Now that we have covered who potentially won’t be with the Rays to start the 2012 season, it’s time to take a look at what voids Andrew Friedman and Company need to try to fill. This team is very solid all the way around, but as I mentioned in the last post, they still need a couple of pieces to make a run at the World Series next year.
Rays Team Needs
- Catcher- This one is probably obvious to most of us. The catching situation has been frustrating Rays fans since their World Series run in 2008. Each offseason passes and we wonder what Friedman will do to fill the void. And he never does anything, leaving us with the pain of watching John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach. Well, now that Kelly Shoppach could be leaving the team, is it time to finally find an upgrade? Shoppach was by far the best defender of the three catchers the Rays used most. Jaso had a good bat at times, but he was just unbearable from a catching standpoint. The Rays have a very good chance to acquire a young catcher via trade this offseason, with BJ Upton and James Shields both potentials to leave and bring in big hauls.
- First Base- This was a huge need heading into last offseason, with Dan Johnson looking to be the starter. Then Casey Kotchman emerged. Well now, Casey Kotchman is probably moving on and the Rays really don’t have anybody to step in and fill the void-other than Dan Johnson, of course. First base could be another position the Rays look to fill via trade. If BJ Upton does finally end up going to the Nationals, they have some great prospects at first base, and with Michael Morse having a breakout season last year, they could be willing to part ways with one. If the Rays do bring back Casey Kotchman, the problem would probably be solved from the front office’s stand point, but can a power-starved team really afford a first baseman who hits 10 homers a season? I guess we will just have to wait and find out.
- Shortstop- I wouldn’t really consider this a need as more than a want. The Rays had good defense from the shortstop position this season, but the bats were pretty sub-par. Sean Rodriguez turned it on towards the end of the season at the plate, but is he ready for a full season as a starter? Reid Brignac had a horrible season at the plate, but can he find his level-swing again? They could make a good platoon if both are hitting, but it seems that neither could hit at the same time. I would like to see the Rays pick up a good, veteran shortstop to play when one of them is struggling. Bringing in somebody could replace Elliot Johnson as the super-utility guy and provide a better bat on the bench.
- Designated Hitter- I think we can all agree that the Rays need some pop in the lineup to go with Evan Longoria in the middle of the order. The Rays tried to do that last season by bringing in Manny Ramirez, but we all know how that worked out. They could definitely use a power bat this offseason to help out and give Evan Longoria some better pitches to hit since he would be protected. Filling the DH void should be on the short list of Rays needs this offseason so the Rays can catch their offense up with their amazing starting pitching.
- Relief Pitcher- For the second straight year, the Rays have some big voids to fill in the back of the bullpen. Joel Peralta and Juan Cruz could both be leaving this offseason due to free agency. That means they can either fill from the minors, which they have the depth to do, or they can try to find another veteran looking for a rebound year. I think they could use a good veteran to bridge the gap between Kyle Farnsworth and the rest of the bullpen, like Joel Peralta was last season and Joaquin Benoit was in 2o10.
The Rays have some gaps to fill before next season, but how many they will sufficiently fill through trades and free agency remains to be seen. I guess all of us will just have to wait and see what the Rays do this offseason.