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What's next: Rays' Winter Meetings recap

@juanctoribio
December 16, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Rays are leaving the Winter Meetings without making a move, but they still believe a lot of progress was made over the last couple of days. "I feel like we made a lot of progress in a lot of things here, and we still have a

SAN DIEGO -- The Rays are leaving the Winter Meetings without making a move, but they still believe a lot of progress was made over the last couple of days.

"I feel like we made a lot of progress in a lot of things here, and we still have a lot of balls up in the air," said vice president of baseball development Peter Bendix. "... I'm optimistic that we don't have to wait until the end of February or March before some things fall to us."

Biggest remaining needs

1. Outfield: The Rays, who have just three outfielders on the 40-man roster, will prioritize bringing in some outfield help, preferably a right-handed-hitting bat that can hit in the middle of the lineup. Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama was one of the names that has been linked to Tampa Bay, with former Rays Steven Souza Jr. and Avisaíl García being other possibilities. As the winter moves forward, adding another outfielder will be at the top of their list.

"We have a good idea of the kind of players that might be able to fit us," said Rays general manager Erik Neander. "We're active and just getting clarity, but the list of players and those that we're pursuing, that list has been well established."

2. Catcher: By bringing Mike Zunino back on a one-year, $4.5 million deal last month, the Rays could enter the season with him and Michael Perez as the two catchers. Tampa Bay, however, will continue to survey a thin catcher's market over the next couple of months. A trade option appears to be more likely at this point.

"We're not going to force something," Neander said. "We expect [Zunino] to bounce back some offensively. We expect better from [Perez] than what he contributed last year, and for those reasons we were excited going into last year with those two."

3. Relief pitchers: As good as the Rays bullpen performed in 2019, it's still important to remember just how volatile bullpens are from year to year. Dellin Betances could be an option for the Rays, which would give them another quality arm, or they could opt to sign a couple of relievers on Minor League deals with an invite to Spring Training.

Rule 5 Draft

The Rays didn't select anyone in the Major League round of the Rule 5 Draft, but they lost Stephen Woods Jr. to the Royals, who selected him with the No. 4 pick. Woods went 9-3 with a 1.88 ERA over 86 1/3 innings with Class A Advanced Charlotte.

In the Minor League rounds, the Rays selected left-hander Faustino Carrera from the Cubs system. The 20-year-old went 8-7 with a 3.62 ERA in Class A South Bend last season.

Tampa Bay also lost outfielder Pedro Diaz to the Giants, who selected him in the third round of the Minor League portion. Diaz is a 6-foot-3, 210-pound left fielder who spent '19 with Short Season Hudson Valley.

GM's bottom line

"I do believe we're moving in the right direction, but nothing imminent. But we better be closer because we have work to do and we have ways that we want to improve our club." -- Neander

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.