The Winter Meetings are in full swing and the rumors are non-stop. The Rays are no exception. Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Rays are in pursuit of the Miami Marlins’ Yunel Escobar to be their everyday a shortstop, a move that would allow them to move Ben Zobrist to right field and firm up their starting outfield and infield for next season will having designated hitter as their only remaining need. Escobar, who just turned 30, had a poor season for the Blue Jays in 2012, posting a .253/.300/.344 line (75 OPS+) with 9 homers and 5 stolen bases in 145 games, but he had a 105 OPS+ from 2007 to 2011 and is regarded as a good defensive shortstop (3.4 UZR/150), albeit one who suffers lapses of focus. Escobar’s value is at a low point after an off season and the Rays see an opportunity to possibly get him at a reduced value and have a solid starting shortstop for next season, something they haven’t had the last two seasons except for one Zobrist was moved to the positon. Escobar will make 5 million dollars next season with options worth the same value for both 2014 and 2015. He’s a perfect target for the Rays and we’ll have to see if the price is right.
Jon Paul Morosi, Rosenthal’s colleague at Fox Sports, talked about the possibility of the Arizona Diamondbacks trading outfielder Jason Kubel and mentioned the Rays as a possible option. It would be much more exciting for the Rays to acquire a different Diamondbacks outfielder, Justin Upton, but Kubel, who will turn 31 in May, is coming off a great season for Arizona, posting a .253/.327/.506 line (117 OPS+) with 30 homers and 90 RBI and could be a fit for the Rays at left field while also seeing time at designated hitter. Kubel will make 7.5 million dollars with an option for the same value for next season, and the Diamondbacks have no need to trade him except for if they want to give a starting outfield job to prospect Adam Eaton, so it could take a little more to acquire him. However, Kubel would give the Rays a middle-of-the-lineup presence to go along with Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist and could be a player worth acquiring.
The Rays will also be pursuing various free agents, and some of them could be familiar faces. Marc Topkin tweeted that the Rays have retained interest in right-hander Kyle Farnsworth and outfielder Ben Francisco. Both struggled for the Rays last season, but they could be interesting depth pieces at the right price. Roger Mooney also pointed out how the Rays’ trade of Burke Badenhop could lead them to re-sign lefty J.P. Howell. Other potential reunions could be Carlos Pena, Luke Scott, and Jeff Keppinger.
Speaking to Mooney, Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman explained exactly what his mindset is for this offseason.
“My job, my responsibility to the fans, the organization, the people in the clubhouse is to put together as good a team as we can to win championships, so that’s the goal. That’s what we’re trying to do, and we have to be willing to make bold moves and not always take the safe route to give us the best possibility of sustaining this level of success.”
Friedman has his work cut out for him this offseason with plenty of needs to fill through trades and free agency as he hopes to get the Rays set for a playoff run next year, and it will be exciting to see exactly what he will do.