What This Tampa Bay Rays Fan Wants for Christmas

By Peter M. Gordon

Sep 29, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays second baseman

Ben Zobrist

(18) and shortstop

Yunel Escobar

(11) celebrate a win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Tampa defeated Toronto 7-6. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays start this holiday season with their roster largely set not just for 2014 but for 2015 as well. Key starters are locked up with long-term deals and/or options, making the Rays’ set to finally go on a run. If everyone stays healthy, the Rays look like strong contenders in the AL East. Still, there are some areas where the team could improve, and below I’ve written my list of what I’d like Santa Andrew Friedman to leave under my tree this Christmas, right underneath the branches with the team ornaments and the Evan Longoria bobblehead doll.

In my home we have a tradition of asking for one big present and a series of small ones. In the spirit of this tradition, I’m asking Santa Friedman for the following:

1. Keep David Price: If Price goes to arbitration he’ll probably receive a one year salary in the neighborhood of $14 million, even coming off an injury-plagued year. But here at RCG, we have talked about ad nauseum why Price is so valuable to the Rays. Price is both a uniquely talented pitcher, and a leader. Despite his injury, Price still led the team in innings pitched, with 186.2 and led the American League in complete games, lowest walks per 9 innings, and strikeout to walk ratio. He’s one year removed from winning the Cy Young award, and will spend most of 2014 at just 28 years of age. The Rays only have control of Price for two more years–but Price could be the cornerstone of the staff for years for those two years, and that could make all the difference. Keeping him on the roster is my one big wish.

2. A backup third baseman: Evan Longoria led the Rays in home runs and RBI in 2013. That was nice, but there were times during the season that Longoria looked tired and became mired in slumps. The Rays need a back  third baseman good enough in the field to allow Longoria to DH some games and even take a day or two off without risking the defense and putting a hole in the batting order. If that backup can also help out at first, left, and maybe even second and short, so much the better. The Rays made a long-term investment in Longoria, and a good back-up is the best way to protect it.

3. Right-handed DH: The Rays gave Matt Joyce a contract without a position–the only conclusion is that he’s left handed DH and insurance should a corner outfielder go down. The Rays still need a right handed DH who can also platoon with David DeJesus in left and hit more than Sean Rodriguez.

4. Alex Torres as closer: This one may be the easiest to grant. Torres is already on the roster and sure to return in a key bullpen role. If, as it appears now,  the obvious candidates are Jake McGee, Joel Peralta, and newcomer Heath Bell. Torres was arguably the Rays’ most effective relief pitcher in 2013. He didn’t perform as well in his rare save opportunities as he did in other bullpen roles, but with a year of excellent pitching under his belt, this fan thinks he’s the best option for 2014.

That’s all, Santa. This Rays fan isn’t asking for much this Christmas–but if you grant my wish, look for the Rays to make their strongest push for the pennant since 2008.