Line Drives: Jose Lobaton, Emilio Bonifacio, A.J. Burnett

By David Egbert

It’s only a few weeks to spring training and teams are doing last-minute adjustments to their rosters. Let’s take a look at what that tinkering might involve for the Rays.

What’s up with Lobaton? At the end of last season Joe Maddon was praising Jose Lobaton for his improved work behind the plate and at the plate. Then came the offseason and the Rays re-signed Jose Molina to a two-year deal and traded for Ryan Hanigan. Good bye, Jose. Fast forward to February 1 and Lobaton is still with the team, no apparent job and out of options. It seems to be that they will keep Lobaton around for spring training in case either Hanigan or Molina gets hurt. The Rays have no depth at catcher at Durham, certainly no Chris Gimenez-type ready to step in. If everybody stays healthy, they will try to trade him to a team that is not so lucky. Good luck.

A Fit for Bonifacio: In strange move, the Kansas City Royals cut loose Emilio Bonifacio after agreeing to a $3.5 million arbitration deal. It makes room for Bruce Chen who is making roughly the same amount of money. As arbitration deals are not guaranteed, the Royals are on the hook for very little money and Bonifacio is going to be a free agent. He would fit very nicely as the Rays 25th man. He’s a switch hitter, he’s fast, and plays 6 positions–perfect for a Joe Maddon roster spot. He will be in demand and the Rays may not offer enough playing time but he would be a nice addition.

Kicking the Tires on A.J. Burnett: It has been rumored that the Rays were interested in pitcher A. J. Burnett. As he is a rotation starter who will make over $10.0 million if he signs, it is probably little more than a rumor or the Rays just kicking the tires. However, here is a way-out thought: the Rays sign Burnett and trade Price for a bundle of prospects. The money for the two pitchers is about the same, the Rays rotation would still be solid and the Rays could get full value for Price. Crazy? That’s why they call it the hot stove league!

Tutoring Hellickson: Jeremy Hellickson had a rough time last year. He looked nothing like the 2011 Rookie of the Year and was in danger of losing his spot in the rotation. So what has he been doing to up his game in the offseason? Apparently nothing. Certainly no time in Latin America and there were no reports of him living at Tropicana Field with Jim Hickey. Let’s hope 2013 was just a fluke.

The Walking Wounded: The Rays play everything very close to the vest and that is certainly true when it comes to injured players. Going into spring training, the Rays are counting on Brandon Guyer and Juan Carlos Oviedo to take a serious run at making the team. They hope Hak-Ju Lee is going to play a full season at Durham and emerge as the next Rays shortstop. Are any of them going to be on the field as spring training opens? Who knows.

And finally, our old friend Sam Fuld still does not have a job and that’s shame. Pretty soon the free agent musical chairs game will come to end and if you don’t have a chair, you’re out. I hope Sam Fuld ends up with one of those chairs.