As I have mentioned in my offseason preview posts, the Rays have a huge offseason coming up after the World Series ends. One of their bigger decisions will be what to do at first base. This was one of the bigger questions last offseason, and the Rays didn’t really do anything. They decided Dan Johnson was the best option and signed Casey Kotchman as insurance. Luck for the Rays, when Dan Johnson bombed like many people expected, Kotchman stepped up in a huge way. Kotchman finished with a .306 average and 10 homers in 146 games as the Rays starting first baseman.
Now the Rays have a decision to make. The Rays signed Kotchman to a one year minor league contract at the start of the season. After a season like he had he is sure to demand a lot more than that this offseason is. The question is, can the power starved Rays afford to have a contact first baseman? I think not. The Rays have only one real power threat in the order right now, and that’s Evan Longoria. Sure, Ben Zobrist can hit 20 out of the park and Joyce showed power last season, but the only guy who proved to be a consistent threat was Longo. First base is a major power position, and for a team with as little power as the Rays have, you really need a guy at first who can hit 30 homers. Sure, Kotchman was productive for the Rays last season, but it wasn’t the kind of production the Rays needed. They need run production, and Kotchman’s ten homers and 48 RBI’s just don’t get that done.
Casey Kotchman was a great find for the Rays last season, having a very surprising year after struggling for the last few seasons bouncing around the big leagues. Kotchman was a great story, but I think he was only a temporary fix while the Rays try to find a full time fill to the void. That could come via trade or free agency during the offseason.
The Rays have plenty of trade opportunities this offseason, so it would be very easy to ask for a Major League ready first baseman in any trade that could potentially be made. The Rays could also look into guys like Michael Cuddyer or look to bring back Carlos Pena. Pena was great for the Rays and will be a free agent once again this offseason. With the Cubs potentially making a run at Prince Fielder, Pena could be looking to find a new team. Pena doesn’t have the average Kotchman has, but he certainly has the power the Rays need. He had a better season with the Cubs last season and we all know he loved being a Ray, so he could be the option. He would cost more than he ever did, but it could be worth it.
We will just have to wait and see how the Rays play this offseason, but I think re-signing Casey Kotchman just isn’t the best option for the Rays this offseason.