Everybody just talks about the loss of James Shields. I think it was time to deal him, but what do you think about the loss of Wade Davis? He was great out of the bullpen and has always been a solid starter. I think the Rays paid too much just for the possibility of prospects to have a bright future. Do you agree?
-- Lukas L, Orlando, Fla.
I have to admit, I expected Shields to be dealt, but I didn't see the trade of Davis coming. I figured Davis would easily slide back into the starting rotation. Given the cautious approach that the Rays have taken in the past in regard to dealing any of their coveted starting pitchers, I'd have to say that the club really believes in the prospects it acquired from Kansas City -- particularly Wil Myers. Over the past several years, Tampa Bay has turned down a lot of deals, and now it pulls the trigger on Myers and company? To me, that speaks volumes.
What do you think the infield and the starting rotation are going to look like this season? Hak-Ju Lee is ready for the big leagues, and I feel like Jake Odorizzi is going to put in a bid to be a starter.
-- Kyle W., Norwich, Conn.
I have not seen Odorizzi, but I have heard great things about him. Again, based on my answer to the first question, you have to believe that the Rays think highly of Odorizzi to part with Shields and Davis in a deal that included him. As for Lee, I'm sold on his fielding. Whenever I've seen him play he has been dazzling. However, I don't believe Tampa Bay would have traded for Yunel Escobar if it thought Lee was ready for the Major Leagues.
As for the starting rotation and infield, I'd have to go with a rotation of David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Jeff Niemann and Alex Cobb. And the infield: Evan Longoria at third, Escobar at shortstop, Ben Zobrist at second (against right-handers), Ryan Roberts at second (against left-handers) and James Loney at first.
I keep hearing people talking about how we still need to add a couple more bats, and I was wondering if that really should be what the Rays are focused on. Two out of the past three years the Giants have won the World Series with pitching and not a very strong offense.
-- John D., St. Petersburg
While I think the team would be stronger with the addition of another bat or two, I'm not totally sure those extra bats are necessary. If Longoria is healthy for a full season, the offense should be much improved from the get-go. Also, the additions of Escobar, Loney and Myers -- whenever he arrives this season -- should all give the offense a boost. Meanwhile, I agree with you about the Giants. Pitching has led the way for them to win the World Series in two of the last three seasons.
Do you think the Rays will be a contending team in the American League East this year?
-- Carol M., Baltimore
Yes, I do believe they will be a contending team next year based on what they have done this offseason and on how they finished last season. To me, the biggest concerns that might sabotage the Rays' hopes are: Can they cover the innings they need to cover without Shields? Will Longoria be healthy all season? Finally, can Fernando Rodney have another dominant season as the team's closer?
Will Desmond Jennings be the Rays' center fielder this season or will they keep him in left field? Personally, I think he's the best candidate to play center field, but I can see them leaving him in left where he's comfortable. What do you think?
-- Ken J., Dunedin, Fla.
According to what manager Joe Maddon has said, Jennings would probably like to remain in left field, but he wouldn't be too upset to relocate to center. Maddon added that he would be totally comfortable with Jennings patrolling center field. If that scenario played out, I could see Jennings opening the season in center, with Matt Joyce in left and Ben Zobrist in right. On other days, you could see Zobrist at second, Sam Fuld in left and Joyce in right. Also, factor in Myers once he joins the team.