Now that the Rays have avoided arbitration with David Price by signing him to a one-year contract, what are the chances they ink him to a long-term deal?
-- Chris R., Gainesville, Fla.
It's good news, bad news that the Rays signed Price to a new deal. Yes, they avoided arbitration, but they did not sign the American League Cy Young Award winner to a long-term deal. Price can become a free agent following the 2015 season, and history usually indicates that the longer these things linger, the less likely the player is to sign a long-term deal. However, Price's agent has indicated that Price would like to remain with the team and that it's not too late to still work something out with the talented southpaw.
My main concern about 2013 is the catching and designated hitter spots. I feel the Rays really need a bat at catcher and DH. Do you see anybody being acquired via a trade or moved up from Minor Leagues to fill these positions?
-- Ian I., Tampa
Well, they have already exercised Jose Molina's option for next season. Executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman cited Molina's ability to help control the other team's running game and his handling of the pitching staff as reasons for bringing back the veteran receiver. Among the internal candidates to play catcher are Jose Lobaton and Chris Gimenez. As for signing or trading for a catcher, I don't see that as a possibility based on which backstop are available. Catching is a demanding position and there simply aren't many catchers that also hit. I do believe the Rays will still sign a DH, who will likely fall into the $2 million to $7 million a year range, which they have done in the past. Though I don't think it's that likely, I wouldn't rule out a return of Luke Scott.
Now that James Shields is gone, it seems certain that the Rays will need one of their young arms to fill out the rotation. I really liked Alex Cobb last year, and he looks like an innings eater. Which pitcher do you see as the frontrunner heading into Spring Training?
-- Charles, Port Richey, Fla.
I'm assuming you are asking which pitcher will take Shields' spot in the rotation. If indeed that is your question, let's work backwards on that one. Price, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore will pitch at the top of the rotation. They will be followed in some order by Jeff Niemann -- if he's healthy -- Cobb, Chris Archer and newcomer Roberto Hernandez. Of the latter group, I believe that Hernandez will be afforded the opportunity to grab a spot based on his ability to log 200-plus innings, but I believe it will be a competitive spring.
Playoffs are not enough. A power bat gives the Rays a great shot at World Series wins for a few years. Could they acquire Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano from the Yankees for possibly Hellickson plus a Minor League arm -- maybe Archer -- to get the deal done? If ownership wants fans, here's the chance. Bring us World Series championships.
-- Kris B., Osprey, Fla.
Certainly obtaining Granderson or Cano would improve the Rays' offense greatly, but I don't see this happening for several reasons. First, even if the Yankees would trade either player, Tampa Bay can't afford to trade another of its starters. After trading Shields and Wade Davis, the team is already walking a tightrope in relation to the depth of its starting pitching. Next, Granderson and Cano will each make $15 million in 2013 and they become free agents after the season. That's a lot of money for the Rays, particularly when they would not control the player the following season.
With just about all teams in the AL East now being contenders, what are the Rays going to need to do to become another playoff team?
-- Zach F., Longboat Key, Fla.
I think the Rays are already a contending team for the 2013 postseason. However, they will need to stay healthy this year -- particularly Evan Longoria. Everybody knows what the team did with and without their best player last year. If he plays anywhere near a full season, Tampa Bay should be much better on offense. The team will also need to have a healthy starting staff, which I believe is a good possibility given the overall youth of the staff. The Blue Jays are the talk of the AL East, which is deserved given their offseason acquisitions. However, the 1997 Marlins are the only team in recent memory I can recall winning a World Series after having such a makeover. We'll see.