The Hot-Stove is officially set to start heating up at the annual MLB Winter Meetings. This year’s gathering will take place at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, starting Sunday, December 9.
The Tampa Bay Rays are planning to add a few impactful pieces to the youthful core that won 90 games in 2018.
The challenge now, as Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) wrote Friday, is actually figuring out how.
And while they have millions to spend, don’t expect the front office to haphazardly throw money around, or commit to a specific payroll number. The Rays also aren’t likely to make upgrades that will muddy the roster, stealing at-bats, or innings, away from players like Jake Bauers or Willy Adames, potentially slowing down their development.
However, senior VP Chaim Bloom and company have made it clear that they would like to seek out a right-handed hitter who can pair with Tommy Pham in the middle of the lineup, a starter — like Noah Syndergaard or Trevor Bauer — who can back American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, and a closer/back-end reliever like Charlie Morton to add to their crop of young power arms.
As I wrote Thursday (linked above), the Rays have some level of interest in the likes of Nick Castellanos, Evan Gattis, Carlos Santana (switch hitter), Andrew McCutchen and Adam Jones, among others. There’s also the potential of adding someone like 38-year-old Nelson Cruz to DH. In the words of Topkin, signing one of the big pieces and trading for the other would seem the most sensible model.
While adding players is a priority, don’t expect the Rays to wrestle away much of their current (or future) group for the benefit of just one season.
The balance that we’re trying to strike is making sure we don’t rest on our laurels and that we don’t walk past opportunities to make the group better and more competitive, Bloom said, but that we also don’t get away from what got us here, which was giving opportunities to players who needed the chance to establish themselves and letting them grow and letting them take the next step in their careers.
At the end of the day, the plan is to have sustained success.
We have a club that we think is capable of competing for the postseason and playing in October, and when you have that those opportunities are not to be taken lightly and they are precious and you want to do everything you can to support those chances, Bloom said. But we also think we’re at a point where this group is capable of doing this not just once, but many times. And that’s our goal is to be consistently competitive. To do that you also have to look at a multiyear picture. One of the things that goes into that is right now we have a very young and very inexperienced team that we think is very talented. As these players go out and perform, performance gets paid in this game. We have to keep that in mind, too, so we can give ourselves the best chance to keep the group together for the long haul. It’s not just about 2019.
It will also be interesting to see if they ink a long-term deal with Snell, who won’t be a free agent until after 2022. The southpaw is the best player on the team, so committing to him long-term is a good idea.
Buckle up, the next five days could be exciting.