Three weeks removed from the Astros World Series win, General Manager meetings are in full swing. Rumors are beginning to circulate, several of them involving the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays reportedly remain steadfast in their pursuit of veteran slugger Jose Bautista. The Rays had been linked to Bautista last offseason, before he returned to the Toronto Blue Jays. Bautista’s agent says that Bautista is open to playing different positions, including the corner infield, corner outfield or designated hitter. Bautista, a veteran of 14 seasons, just turned 37 years old in October and is coming off an extremely disappointing season with the Blue Jays in which he recorded a mere .203/.308/.366 with 23 home runs, 65 RBI’s across 686 plate appearances. Bautista’s batting average and slugging percentage were his lowest in eight years and his wRC+ was his lowest since becoming a full-time player.
He set Toronto’s single-season strikeout record with 170 whiffs while playing on a one-year, $18 million contract. The Blue Jays bought out his $17 million option. The main reason the Rays would want to add Bautista is his potential against left-handed pitching, which was a major deficit for the team in 2017. Although Bautista struggled against LHP in 2017 (68 wRC+), he has a career wRC+ of 129 against them. He would likely be limited to DH duty if he signed with the Rays, especially if Tampa doesn’t resign Logan Morrison or Lucas Duda.
It is hard to picture Evan Longoria playing for another team other than the Tampa Bay Rays. One of the more interesting Rays rumors indicates that Tampa may listen to trades for their franchise player. If the Rays are going to move on from Longoria, now is the time. He will earn his 10-5 rights in the middle of April, giving him a full no trade clause. Longoria would be able to block any moves from that point on. The problem with moving Longoria would involve getting a sufficient return. He had what may have been his worst hitting season, posting a batting line of .261/.313/.424. Longoria did have his moments, smashing 20 homers and 36 doubles. He also become the first Ray player to take home a third Gold Glove award. Longoria’s value to the Rays does not necessarily show on the stat sheet but he is one of the leaders in the clubhouse, and the last remaining player from the Rays 2008 World Series team. As Tampa Bay looks to contend once again, Longoria’s presence can be a steadying influence on the younger players. The Rays may be listening to trades but it would be surprising to see him playing for a team other than the Rays on Opening Day.
Alex Colome was one of the first names mentioned in offseason rumors and is likely to be traded Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Colome led the league with 47 saves and is scheduled to make 5.5 million next season. The Rays are extremely motivated to trim the payroll this offseason, and Colome would be a prized commodity on the market. The Cardinals have reportedly shown interest and you could see contending teams such as the Indians and Dodgers join the discussion.
A way to help cut the payroll will be adding prospects to the 40-man roster by today’s deadline. Six expected to be added are 1B/LF Jake Bauers, LHP Ryan Yarbrough, OF Justin Williams and RHPs Diego Castillo, Yonny Chirinos and Brent Honeywell. Two more may be added. If Tampa adds eight prospects, the chances of moving players increases.
The Rays are known for being a trade friendly organization. They are trying to reset their payroll after being aggressive when Tampa was in the playoff hunt. Expect to see many new faces come Opening Day.