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Young core a good sign for 2022 Rays, but interesting decisions loom

The Rays have six free agents-to-be and up to 19 players eligible for arbitration.
Rays pitcher Collin McHugh, who saw limited action in Monday's Game 4, is a free-agent-to-be as the offseason approaches.
Rays pitcher Collin McHugh, who saw limited action in Monday's Game 4, is a free-agent-to-be as the offseason approaches. [ CHARLES KRUPA | Associated Press ]
Published Oct. 12
Updated Oct. 12

BOSTON — The Rays will look different next year.

They are likely to make some significant changes. It’s part of their way of doing business. But, given their young core, they also should be good.

“We’re going to be really good for a long time,” reliever Andrew Kittredge said. “Just based on the guys that we’ve got in the clubhouse, and the organization as a whole, the way that we develop guys and develop winners, there’s a lot to look forward to.”

The Rays will have some interesting decisions to make, the most relevant being whether to pick up the option on catcher Mike Zunino that, based on games played, is now for $7 million.

The Rays' Mike Zunino (10) scores on a double by Kevin Kiermaier as Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez (7) looks on in the eighth inning Monday.
The Rays' Mike Zunino (10) scores on a double by Kevin Kiermaier as Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez (7) looks on in the eighth inning Monday. [ MICHAEL DWYER | Associated Press ]

The Rays have six free agents-to-be in DH Nelson Cruz, and five pitchers who all signed one-year deals — starters Chris Archer and Michael Wacha; relievers Collin McHugh, David Robertson and Chaz Roe.

Also a factor, and one that leads to moves, is dealing with what mlbtraderumors.com reports is a majors most-matching 19 players eligible for arbitration.

The most interesting may be starter Tyler Glasnow, who is projected to make $5.8 million for a season in which he won’t pitch as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, then likely the same amount in 2023. Among options for the Rays are paying him, signing him to a multi-year deal or trading him.

Other arbitration eligibles include pitchers Nick Anderson, Jalen Beeks, Yonny Chirinos, Adam Conley, Oliver Drake, Andrew Kittredge, Cody Reed, Jeffrey Springs, Matt Wisler, Ryan Yarbrough; infielders Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Jordan Luplow, Joey Wendle; outfielders Manuel Margot, Austin Meadows, Brett Phillips; catcher Francisco Mejia.

Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is likely to be the subject of speculation given his $12 million salary for 2022 (with a $13 million option or $2.5 million buyout for 2023), also sees a bright future.

“The winning way, it’s going to continue here,’' Kiermaier said. “There’s just too much talent in our organization. Who knows what’s going to happen moving forward, but we’ve got a great thing going here.’'

The Lowe down

Red Sox's Rafael Devers, right, tries to break up a double play as Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe makes the throw to first in the seventh inning Monday.
Red Sox's Rafael Devers, right, tries to break up a double play as Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe makes the throw to first in the seventh inning Monday. [ MICHAEL DWYER | Associated Press ]

Brandon Lowe, who was one of the Rays’ top offensive players during the season, finished the four-game playoff series 0-for-18 with nine strikeouts. Lowe also had a poor 2020 postseason, hitting .118 (9-for-76) with four homers and 28 strikeouts. Though manager Kevin Cash said several times during this season he had total confidence Lowe would get going — and that he had “not one iota of thought” of not playing Lowe, who hit third — on Monday, it never happened.

Asked before Monday’s game about his performance to that point (0-for-14 with six strikeouts), Lowe said, “It feels like I haven’t gotten any hits, as simple as that.” Asked if that was more due to how he was being pitched or if he was putting too much pressure on himself, Lowe said: “It feels like I haven’t gotten any hits.”

The call still stings

The Rays didn’t feel any better the day after the controversial but correct call that cost them a go-ahead run in the top of the 13th inning Monday. That was the now infamous play where a ball hit by Kevin Kiermaier bounced off the outfield wall, then off Red Sox rightfielder Hunter Renfroe, then over the 4-foot wall. It resulted in a ground-rule double, keeping Yandy Diaz from scoring.

“I think everybody’s kind of frustrated on it,” Lowe said. “When you look at it, I think Yandy was halfway to third base when the ball eventually ended up getting into the bullpen. … It sucks.”

Miscellany

Austin Meadows’ 17-pitch at-bat in the third, which ended with a strikeout, was the longest in any postseason game since 1988, when pitch tracking data was first kept. ... Wander Franco became the fifth player 20 and younger to homer in back-to-back postseason games, joining: Rafael Devers (2017), Miguel Cabrera (2003), Andruw Jones (1996) and Mickey Mantle (1952). He also became the fifth player under 21 to get hits in at least four straight postseason games, joining Cabrera (eight, 2003), Mantle (four, 1952), Freddie Lindstrom (four, 1924): Ty Cobb (four, 1907). ... There was a brief pause in the game as the Rays asked the umpires to notify security about some fans behind the dugout throwing beer at players, but Cash said it was not a big deal: “Boston fans are great fans. A couple knuckleheads aren’t going to spoil a passionate group of fans. Just fortunately, nobody got hit with anything.’'

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