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Inbox: Should Rays try to make splash in free agency?

The Rays need a bat, a middle infielder, a first baseman, and a center fielder (if B.J. Upton leaves). Is it possible the Rays could get that power bat from a free-agent second baseman? Is there any decent starting middle-infielder trade bait? After Carlos Pena's down year, could the Rays re-sign him to a small contract as a backup/defensive option?
-- Jesse C., San Diego

If indeed they lose Upton as expected, I would think they would trade or spend their money on either a DH/first baseman or a center fielder. A trade could come at any time, but I think any free-agent signings would come after the Winter Meetings after the dust settles from some of the big boys signing. As for Pena, I don't think he'll be back at a discount.

I wonder if the Rays ever considered the following situation: Signing a big-name free agent such as Josh Hamilton or others out there, or dealing for a big-name hitter. That can be the solution for attendance, and at the same time, offensively. I believe that as competitive as the team is, it's not the same to go to the Trop to watch a group of talented young players than to go watch a couple of big names. Maybe that's the motivation that St. Pete needs. Can you see the Rays doing such and trying the idea?
-- Tony P., Winter Garden, Fla.

I think the bottom line for the Rays is and always will be to try and put a winning product on the field. Normally the blueprint they follow for trying to do so deals primarily with a team that pitches well and plays quality defense. They have been burned on a couple of occasions trying to bring in big-name free-agent offensive help, but that doesn't mean they won't try again. I just think they do better when they try to fill gaps rather than making a splash in the free-agent market. But one thing about the group running the team, they always keep you on your toes. And an added note: I don't think they have to do a lot of tinkering to put a quality team on the field in 2013.

Hoping that the team can get a little luckier next year regarding injuries, what do you think the Rays' chances are of winning the division and the World Series, or at least earning a playoff spot in 2013?
-- Tyler F., Trinity, Fla.

Based on the group the team finished the 2012 season with -- and looking at who they expect to lose and who should be returning, I think the Rays have a really good chance to find their way back to the playoffs in 2013. And once a team reaches the playoffs, anything can happen, particularly when a team has quality pitching. Look at what the Giants have done two out of the past three seasons.

Why did the Rays let Henry Wrigley go? He had a good year in the Minors and he was tearing up winter ball. Is he going to be another Justin Ruggiano that we just let go so we can sign some aging veteran for more money? It makes no sense to me. Maybe Henry couldn't field, but I've not heard anything bad about his fielding.
-- Rick S., Hudson, Fla.

I liked what I saw of Wrigley when I saw him during Spring Training last year. However, I will point out that I am not a professional when it comes to evaluating talent. No team wants to let go of talent, but teams must make decisions regarding personnel. There must have been something the Rays didn't like about Wrigley, or they felt strongly about keeping somebody else. And, to point out the obvious, Minor League numbers are just that. So it's tough to say what kind of numbers Wrigley might generate if given a shot at the Major Leagues.

I have been fearful of losing bench coach Dave Martinez the last couple of years (especially to Boston). I thought for sure he would go to Miami this year. But I haven't heard his name near as much this year. What's up? Have the Rays worked something out with him long term? I hope so.
-- Ben H., Seoul, Korea

Martinez is a class act and a quality baseball man. He has been close to getting several Major League jobs, so eventually his day will come -- particularly given the fact that he also had a solid Major League career. While the Rays would love to keep someone of Martinez's skills as long as possible, they would be the first to tell anyone how happy they would be to see him become the skipper of another club and I certainly don't believe they would stand in the way of him heading elsewhere to do so. The "Rays Way" has a lot of components for success, and one of those components has been the solid leadership skills of manager Joe Maddon and his staff. Sooner or later other teams are going to want to tap into that mindset.

Tampa Bay Rays