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Spring notebook: Rays moves, Realmuto, more

MLB.com @feinsand

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was a tumultuous week around Rays camp following the trades of Jake Odorizzi, Steven Souza Jr. and Corey Dickerson, but the initial storm seems to have passed, leaving Tampa Bay determined to prove its doubters wrong.

Chris Archer -- a popular name on the trade market this offseason -- and Kevin Kiermaier were both critical after the Rays dealt away some of their core pieces. But according to those around the team, the pair has helped set the tone in recent days, preaching positivity as they try to compete with the rest of the loaded American League East.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was a tumultuous week around Rays camp following the trades of Jake Odorizzi, Steven Souza Jr. and Corey Dickerson, but the initial storm seems to have passed, leaving Tampa Bay determined to prove its doubters wrong.

Chris Archer -- a popular name on the trade market this offseason -- and Kevin Kiermaier were both critical after the Rays dealt away some of their core pieces. But according to those around the team, the pair has helped set the tone in recent days, preaching positivity as they try to compete with the rest of the loaded American League East.

"I could not be more impressed with the way they have handled it," manager Kevin Cash said. "There were a couple of statements made after the Souza and Dickerson moves; I give a ton of credit to the players and some of the credit to Erik [Neander] and Chaim [Bloom] for reaching out. They did a good job of communicating the Souza decision. I think the players have responded well. It's OK for a little shock to the system every once in a while; it was a shock to all of us. They came in, said the right things and are handling themselves really well right now."

Neander and Bloom, who run the Rays' baseball operations department, were aware that the moves might be unpopular within the clubhouse, making it crucial to keep the remaining players in the loop regarding the team's long-term plans.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"It was definitely an emotional week, but I really have to compliment the group," Bloom said. "I think we've come out of this in about as good a spot as we could have hoped, knowing that guys are losing teammates that they've come to know, guys whose accomplishments on the field they really respect. It's been really nice to see that our players -- especially some of the guys who have been here the longest, the veterans on our club -- are very forward-looking. They're focused on rallying the group and proving people wrong about what we can accomplish this year."

Such an issue might have been easier to handle had Evan Longoria still been around, but the Rays traded their de facto captain in December, leaving a leadership void in the clubhouse.

"What he has meant to this organization is unique, and it will be a long time before a anybody else can mean as much to this organization as he has and still does," Bloom said. "But we have a lot of good players here, and this is an opportunity for some guys to step up and take more of a leadership role. We have the right guys in this mix to do it."

Archer and Kiermaier are two of the players expected to handle much of that load, and while Archer will undoubtedly continue to be the subject of trade buzz, it appears the Rays are counting on him to be one of their cornerstones moving forward.

"I take it as a compliment; when you have a player and a person as special as Chris Archer, you're going to have people knocking on your door," Bloom said of the continued trade interest. "But he's exactly the type of player that we're looking to build around. We need more people like Chris Archer in this clubhouse if we're going to get where we want to go."

Fresh catch
Another player linked to several trade rumors has been Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, one of the few name players still in Miami following the offseason trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon.

Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill believes that Realmuto can be a foundation for the team as it moves forward, and that by the end of the 2018 season, he can be a much bigger name in the game.

"J.T. is drafted by the Marlins and developed by the Marlins and got to the big leagues as a Marlin; all my conversations with him have been that he's a part of what we're building," Hill said. "He's a tremendously talented catcher, and we're happy that he's a part of what we have here. I think you're still scratching the surface with his ability. The nation doesn't know how good he is."

The turnover in Miami may have some fans frustrated, but Hill was gushing as he spoke of the vibe around camp in the early days of Spring Training.

Video: Michael Hill optimistic about Marlins' 2018 roster

"It's been energy," Hill said. "Energy, excitement; there's definitely an optimism surrounding this group of players for the opportunity that's in front of them. They all come excited and ready to compete, doing everything in their power every day to make themselves better."

Trust is a process
In addition to adding names such as Ozuna, Luke Gregerson and Bud Norris among others this offseason, the Cardinals hired longtime pitching coach Mike Maddux.

According to general manager Mike Girsch, the early reviews have been nothing short of spectacular.

"He has a great rapport with people; he's one of those guys you don't have to know very long to feel like you've known him a long time," Girsch said. "You talk about analytics and getting players to buy into making changes, but the most important thing is that players trust you. Mike has done a really good job -- and we're only a week or two into camp -- in building those relationships and building trust. He has a 10- or 15-year history of successful pitching staffs that gives players that confidence."

Are we there yet?
While many teams around the Majors will spend the next five weeks sorting out their rosters and monitoring position battles, the Astros' roster is close to complete.

Video: Tony Kemp on making Astros Opening Day roster

The reigning World Series champions have no battles at any everyday spots, their rotation is seven deep and only one spot in the bullpen is really up for grabs. Their biggest concern in late February? Staying healthy.

"I wish we could just fast-forward to Opening Day," one team official said.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

Chris Archer, J.T. Realmuto