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Inbox: When will Lee, Beckham take over middle infield?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers Rays fans' questions

With Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist holding down the middle infield, how long will it be before we see Hak-Ju Lee and Tim Beckham playing regularly for the Rays?
-- Brandon D., Clearwater, Fla.

Lee missed most of 2013 because of a knee injury, while Beckham managed to make it to the Major Leagues for the first time at the end of the season. Based on the fact that Escobar has one year remaining on his deal with the Rays, it's certainly feasible to speculate that the timing would be right for Lee to contend for the shortstop job in 2015. Obviously, Beckham plays shortstop, too, and could also contend for the job.

As for Zobrist, the Rays picked up his $7 million club option for 2014, and I would expect them to pick up his $7.5 million option for 2015 after the season. So there are a few variables in place, but I would say both Lee and Beckham, who are both among the club's Top 20 Prospects, according to, should definitely be in the mix by 2015. I also would expect to see Beckham on the roster at some point during the coming season.

Do the Rays have any plans of trading David Price?
-- Matt S., Longboat Key, Fla.

Honestly, I don't think the Rays have a set plan. Instead, I think they are open to listening -- which is a good thing. Given the fact that Price is two years away from free agency, there is no pressure on them to trade their best pitcher. They are not an organization that publicly states their intentions, so I'm giving you my opinion here. Do I believe Price is available? Definitely. But I don't believe they would be that disappointed to have him standing on the bump wearing a Rays uniform on Opening Day.

If that's the worst-case scenario, the Rays will be in a position to listen to what other teams might have to offer. Obviously, they have gone this route in the past with Matt Garza and James Shields. In both cases, they obtained prospects that have perpetuated the organization's fountain of youth. Possible suitors for Price would include teams with nice revenue streams -- because I believe they would want to lock up the left-hander to a long-term deal -- and prospects.

Is it time to release Sam Fuld (Mendoza line) from the 40-man roster? I prefer to see Mikie Mahtook or Kevin Kiermaier on the active roster out of Spring Training.
-- Christopher C., Tampa

First, it's tough to judge a bench player's value by his batting average. Ask any player and they will tell you that not playing on a regular basis makes putting together representative numbers a difficult proposition. Fuld gives the Rays a reliable extra outfielder, who plays solid defense, can pinch-run, can pinch-hit, is great in the clubhouse and, though his average is low, puts together solid at-bats. In addition, Mahtook and Kiermaier appear to be earmarked for everyday play. Unless they are ready to start at the Major League level, it's likely the organization will want both to play every day down on the farm.

What is this love affair with Jose Molina? Cheap catcher and works well with young staff, but NO OFFENSE? Aren't there better alternatives out there?
-- John Akers, Colorado

How come we bench B.J. Upton for not hustling, but when Molina never hustles a bit, he plays every game? I believe Molina and Prince Fielder are about the same size, and [Fielder] hustles every play. I know Molina is a catcher and his knees hurt, but if you can't run, then retire.
-- Ronnie I., Wildwood, Fla.

Molina is a popular topic for Rays fans. Here's the best I can come up with: The Rays like what they get from the veteran catcher in the way of run prevention, simple as that.

With the season Jamey Wright had, what team does he end up with, assuming he does not retire?
-- Joe, Kansas City

The veteran right-hander is a free agent after making $900,000 in 2013. Based on the fact the Rays liked having him and the fact he is a good value and can still pitch, I would think there's a good chance they would be interested in bringing him back, if he does not retire.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for

Tampa Bay Rays, Tim Beckham, Yunel Escobar, Sam Fuld, Kevin Kiermaier, Hak-Ju Lee, Mikie Mahtook, David Price, Ben Zobrist