ST. PETERSBURG -- Willy Aybar was the Rays' Opening Day third baseman in 2008, making him the last player other than Evan Longoria to fill that role.Alas, things change, as the Rays traded Longoria to the Giants in December, opening the door for someone else to take over the hot
ST. PETERSBURG -- Willy Aybar was the Rays' Opening Day third baseman in 2008, making him the last player other than Evan Longoria to fill that role.
Alas, things change, as the Rays traded Longoria to the Giants in December, opening the door for someone else to take over the hot corner.
Matt Duffy will likely have the dubious task of being the guy to step in for the most popular player in team history. If he pulls it off, he'll be doing so after missing the entire 2017 season due to a heel problem.
But Duffy at third is only speculation, much like the rest of the 2018 Rays infield, other than shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria.
Hechavarria brought a calming influence to the Rays' infield last season. He has range and soft hands, so if there's one position where the Rays don't seem to have a question mark, it's shortstop. Yet, there's even a question mark there.
If the Rays opt to trade Hechavarria, that would open the door for speculation that Duffy, Willy Adames or Daniel Robertson might fill the gap.
Trading Hechavarria might make sense, as moving him would likely bring a decent haul, and it would pave the way for Adames, the Rays' No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, to make his ascent to the Major Leagues.
If Hechavarria stays, that would likely make either Duffy, new acquisition Christian Arroyo or Robertson the starting third baseman.
Second base is another position with a lot of different options. Brad Miller, Robertson, Arroyo, Micah Johnson, Ryan Schimpf and Joey Wendle are all possibilities.
Finally, first base is wide open, too.
Logan Morrison and Lucas Duda are both free agents. Given the slow market, there's always a chance one of those two might return, but those chances are unlikely.
That would leave the following as the most likely options: Move Miller to first, promote prospect Jake Bauers or acquire a first baseman through trade or free agency.
A lot needs to be determined in the Rays' infield prior to Opening Day.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.