A day after the Tampa Bay Rays 2019 campaign came to an end, Vice President of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom, General Manager Erik Neander, and Manager Kevin Cash met with the media for their annual post-season press conference at Tropicana Field. As the players cleaned out their lockers in ahead the off-season, Bloom, Neander, and Cash note of their optimism going into the 2020 season.
There is an expectation for the young core of players to get even better after gaining another year of experience, including another postseason berth. Moving forward, the likely focus for the Rays brain trust will be more on the now than on the future, as they tinker with the roster to make a really good team even better.
We’re more equipped to compete with what we have right now. As thick as we are right now, I think we’re satisfied with the talent we have.
But I think it’s kind of in our DNA and our mode of preparation that we have an offseason with months to play with and think about things, and we can’t help ourselves but to think about how to make the team better. That’s our job, and we’ll do that. We’ll be open to things. But we do like our starting position here going into the winter.— Erik Neander
With a team that has gone from 68 to 96 wins over a four-year period, not to mention an organization that has one deepest farm systems in the game, Tampa Bay is positioned well for a successful run.
With that in mind, Juan Toribio (MLB.com) listed his four key takeaways from the press conference, which you can read below:
Rays ready to build on postseason appearance
After their first postseason berth since 2013, the Rays enter the offseason as one of the early favorites to contend for the AL pennant in ’20. While they have difficult decisions to make this winter, the front office will operate with the sense that next year’s team is set to contend for more than just a postseason berth.
I think it’s much more that we’re putting ourselves in the territory where we’re expecting to be one of the most competitive and one of the most talented teams moving forward in the American League. And with that, the balancing of your near-term versus your long-term, it shifts a little bit to the present. And, really, that’s the goal.— Erik Neander
It’s no secret that the Rays don’t have the same payroll flexibility as some of the other clubs in the Majors, but they’re going to continue to be resourceful with what they have. Neander said that the Rays have “an idea” of what the payroll will be next season, which will help them in the free-agent market, but it isn’t necessarily a set number.
It’s kind of more of a range, but not something that we’ve gotten into too deeply. I think it’s important to survey the landscape and what our needs are and what’s available, what’s the inventory and then work backwards from there.— Erik Neander
Medical update on Honeywell
Brent Honeywell entered the season as the team’s top pitching prospect, but setbacks from Tommy John surgery ended his season in June. Honeywell has now missed two full seasons, but he’s currently on pace to begin throwing at the start of the year. Honeywell was the only member of the 40-man roster to not pitch for the Rays this season, but the club is optimistic that the right-hander will contribute at some point next season.
The plan all along was that he wasn’t going to throw until around the new year and that remains the case. This kid is as intense and strong of a competitor as anyone we’ve been around, and for him to not taste competitive baseball for a couple of years is tough. But he’s going to get through this and we’ll see how he does once he picks up a ball.— Erik Neander
With a throng of job openings around the Majors, there’s always a chance that the Rays could have some turnover on their coaching staff. Rocco Baldelli and Charlie Montoyo both took managerial jobs last winter — with the Twins and Blue Jays, respectively — and some clubs could inquire about bench coach Matt Quatraro this winter.
Cash said that there could be some interest around the league for some of his staff members and front office personnel, though he’s optimistic about keeping his staff intact.
I don’t anticipate any changes. We have a really good group and a great staff. I think they do a really good job of keeping a positive vibe while helping players get better. There’s probably a lot of discussions out there right now. I would imagine that we have some people on our staff and within our organization that are looked upon very highly. I can’t thank this staff enough for the work this season.— Kevin Cash
The Rays now will prioritize their own needs, like a catcher (if Travis d’Arnaud leaves), a right-handed power hitter (should Avisail Garcia leave), and a key bullpen piece or two.
Still, there is the feeling that the future looks better than ever which is a good place to be as the team looks to build on the successes of the 2019 campaign.
We’re putting ourselves in the territory, where we expect to be one of the most competitive, one of the most talented teams going forward in the American League.— Erik Neander