There is an update to the portion of this piece about the middle infield (below).
As the 2015 Grapefruit League season winds down, manager Kevin Cash and the Tampa Bay Rays have a number of roster questions left to settle: Who will fill the final two starting rotation spots? Who will back up Rene Rivera behind the plate? Who will the team slot in behind Asdrubal Cabrera, Logan Forsythe and eventually Nick Franklin? And finally, what will the team do with outfielder David DeJesus? Unfortunately these questions don’t come with the easiest of answers.
With two of their projected five starters (Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly) set to begin the season on the DL, the Rays are looking at a few options — both internally and externally — to join Chris Archer, Nathan Karns, and Jake Odorizzi in the rotation. However, those efforts are mainly focused on replenishing depth, figuring they only need to cover for a month or so. Besides the team doesn’t need a fifth starter until April 14.
Matt Andriese, who got the start Monday, and Mike Montgomery are the leading in-house candidates who remain on the big league spring roster. Burch Smith, who was recently reassigned, is also an option and he can be brought back from minor league camp.
Matt Silverman is reportedly looking outside the organization for a low-cost option, and as Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) wrote, this is the week veterans who aren’t going to make other teams are cut loose. Among a healthy list the Rays appear to be considering are Wandy Rodriguez (in camp with the Braves), Bruce Chen and Shawn Marcum (in camp with the Indians), Clayton Richard (in camp with the Pirates), and the recently released Paul Maholm. In the case of Maholm, the 32 year-old left handed pitcher has previously been connected to the Rays.
Then there’s the backup catcher conundrum between Curts Casali and non-roster invitee Bobby Wilson. Cash discussed the two candidates with Rays Radio on Sunday:
That decision will likely be based on defensive skills, offensive potential and roster flexibility.
I think both of the guys have had good camps, Cash told Topkin. They’ve showed things they needed to show. And we kind of anticipated that would happen. … Both have been outstanding in getting their work in putting their best foot forward.
Cash acknowledged both Casali and Wilson have been on point behind the plate as well:
There hasn’t been a lot of separation there because they’ve both played so well.
Casali, by and large, is the better hitter, although Wilson has more big league experience and a reputation as a strong defensive player. From a roster point of view, Casali would be the most reasonable option since he is currently on the 40-man; a spot would need to be opened for Wilson.
As for who will play behind Cabrera and Forsythe to start the season, despite the poor offensive showing this spring, Tim Beckham seems to be a lock for the spot. After all, Beckham is already on the 40-man roster, and he is more than capable to play either middle infield position.
The decision by Cash is between Jake Elmore, who has more flexibility all over the field, and Alexi Casilla. However, Casilla was just released from his contract — although the Rays could potentially re-sign the infielder who, as I noted previously, has more big league experience at second base. Also working in Casilla’s favor, he is a switch hitter with numbers similar those of Franklin vs. right handed pitching. The Rays will need to open spot for another middle infielder who isn’t currently on the roster.
If you haven’t noticed, opening a spot on the roster is a running theme here. The running assumption has been to deal David DeJesus to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Having said that, a market for DeJesus hasn’t developed — and that’s taking into consideration the teams who sought outfield depth due to injuries. Additionally the team doesn’t seem keen on eating the $6 million he is guaranteed in 2015. As Topkin insisted, barring an outfield injury, they may keep DeJesus — at least to start the season — at the expense of that extra reliever or middle infielder.
In terms of roster decisions, there will be plenty of discussions throughout the week. Still the decisions will likely all come from the Trop, where the team will work beginning on Wednesday. Alas the team will have to drop (and/or risk losing) someone to make room on the roster. There just doesn’t seem to be a clean, creative way to potentially add Wilson, Casilla or Elmore, and a couple of pitchers.
I haven’t even touched on the questions swirling around the bullpen; I’ll speak to them tomorrow.
— Rumor has it the Rays are close to signing LHP Scott Diamond for AAA depth — tacit acknowledgment that Matt Andriese, Nathan Karns and Mike Montgomery could all be in majors. Per Topkin, there is lots of chatter with veteran starters getting released, there there isn’t any indication anything is imminent.