Rays have many options as offseason unfolds
ST. PETERSBURG -- Thursday night's Rays-Mariners trade came early in the offseason, and it changed the complexion for what might happen with the Rays prior to the 2016 season.
Tampa Bay acquired shortstop Brad Miller, slugging first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison and right-handed reliever Danny Farquhar from Seattle in exchange for right-hander Nathan Karns, left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser and Minor League outfielder Boog Powell.
Prior to the trade, the Rays appeared headed for a quiet offseason. After the trade, the possibilities seem unlimited.
For starters, venture to first base, where James Loney is the incumbent. After averaging 156 games the previous seven seasons, Loney experienced two prolonged trips to the disabled list and played in just 104 games in 2015, hitting .280 with four home runs and 32 RBIs. Loney is scheduled to make $9.66 million in '16, yet the Rays acquired Morrison. On top of that, Tampa Bay has power-hitting Richie Shaffer -- the club's No. 11 prospect -- ready to make the jump from Triple-A Durham.
Thus, don't be surprised to see the Rays part with a prospect or a decent player in order to unload Loney and set the table for a Shaffer-Morrison platoon at first. It's hard to project the club heading the Spring Training with three first basemen.
Next, shortstop. Asdrubal Cabrera delivered for Tampa Bay, finishing the 2015 season with a .265 batting average, 15 home runs and 58 RBIs. After hitting .212 in April, .209 in May and .253 in June, Cabrera hit .261 in July, .356 in August and .293 September. On top of that, Cabrera played solid defense and did not allow his slow start offensively to affect his defense. Given Cabrera's overall play, the Rays obviously surmised they would not be able to afford him. He is a free agent, and many teams with more money than Tampa Bay can afford to pay likely will sign Cabrera to a multiyear deal.
Understanding the reality of the free-agent market, the Rays acquired Miller, who appears earmarked to take the position. So where does that leave Tim Beckham and Nick Franklin? With Logan Forsythe becoming a fixture at second base, either of the youngsters could become available as part of a deal.
Tampa Bay has a deep group of outfielders. Desmond Jennings is the veteran of the group after experiencing a disappointing 2015 season spent mostly on the DL. If he's healthy, Jennings can help the offense. Take the 10-game stretch after he returned from the DL in August, when he hit .353 with a home run and five RBIs. He made $3.1 million in 2015 and is arbitration-eligible. Would another team bite on Desmond?
The Rays also have Steven Souza Jr., Brandon Guyer, Mikie Mahtook and Kevin Kiermaier in the outfield. Throw into the mix up-and-coming Taylor Motter, who could become a nice piece as a utility player. If Motter is a factor, even more trade possibilities are created that might include an outfielder.
Catcher is another position with a lot of moving pieces. Rene Rivera joined the team in 2015 and had a disappointing offensive season. Will Tampa Bay try to trade Rivera, leaving the bulk of the catching duties to Curt Casali? If that scenario happens, it's likely the team will tender J.P. Arencibia, who joined the team in September and hit for power.
Finally, there's the bullpen. Jake McGee is arbitration-eligible after making $3.55 million in 2015. With Brad Boxberger closing and Alex Colome's emergence at the back end of the bullpen, the Rays might consider trading the hard-throwing McGee, who would be an attractive piece that could bring the prospects to Tampa Bay. If that occurred, Enny Romero could be the guy to step in for McGee.
Yes, the Hot Stove game of musical chairs has begun, and it's going to be interesting to see which players have seats come Spring Training.