Rays explore catching options, trades on Day 1 of Meetings
SAN DIEGO -- Finding catching help and entertaining trade talks about the team's surplus of outfielders characterized the Rays' first day at this year's Winter Meetings on Monday.
Currently, the Rays have three catchers on their 40-man roster: Ryan Hanigan, Curt Casali and Justin O'Conner.
O'Conner has only played as high as Double-A Montgomery, so the chances of him starting the season with the club would seem remote, which leaves Hanigan, who battled injuries in 2014, and Casali, who missed the final games of the 2014 season with a concussion.
"We've been active in conversations [in regard to finding a catcher] both on the free-agent side and the trade side," said Matt Silverman, Rays president, baseball operations. "With that position, we know we have a hole to fill and there's no timetable for it, but the sooner, the better for us given the need that's there."
When pressed for whether the Rays were looking for a veteran backup catcher, or a catcher who might play more than Hanigan, Silverman replied: "We're very open minded. And we have Curt who did a very nice job last year, too. And his presence affects the way we go after this, too."
Silverman added: "There are many profiles that it could take. It could be a veteran catcher. It could be a younger catcher. It could be a trade. We're open to many different possibilities."
Former Rays catcher Dioner Navarro might be a catcher of interest. Four teams have talked to the Blue Jays about Navarro.
"I've had clubs ask, that's probably as far as I would go with it," Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said.
Where outfielders are concerned, the Rays have a bunch with Brandon Guyer, Matt Joyce, David DeJesus, Kevin Kiermaier, Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings. Circumstances would suggest that Joyce and DeJesus could be the most likely trade candidates.
Joyce has power, but he's been limited primarily to at-bats against right-handed pitching. In addition, Joyce is arbitration eligible after making $3.7 million last season.
DeJesus will be coming off an injury-plagued 2014 campaign and is due to be paid $5,125,000 in 2015. DeJesus' upside for any team interested is he's a veteran presence in the clubhouse and can do a lot of different things on the field.
"We're having a number of conversations [about outfielders] as you'd expect," Silverman said. "The setting is ripe for having lots of conversations and have them pretty much grouped together. With some of the free agents coming off the board, teams are more focused on the trade market to fill vacancies and so we've had more knocks on our door than we have in the prior weeks."
Other business that needs to be done is the hiring of a bench coach to replace Dave Martinez, who left to assume that role with the Cubs after not getting selected to manage the team. But Silverman said the team isn't necessarily looking for a bench coach per se, to join new manager Kevin Cash's staff.
"We want someone who fits in with the existing coaching staff and complements the strengths that we already have in place," Silverman said. "It seems obvious that we would want someone with managerial experience. But it also seemed obvious that we weren't going to hire a 37-year-old, first-year manager, who was a bullpen coach the last two years.
"… It's an open position. We could hire a bench coach. We can promote from within our coaching staff and fill a coaching vacancy. Or we can do something along the lines of what the Pittsburgh Pirates just did and just name a coach and not a bench coach. We haven't gotten into those details, but it will be a very interesting conversation when we do."