MLB Offseason Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

MLB Offseason Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

by December 6, 2020 1 comment

The Tampa Bay Rays had the best record in the American League and made it to their second World Series in franchise history. What can they do this offseason to stay on top of the AL and possibly get that ring?

Offseason Strategy

The Rays don’t really have too much to do during the offseason. They will need to replace Charlie Morton who signed with the Atlanta Braves. They will also need to address their catching vacancy as Mike Zunino, Michael Perez, and Kevan Smith are all gone. Some tweaks here and there, but for the most part, the Rays are returning the rest of their team that was 40-20 and within two games of capturing their first championship.

Keys to the Offseason

Find a Catcher

The Rays non-tendered Zunino but could bring him back on a cheaper deal. The former first-round pick had an abysmal year at the plate going just 11-for-75 and striking out 37 times in 84 plate appearances. Defensively, he had an off year, but the soon-to-be 30-year old is generally an excellent fielding catcher. With Perez and Smith both released, it leaves Tampa Bay with a hole behind the plate that needs to be filled. Preferably with someone who can put the ball in play as the Rays led the majors striking out 608 times.

A Veteran Starter

Losing Morton is going to sting a little. While the right-hander wasn’t lights out during the short season, he stepped up in the playoffs, at least on the AL side of things, going 3-0 with a 0.57 ERA and 17 strikeouts in his three starts against the New York Yankees and Houston Astros. Aside from Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Ryan Yarbrough, the Rays have Trevor Richards and young Josh Fleming. The lefty pitched well in his first major league action going 4-0 in five starts with a 3.16 ERA and a 21/5 K/BB rate. We all know that you can never have enough starting pitching so bringing in a pitcher or two with experience would be the smart move.

Offseason Targets

Matt Wieters, 34, C

While the former fifth-overall pick isn’t what he used to be, he is still a solid backstop. Looking at a possible one-year deal at around $2 million, the switch-hitting catcher is an adequate defender and still possesses an above-average arm. He also still provides some pop hitting 19 HRs in his last 500 PAs. Wieters has good numbers in his career against southpaws slashing .263/.328/.455 with 100 XBHs in 1,152 PAs. Since Kevin Cash likes to platoon, those numbers would fit perfectly if the Rays also signed…

Jason Castro, 33, C

Castro is a good defender and would likely come to the Rays on a discounted deal after an awful year at the plate. As recently as 2019, Castro slashed .232/.332/.435 for the Minnesota Twins and hit 13 HRs in just 275 PAs. In his career, he is solid against right-handed pitching with a slash line of .242/.328/.421. The two veteran catchers would be an upgrade over Zunino and would allow the Rays to bring along catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez more slowly. Castro likely gets a one or two-year deal worth around $3-$5 million per year.

Jake Odorizzi, 30, SP

The right-hander spent five seasons in Tampa Bay before going to the Twins in 2018. Here is another instance, like Castro, where the Rays could get a player on a discounted deal thanks to a disappointing 2020 season. Odorizzi had a career year in 2019 going 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA over 30 starts. In his five years with the Rays, Odorizzi was 40-37 with a 3.82 ERA. He could be reunited with Castro as the two played together with the Twins in 2018-2019. Tampa Bay may get Odorizzi on a three-year deal at $11-$15 per year.

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