John Romano of the St. Petersburg Times recently wrote that the Rays are one bat away from the World Series. I would agree, but the question is, which bat can they get? There are still a lot of good bats on the market, but it will all depend on how much the Rays are willing to spend to get the bat.
What exactly do the Rays need? The Rays need a big power bat to stick between Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist in the order. If the Rays can find a good bat to stick behind Longo, it will make the entire Rays lineup better. Longo will see better pitches to hit since pitchers will fear the guy behind him more than they did last year, which could be why we saw Longo’s numbers drop off.
Of the bats still on the market, I would love to see the Rays go after Carlos Pena. Pena would kill two birds with one stone, with his amazing power numbers and his great glove at first. Pena had a bounce back season last year for the Cubs, batting .225 with 28 homers. The Rays know by signing Pena they would get a guy who would hit right around 30 homers and could win a Gold Glove. Not only would Pena be a great bat for the Rays lineup, but we know he was a great clubhouse guy from when he was with the team previously and he was a fan favorite. I think it would be great if the Rays could bring back C-Los, but it will all depend on whether the Cubs will re-sign him.
If the Rays are unable to get Pena, I would move on to Derrek Lee or a DH. Lee is the next best first baseman available in the Rays price range. He is getting up there in years at 36, but still has a pretty decent bat and a very good glove. Last season Lee hit .267 with 19 homers for the Orioles and Pirates. Still pretty good production and he would most likely come cheaper than Pena. The Rays could most likely sign him to a one year deal and go from there.
On the designated hitter front, the Rays could always bring back Johnny Damon. Damon does not posses the power the Rays need, however, so I could only see this happening if the Rays sign a power first baseman, like one of the two I mentioned above. One interesting contender for DH could be Vladimir Guerrero. It doesn’t matter how old he gets, he just continues to hit. Last season for the Orioles Vlad hit .290 with 13 homers. The power numbers are a little low, but just a season earlier he hit 29 homers for Texas. The power potential is still there and Vlad could be right in the Rays price range for a DH.
One thing I did not discuss is trades. The rumors are rather quiet lately, but something could come out of nowhere, as is known to happen with the Rays front office. Earlier in the offseason the Rays were supposedly in trade talks with the Rangers for a Mitch Moreland-Wade Davis swap. That trade would be a win-win, as the Rays would unload one of their starters and get a young, power hitting first baseman. The Rays need to try to find a deal like that so they don’t have to deal with the thin free agent market.