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The Many Tasks Facing New Rays General Manager Matt Silverman

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There is never a good time for your general manager to leave the team for another job. There are always holes in the roster to be filled, injured players who need be covered, and underperforming members of your roster to be moved along. However, to lose Andrew Friedman three weeks before the beginning of the offseason is difficult to say the least.

Starting after the World Series and continuing until mid-February, the general managers of all 30 teams will begin the challenge of revamping their rosters in the constant quest for postseason play. This is a particularly daunting task for the Rays. They are coming off a losing season with plenty of holes to fill and far from an unlimited checkbook. Given that, let’s take a look at some of Matt Silverman’s biggest challenges as he takes the helm.

Acquire a leadoff hitter: The Rays have had trouble over the years filing certain spots in their offensive lineup. One of them is the leadoff hitter. Last year they used everyone from Desmond Jennings to Matt Joyce to Yunel Escobar and none of them did the job. Very high on Matt Silverman’s list should be to acquire a hitter who can get on base consistently and, when needed, steal a base.

Add more power: The Rays will never be confused with the 2014 Baltimore Orioles when it comes to power, but they can’t be as bad as they were this year. Evan Longoria led the team with 22 home runs and number two was utility man Sean Rodriguez with 12. The Rays hope Longoria will have a more consistent season next year and they also expect Wil Myers to rebound. However, they still need a third power hitter, hopefully left-handed, to join the middle of the order.

Find a second catcher: Ryan Hanigan is an underpriced gem when he is healthy. Unfortunately, he’s out of the lineup too much of the time. The Rays need to find a complementary catcher who can hit over the Mendoza Line and provide adequate defense. In the meantime, they also need to find a way to ease Jose Molina out of his terrible $2.75 million contract for 2015.

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Deal with underperforming arbitration-eligible players: They Rays have a number of arbitration eligible players this off season but none are more questionable than Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Joyce, and Sean Rodriguez. Hellickson was hurt much of last year and ineffective upon his return. The Rays need him as a fifth starter until Matt Moore comes back and they need to build up his trade value. He probably gets a contract. The other two have been marginal to disappointing players over their time with the Rays and we can only hope that someone sees something in them this offseason.

Straighten out Yunel Escobar: I’m not sure if this is a task for Joe Maddon, Matt Silverman, or both, but somebody needs to get Escobar right. When he is into the game, he’s a brilliant shortstop. When’s his head is somewhere else, he’s a disaster. The Rays need to find a way to get Escobar back on track and maybe that requires a serious discussion with Silverman, Maddon, Escobar, and his agent.

Determine Derek Shelton’s role with the team: The last season was not kind to the offensive production of a lot of teams. That certainly includes the Rays who were miserable on offense. Some say the new defensive strategy of shifting players to meet hitter tendencies caused the problems. Others say it’s the steady rise of good hitters on the disabled list. However, two things are for sure. A lot of hitting coaches are being fired and Derek Shelton still has his job. Joe Maddon says that the Rays offensive woes are not Shelton’s fault and he is perfect within the Rays system. Maybe, it’s time for Matt Silverman to challenge the status quo.

Can you have too much pitching? The old saying is that you can never have too much pitching but perhaps the Rays have pushed that too far. Right now the Rays have five starters at Triple-A that have an almost certain major league future. They may not all be starting pitchers, but they will pitch at the big league level. Meanwhile, the Rays have six young starters on their 25-man roster. What happens to the Triple-A guys? Alex Colome is out of options and will be with the team as a starter or reliever but what about Nate Karns, Mike Montgomery, Enny Romero, and Matt Andriese. Do the Rays force them into the bullpen, keep them in reserve at Durham, or trade them for some offense?

How to stock the bullpen: The bullpen is always a puzzle for any team. Relievers are brilliant one year and flame out the next. It sure was that way for the Rays in 2014. Right now the team has Jake McGee, Brad Boxberger and Grant Balfour as sure things for 2015. That leaves four jobs open. Players like Jeff Beliveau and Kirby Yates showed potential in 2014 while Adam Liberatore, Steve Geltz, and C.J. Riefenhauser were dominant at Triple-A. Do the Rays continue to mine baseball’s scrapheap or do they go to the young core of relievers?

That’s a long list and I’ve probably missed a few, but one thing is for sure. If I’m Matt Silverman, I take a look at the tasks ahead of me, kiss the wife and kids goodbye, and tell them to look for me next February.

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