariners

Has shown power for several seasons despite elbow issues; defense is a major question.

OF Steven Souza, D’backs

Healthy after missing ’19 with injury, is texting ex-Rays mates to show interest in return.

Will Hall call be all good for Garvey, Staats?

Tampa native Steve Garvey and longtime Rays TV man Dewayne Staats are among those up for election to the Hall of Fame this week,

Garvey is among nine former player and players union founder Marvin Miller being voted on by the Hall’s Modern Baseball Era committee, with results to be announced at 8 Sunday night.

Others on the modern era ballot, which covers managers, umpires, executives and players whose biggest impact came from 1970-87, are Dwight Evans, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker.

Most all present good cases for the 16-member committee, with 12 votes needed for election, and plenty of accompanying speculation based on the makeup of the panel. The voters are Hall of Famers George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount; MLB execs Sandy Alderson, Dave Dombrowski, David Glass, Walt Jocketty, Doug Melvin, Terry Ryan; media members/historians Bill Center, Steve Hirdt, Jack O’Connell, Tracy Ringolsby.

Staats has been rockin’ and rollin’ in the Rays TV booth for all 22 seasons, and is among eight finalists for the Frick award, given annually for excellence in baseball broadcasting, with results of the 15-member committee voting announced Wednesday.

The other candidates, with what they are most known for, are: Joe Castiglione (Red Sox radio), Jacques Doucet (Expos radio, Blue Jays TV), Tom Hamilton (Indians radio), Ken Harrelson (White Sox TV), Pat Hughes (Cubs radio), Ned Martin (Red Sox radio. TV) and Mike Shannon (Cardinals radio).

Rays rumblings

The Rays got the third pick in the second of the two competitive balance rounds that are part of the June draft, which looks to be 69th overall. Pending adjustment for free agent signings, the Rays could have four picks in the top 100. … While Tommy Pham was obviously the prime attraction, GM Erik Neander said the Padres wouldn’t do Friday’s deal without also getting two-way prospect Jake Cronenworth. … Blake Snell is well aware T-shirts are being made with his now viral “slap---- prospect’’ description of the Rays return in the Pham trade: “Wouldn’t be surprised to see those in spring training.’’ A savvy Rays teammate should be ordering now to make sure. … Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, ex-Ray Matt Joyce, former big-leaguer Jose Bautista are among the celebrity bartenders, and Bucs coach Bruce Arians the special guest, at Friday’s fundraiser for now Angels/former Rays manager Joe Maddon’s Respect 90 Foundation and Thanksmas initiative; 6 p.m. at Tampa’s Ava and 717 South restaurants. … The Marlins are replacing their grass field with Shaw Sports Turf, though a newer version than what’s at the Trop. The Jays, D’backs and Rangers also have Shaw turf fields. Miami is also moving in the center and right-centerfield fences. … Catcher Nick Ciuffo, the 2013 first-round pick released last July, signed a minor-league deal with Texas.

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

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