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Rays expect offensive improvements in 2016

Club added Dickerson, Miller and Morrison over the offseason
MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- One question has resonated with Rays fans throughout the offseason: Can the team improve offensively?

Rays president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman answered that question at the team's media gathering, and he will likely be asked the same question many times before Spring Training runs its course.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- One question has resonated with Rays fans throughout the offseason: Can the team improve offensively?

Rays president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman answered that question at the team's media gathering, and he will likely be asked the same question many times before Spring Training runs its course.

"We feel like we upgraded the talent on our roster and added some power that's been lacking in recent years, especially with the trades that we made to bring in some guys with some thump," Silverman said.

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Early in the offseason, the Rays made a deal with the Mariners that sent right-hander Nathan Karns and left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser to Seattle for shortstop Brad Miller and outfielder/first baseman Logan Morrison. They also traded southpaw Jake McGee to the Rockies for slugging outfielder Corey Dickerson and signed free agent Steve Pearce.

"We used our pitching depth [to acquire offense], which we're always hesitant to do because depth can be fleeting," Silverman said. "But we felt like we could balance the club out better with the trades that we made and the signing of Steve Pearce. And we feel like we're a more balanced and formidable club going into the season."

Rays manager Kevin Cash chuckled when asked about the offensive improvements that will give Evan Longoria more protection.

"The protection thing, Longo doesn't need protection," Cash said. "He can hit. What I think it does, when you add a bunch of hitters around good hitters and you bring them all together, it kind of pushes each other.

"I don't think anybody is looking to say, 'I need this guy to hit in front of me or behind me because I want extra fastballs or whatever it is.' I think it's more they feed off each other. And the energy. When you have a bunch of good hitters around, it kind of elevates the game."

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Improving the quality of hitters in the lineup also puts pressure on the pitcher.

"You look at our lineup, the way it's projected that it could be, everybody can fill out a lineup card and have an idea that it's a lengthier lineup than it was last year," Cash said.

Dickerson is the marquee offensive piece brought aboard during the offseason.

The 26-year-old outfielder experienced an injury-shortened 2015 season due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot and later a broken rib. He still hit .304 with 10 homers, 31 RBIs and an .869 OPS in 65 games. In 2014, Dickerson batted .312 with 24 homers, 76 RBIs and a .931 OPS in 131 games. He won't be eligible for arbitration until 2017 and hit the free-agent market until 2020.

"Dickerson's an established Major League hitter," Silverman said. "He has great bat-to-ball skills. He's got power and can be a middle-of-the-lineup bat for us. He had four years of control and is the kind of player that can step in and make an immediate impact, but also be a part of our longer-term future. That had great appeal to us.

"... A hitter like him is someone that is oftentimes hard to come by, and we felt like it was too much to pass up in this case."

Video: Outlook: Dickerson could impress if healthy in '16

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"We like to say that it takes trading good players to get back good players," Silverman said.

Some have questioned whether Dickerson will be able to hit at any other ballpark like he did at Coors Field. Dickerson has an opinion on the subject.

"I feel like people always try to point out the negative," Dickerson said. "I think you have to take advantage of your home field. And I think if you ever do research on any hitter, their track record tells you more who they are and what kind of hitter they are and not just because their home/road split.

"I think if you look at my track record, you can follow me back until there was a track record, and tell me what you think. That's kind of how I feel about it."

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Silverman doesn't sound too concerned about Dickerson making the transition to Tropicana Field, either.

"We feel like he has a great foundation," Silverman said. "He's a gifted hitter who happened to hit in Coors Field. That's a great place to hit. Now he gets to hit in Tropicana Field and play almost all of his games at sea level. That's a good thing.

"We've seen with hitters that there's an adjustment, but good hitters hit. And we've seen that in his career and we're excited to add him to the lineup. He can be one of nine guys. He doesn't have to shoulder too much of the burden. But we feel that adding him and some of the other guys gives us a much more formidable lineup one through nine."

In addition to the newcomers, the Rays believe they will get some offensive help from returning players who had down years in 2015. Silverman added that the Rays do not "feel like we need to make any moves."

"There certainly is a little bit of a logjam on the roster, and we probably have one too many guys if the season started today," Silverman said. "But we have seven weeks to go before Opening Day. A lot takes place, both with us and within the industry.

"We've dealt with this dynamic before. We've got a bunch of professionals, we've got a bunch of veterans who are going to get their at-bats and get ready for the season. We'll see how things shake out over the course of the spring."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tampa Bay Rays, Corey Dickerson