Offseason Preview Part One: The Contracts

With the Rays early exit from the playoffs on Tuesday, it’s now time to look ahead to what could be a very busy offseason for the Rays.

The Rays have a great chance to build around their talented young core to make a run at the championship next season. With Evan Longoria, Matt Moore, Desmond Jennings, and David Price, the Rays have a great young core that could make a run to the championship with the right pieces around them.

As some of my first posts as a staff writer for Rays Colored Glasses, I am starting an offseason preview series of posts taking a look at the upcoming make-or-break offseason. First, we will take a look at the expiring contracts and whether or not the Rays will try to bring them back.

The Pending Free Agents

  • Kelly Shoppach- The recent ALDS game 1 hero is one of the Rays is one of the Rays expiring contracts this offseason. He has had a sucky past two seasons under the current contract, so it would be a complete surprise if they bring him back. He does have a $3.2 million club option, but with a $300,000 buyout it would be hard to believe if they don’t let him go.
  • Kyle Farnsworth- Kyle Farnsworth had an amazing season as the Rays closer. Farnsworth by far had his best season as a big leaguer,  posting a 2.18 ERA and saving 25 games for the Rays. he does have a $3.3 million option for next year with a $650,000 buyout. I would love to see the Rays pick up his option and bring him back while they try to find and groom their next closer. I just don’t see anybody from within that is ready to step into a closer role right now, so I think it would be great to bring Farnsworth back as they continue their search.
  • Johnny Damon- Johnny Damon probably has the most interesting situation of them all. I think the Rays would love to bring him back, but there is almost no chance they would pay him the $5.25 million they paid him this season. He is great for the team as a veteran presence in an otherwise younger clubhouse and he is a local guy, residing in the Orlando area. The question is whether or not they can get him to take a discount to play for the Rays again. His production was slightly down this year, but that is to be expected from a guy who is 37 years old. His production was still pretty good, but I don’t know if it is good enough to be an every day DH in the AL East anymore. We will see if they resign him and what his role would be with the Rays.
  • Juan Cruz- Juan Cruz proved to be a good reliever as a flier this year. He came into the year with severe injury problems, missing all but 5 games in the 2010 season. The Rays did what they do best, taking a flier on him with a minor league contract in February. The signing paid off, as Cruz had a good season, collecting a 3.88 ERA in 48.2 innings as a 7th or 8th inning guy for Joe Maddon. I don’t think the Rays will bring Cruz back as he might be a little to expensive considering they have other players who can take similar roles in the bullpen.
  • Joel Peralta- Peralta, along with Farnsworth, was one of the bigger additions to the bullpen last offseason. He signed a relatively cheap contract for the Rays, a one year deal at $925,000. Not bad considering he became Joe Maddon’s main setup man. Peralta posted a 2.93 ERA for the Rays with 19 holds and 6 saves in 67.2 innings. Peralta was a great guy to come in to get to Kyle Farnsworth this season and was even a good fill in when Farnsworth was unavailable. Peralta will probably pull a Joaquin Benoit from last season and sign with another team for way more than the Rays have to offer. Peralta would be great to have back, but I doubt it is a possibility for the small market Rays. I guess they will just have to take another flier or acquire somebody in a trade to fill that role.
  • Casey Kotchman- Kotchman was the offensive risk of the year for the Rays, posting his best season as a big leaguer with his hometown Rays. He had a .306 average with 1o homers as the Rays everyday first baseman. His defense also proved valuable, making 2 errors all season and having a .998 fielding percentage. Kotchman is not the prototypical first baseman, as he is all average and no power and for that reason I don’t think the Rays will bring him back. The Rays are currently a power-starved offense, so they definitely need a guy with a bit more pop from first base. Kotchman was great, but I just don’t think he fits in with what the Rays need. Hopefully they can get somebody either through trade or free agency that has a bit better of a power bat for first base.

It will certainly be a busy offseason for the Rays, and it all starts off with the expiring contracts and what to do. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, but in the end, I see them only keeping Damon and Farnsworth. Farnsworth is a no brainer with his team-friendly option and Damon can still be a good bat for the Rays, but maybe in a lesser role.

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Tags: Casey Kotchman Joel Peralta Johnny Damon Kelly Shoppach Kyle Farnsworth

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