Inbox: Who will play at hot corner for Rays?

Beat reporter Juan Toribio answers fans' questions

November 22nd, 2019

The deciding factor in the Rays designating Matt Duffy for assignment on Wednesday was because the club felt comfortable with their other right-handed-hitting options on the roster. With , and serving as right-handed hitters, the Rays have some quality depth at the position. Throw in , is a left-handed hitter who could also play third base and Tampa Bay has four options there. There’s also Kevin Padlo, who was one of five prospects protected on Wednesday. He’ll have to duplicate his production in Triple-A Durham before being a realistic option at the big league level, but the Rays feel confident in his ability, and he provides another option that can play first and third.

However, even with the in-house options, Tampa Bay is looking to improve this offseason and if the Rays believe they can add a big bat that plays third base, they’ll do that. Díaz is going to play first base a lot, especially against left-handed pitching, and Brosseau and Robertson still have to demonstrate that they can be good Major League players for an entire season.

The Rays were never going to be in on Grandal, but his signing certainly moves the needle and establishes a market for catchers. The Grandal move could either hurt or benefit the Rays because it could create some more urgency to sign or trade for other potential catching options.

Willson Contreras is an option, but it remains to be seen just how willing the Cubs are to move him. The Rays pursued J.T. Realmuto last season before he was traded to the Phillies, which is a good indication that they’ll be open for discussion if Contreras becomes available. James McCann also becomes a good trade option for Tampa Bay now that Grandal is with the White Sox.

But the Rays also need to make their own decision at the position. is projected to get $4.9 million through arbitration and the team will need to decide whether to tender him a contract before the Dec. 2 deadline. Zunino has value as a defensive catcher, but his contract could play a role in what type of catcher the Rays look for through free agency or trade.

Ronaldo Hernandez, the organization's seventh-best prospect per MLB Pipeline, will likely start the season at Double-A Montgomery, so it’s highly unlikely that he’ll join the Rays in 2020. However, if Hernandez continues to improve defensively, to go along with his bat, there’s a good chance he’ll play a key role starting in '21.

No, identifying will take some time and it has nothing to do with the Rule 5 Draft. The player will come from a list and the Rays will take their time in order to scout the players available to them in the Reds' organization. This type of move is often done to allow the teams to complete the trade before a deadline, giving the team receiving the player an opportunity to scout a little bit longer.