Who will replace Alex Cobb?
-- Elias A., Santa Ana, Calif.
Earlier in the offseason, Cobb turned down the Rays' qualifying offer and became a free agent. If Spring Training began today, Tampa Bay would have the following in the starting rotation: Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Jake Faria and Matt Andriese. Looking to find a spot in the rotation would be Nathan Eovaldi, Brent Honeywell, Austin Pruitt and Ryan Yarbrough. While Cobb set a high bar, there are qualified candidates to help fill the void.
:: Submit a question to the Rays Inbox ::
Who will play third base for the Rays? And what are they going to do with all of their outfielders? Also, who will play first? Who will be the designated hitter? What is the starting lineup going to look like?
-- Myles W., Winter Haven, Fla.
Since the Rays traded Evan Longoria to the Giants, they'll need to find a new third baseman for the first time since 2008, when Longoria took over the position. I'm thinking either Matt Duffy or Daniel Robertson will play the position. Tampa Bay will have a lot of outfielders in camp, but they'll be fighting for just one spot -- left field. Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr. will play center and right, respectively. That leaves an open competition among the others, and remember, Corey Dickerson will likely get some playing time in left, too. And speaking of Dickerson, if he's still with the team, he'll likely be the main DH. First base looks like Brad Miller or Jake Bauers. As for the starting lineup, here's a guess: LF Denard Span, CF Kiermaier, RF Souza, 3B Duffy, SS Hechavarria, 2B Robertson, 1B Miller, C Wilson Ramos, DH Dickerson.
Do the Rays expect that Joey Wendle will be starting at second base in 2018? What is the upside for him?
-- Tom W., Philadelphia
The Rays acquired Wendle on the first day of the Winter Meetings in a trade with the A's. He's a left-handed hitter, and Tampa Bay likes that he has a history of hitting along with his defense. According to Rays general manager Erik Neander, Wendle is "really a high-quality defender and is about as reliable as they come." I don't think he's expected to be the starting second baseman, but he bolstered the team's overall infield depth, so he does have a chance to be the guy.
Can the Rays try to mix in key veterans that come at a cheap price, and which free-agent veteran could we see on the roster this upcoming season?
-- Samir F., Tampa, Fla.
While Tampa Bay traded Longoria, I'm still not sure whether the Rays are headed for a total reboot. What happens in the next couple of weeks will likely be a better indication, and that would come in the form of additional trades. Longoria is the only key player they have traded so far. So let's wait and see. What direction they take at that point will likely determine whether they will sign any veteran free agents.
Looking over the Rays' 40-man roster, I see Justin Williams' name among the outfielders. Does he have a chance to make the team?
-- Sam M., Tampa, Fla.
I like Williams a lot. The Rays acquired him along with Minor League infielder Andrew Velazquez in the deal that sent Jeremy Hellickson to the D-backs. I first saw Williams hit during Spring Training on one of the back fields at Charlotte Sports Park, and he made the ball turn small really fast. He hit .301 with 14 home runs and 72 RBIs at Double-A Montgomery last season. So while I like him a lot, I don't think he'll be in The Show this season, as he's earmarked for some time at Triple-A Durham.
Now that Longoria is no longer with the team, what player do you see stepping up and becoming the new face of the Rays?
-- Debra J., Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Good question. I'd have to go with either Kiermaier or Archer. They are talented players, they're personable, they go out and do things in the community, and from what I've seen, they relate well to the fans.
Who will replace Alex Cobb?