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Inbox: Is a veteran power bat in Rays' sights?

Beat reporter Juan Toribio answers fans' questions
@juanctoribio
January 3, 2020

Do you think the Rays would be able to fit an Edwin Encarnación type on the roster (and give such a player regular playing time) even with Yoshitomo Tsutsugo profiling as a DH type? -- @Jonbecker_ The Rays still have money to spend this offseason, and a good chunk of

Do you think the Rays would be able to fit an Edwin Encarnación type on the roster (and give such a player regular playing time) even with Yoshitomo Tsutsugo profiling as a DH type?
-- @Jonbecker_

The Rays still have money to spend this offseason, and a good chunk of that will likely go to a right-handed hitter. Encarnación was a potential top target until reportedly agreeing to terms with the White Sox last week. He seemed to be a perfect fit for the Rays, who could benefit from a veteran bat that provides a lot of power.

However, to your point, adding a player like Encarnación does limit what the Rays like to do defensively. Where Tsutsugo plays defensively won’t be answered until Spring Training, and he could see most of his time as a designated hitter. In order to make an Encarnación-esque signing work, the Rays would likely have to acquire a more versatile player to complement the roster. Daniel Robertson could be an in-house option, but he would have to prove that he’s ready to bounce back from his struggles in 2019 in order for the Rays to hand him the job.

Are we making the extreme left-handedness (in the lineup) seem like more of a problem than it is?
-- @LobraicoNick

No. If Tampa Bay doesn't make any more moves, having too many left-handed options is a real concern heading into the season. The good news is that the Rays are certainly not done making moves, and it’s hard to imagine them not acquiring a right-handed bat to balance the lineup more.

Are the Rays wanting to use Mike Zunino/Michael Perez this season, or are we going to be looking for another catcher?
-- @SawyerWilson11

As we get deeper into the offseason, it’s becoming increasingly likely that the Rays will enter the season with Zunino and Perez as the two catchers. However, the Rays will continue to explore the market in order to improve at the position, with Willson Contreras earmarked as the splashy target. The Cubs will demand a lot in a deal involving Contreras, and it will be interesting to see if Tampa Bay is willing to engage in those negotiations. It’s important to note that the Rays were looking to acquire J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins last season, but they felt the price tag was too high.

Tampa Bay intended to depend on Zunino and Perez in 2019, but injuries took a toll on the club, which ultimately led to acquiring Travis d’Arnaud from the Dodgers. But if the Rays don’t make any more moves at the position, general manager Erik Neander has said they feel confident in going into the season with Zunino and Perez.

Are there any other relief pitchers the Rays may strike a deal with? I know they’ve been linked to Dellin Betances, but who would be another option?
-- @WillGoellner

The free-agent reliever market is pretty thin this year, and Betances was definitely a name the Rays were interested in before he signed with the Mets on Thursday. It's possible the Rays return their core group of relievers and hope José Alvarado returns to form, which would basically serve as an addition since the left-hander didn't contribute for most of last season. If Tampa Bay decides to bring in outside help, it’ll likely come via a trade or a Minor League deal with a veteran with an invitation to Major League camp.

How many different interpreters will be with the team this year? One for Spanish, one for Korean, one for Japanese?
-- @JArnholz

That’s correct! It’ll be an interesting and diverse Rays clubhouse next season, that’s for sure. Including Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, the Rays have at least one player from nine countries on their 40-man roster. If you know any interpreters looking for a job, demand appears to be high in St. Petersburg.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.