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Bargain-hunting Rays still have some holes

Jan 18, 2013, 7:53 PM EDT

Joe Maddon, Andrew Friedman

The Rays have spent some money this winter, adding Yunel Escobar for shortstop, James Loney for first base and Roberto Hernandez to the pitching staff. Their rotation is fine even with James Shields gone and the infield might be set, if Ben Zobrist plays second base, but the team still has some needs as is.

Outfield: Desmond Jennings is the only sure starter in the Tampa Bay outfield, and it’s still unclear if he’ll be playing left or center. Matt Joyce will start somewhere against righties, probably in right field but perhaps at designated hitter. A career .201/.288/.325 hitter in 234 at-bats against lefties,  he’s more useful being platooned.

Beyond those two, the Rays have the option of playing Zobrist in right, but they seem more likely to use him at second initially. Brandon Guyer was looking like a nice sleeper entering last season, but he opened up in Triple-A and then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in May. Sam Fuld is also back healthy after missing much of the season, but he should be viewed as a reserve. Top prospect Wil Myers will almost certainly spend the first month in Triple-A to push back his free agency clock, and he might be held back until mid-June, depending on how he’s performing and the Rays’ needs in right field.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark today mentioned Michael Bourn as a possibility for the Rays, as unlikely as that would seem to be. Not only would he blow up their budget, but he’d also cost them their first-round pick. Scott Hairston would seem to be a nice fit as a starter early who can be eased into a reserve role when Myers comes up, but the Rays haven’t been mentioned in connection with him. Perhaps they think Guyer is his equal. Still, even if the the Rays do opt to go with a Guyer-Jennings-Joyce outfield, they’re going to need a…

Designated hitter: In recently posting a Rays depth chart, I put Ryan Roberts at DH for lack of any better alternatives. It shouldn’t be difficult to do better there, though. Tampa Bay could re-sign Luke Scott to DH against right-handers after he hit .229/.285/.439 for them last season. Travis Hafner and Jim Thome are alternatives there, but they’re pure DHs incapable of playing elsewhere. Scott can at least play a passable first base and perhaps still left field when healthy.

One alternative here would be to sign Kelly Johnson, put Zobrist in right field and use Joyce primarily at DH.

Bullpen: The Rays have only three sure things for the pen right now: Fernando Rodney, Jake McGee and Joel Peralta. They’ll probably stick Hernandez there initially, and they do have some adequate holdovers in Cesar Ramos and Brandon Gomes, plus guys with upside like Josh Lueke, Dane De La Rosa and Frank De Los Santos. Still, one imagines they have their eyes on a couple of cheap veterans who might be candidates for turnarounds. No teams are beating down the doors of Francisco Rodriguez,  Matt Capps and Ramon Ramirez at the moment. And then there’s Hideki Okajima, who wants to return to the U.S. after a terrific season in Japan. The Rays could also consider trading Jeff Niemann for bullpen help.

  1. proudlycanadian - Jan 18, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    Not a bad idea regarding Kelly Johnson. He strikes out a lot, but has some power. If he comes cheap, this might be a good spot for him. I believe that Johnson can also play in the outfield.

    • proudlycanadian - Jan 18, 2013 at 8:14 PM

      I forgot to mention that Escobar and Johnson do work well together.

  2. hermie13 - Jan 18, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    Hairston makes a lot of sense for the Rays. so does Hafner. Yeah he is only a DH but the Rays signed Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon 2 years ago knowing one would be stuck at DH all the time. Hafner has hit well indoors in his career. plus when he hits the DL end of May/early June will be when Myers is ready

  3. yankeepunk3000 - Jan 18, 2013 at 11:11 PM

    they should take a look at Thome. Even if he can only DH he has showed he can still hit for power…like the above comments said they made a run with Damon and Ramirez why not Thome. Plus he’s a great club house present and can come cheap. People would probally go see him play a bit I know I would.

  4. bucbelevr - Jan 19, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    HUGE Rays fan here. Even bigger Friedman fan, teaching all front offices how to do their job. Pretty good breakdown in the article above, but not sure why no one is mentioning the 2-year sensibility of Alfonso Soriano at mostly DH, with left field also being an option when needed. Cubs have already gone on record for picking up 26 of the 36 million left on his contract, and “east coast teams” are on his wish list, if he’s out of town via trade. The relative youth, great production last year, power bat of Soriano in any of Maddon’s lineup…makes a whole LOT more sense over 2 years at $5 million per year. Friedman hopefully, is definitely looking into that. Makes a ton of sense.

    • cowboysoldiertx - Jan 19, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      I like that idea for the Rays. Trade for Soriano, Sign Johnson to play second and resign Scott to DH.

  5. mymaria2012 - Jan 19, 2013 at 4:53 PM

    Reblogged this on mymaria2012 and commented:
    Im still stuck on the phrase “….with James Shields gone…..” Bummer But I still think our pitching will be outstanding this year. How can it not….we have Cy Young Award winning David Price!!

  6. gotampabay52 - Jan 19, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    Rays will do their thing and fill tje hole in just fine haters TAMPA IS ON THE RISE IN ALL SPORTS GO BOLRS RAYS AND BUCS

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