Rays have questions to answer in off-season

by Gary Shelton on December 8, 2020

in general

Cash still searching for answers./JEFFREY KING

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

For a championship team, things ought to feel better than this. More secure. More predictable.

It is a position of power, isn't it, the American League championship. It is the chased spot, the designation that the other teams aspire to being. It is like being the smartest kid in the class, and everyone else is trying to copy your homework.

Alas, as the Tampa Bay Rays prepare for what is left of baseball's Winter Meetings, things seem as hard to define as ever for those of us who follow the team.

Where is the pitching? Where is the catching? Which high-priced contract will be moved? Which outfielders last?

And is this anyway to run a dynasty?

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The Rays didn't waste long to surround themselves with questions, did they?

They lost Charlie Morton, the trusted one, to free agency. There are rumors they might move Blake Snell. Yonny Chirinos and Jalen Beeks are out for the year. For a team built on pitching, that leaves Tyler Glasnow, perhaps Snell and Ryan Yarbrough. Josh Fleming is still around. Brent Honeywell and Shane MacLanahan show some promise, but it's unproven.

Guess: Unless someone is offering a Chris Archer-level deal, they keep Snell. Snell, Glasnow, Yarbrough and Fleming start out as your rotation.

So can the Rays find enough quality pitching to make another run?

And even if they do, who is going to be the catcher? None of last year's three of last year's catchers -- Mike Zunino, Michael Perez and Kevan Smith -- are on the roster. Oh, Zunino might come back, but then again, he might not.

Guess: They bring back Zunino and use Ronaldo Hernandez as his backup. They might sign a journeyman to be the third catcher.

Of course, Morton was allowed to walk because of his contract. Rumors surrounding Snell, Kevin Kiermaier and Brandan Lowe are there because, well, their contracts. That's the way it is the with the Rays. The more you're paid, the more likely it is that you'll move. Being a Rays' fan means always waiting for the team to trade a star away so someone else will pay him.

The Rays, frankly, didn't add enough last off-season. They traded for Hunter Renfroe, but he's already history. They brought in Yoshi Tsutsugo, but he had an awful year. They signed Jose Martinez, but he didn't last the season.

Might they bring in another outfielder this year? And even if they don't, who goes?

Guess: They'll want a fortune for Kiermaier, but they won't get it.

As it stand now, Kiermaier, Manuel Margot and Randy Arozarena figure to start (with Austin Meadows as the designated hitter). So does the team hang on to Tsutsugo, whose game didn't translate quickly to the majors.

One thing you can safely say about the Rays: They're smarter than most teams. They will find this player or that one in the clearance bin. They'll salvage a pitcher or two. They'll make a trade someone else will regret.

Soon sounds good, doesn't it?

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