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Tampa Bay Rays: Shortlist of Potential Needs for 2017

By Althea Pashman
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The offseason is just days away for the Tampa Bay Rays and with that, the work begins on the team’s needs for the 2017 season.

The Tampa Bay Rays 2016 season will be unforgettable in many ways as it unfortunately brought back excessive memories and results of the “Devil Ray” days.

To put it bluntly, the season was unbearable. The high hopes of contending for a postseason berth spiraled downward so fast it would be impossible to recover.

For the first time since 2007, when they were the Devil Rays, the Tampa Bay Rays will have lost more than 90 games, will have fallen to 25 or more games under .500 and have tied for the fourth worst home record.

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There was a bit of brightness however, though some dark clouds covered that up for which little will be spoken of when things are all said and done.

For the first time in club history, the Tampa Bay Rays have four 20-HR hitters in Evan Longoria, Brad Miller, Corey Dickerson and Logan Forsythe.

To put this year behind, Tampa Bay Rays President of Operations Matt Silverman will have somewhat of a long list of offseason “honeydews” to get the team back on track.

More than anything, Silverman needs to address the bullpen this offseason.

So far this season, the relievers have combined for a 19-33 record with a 4.23 ERA.

While it may have looked as though the relievers were always on the mound, their workload was actually seventh best in the majors with 487 innings pitched.

Alex Colome proved to be a lights out closer after stepping into that role, Xavier Cedeno continued to be one of the best lefty relievers.

Danny Farquhar returned from a stint in the minors with a newfound dominance and Matt Andriese by far excelled out of the pen versus his time as a starter.

Chase Whitley returned from Tommy John surgery has looked impressive in his relief role, though he is a starter. Eddie Gamboa a knuckleballer been satisfactory, but questionable for long-term.

Erasmo Ramirez was unstoppable in April but fell to earth with a disastrous May and June and Brad Boxberger fell from the top of the mountain as one of the most dominating closers to a man looking for answers.

As for the rest of the bullpen, not much remained in the tank.

Over the course of the season Tyler Sturdevant, Ryan Webb, Dylan Floro, Jhan Marinez all had their opportunities, but could not do much. Enny Romero and rookie Ryan Garton weren’t the answer, nor was Dana Eveland

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Steve Geltz yielded 10-HR through his first 20 appearances and eventually optioned to Triple-A before returning in September.

Kevin Jepsen returned in early July to provide some stability to the bullpen, but he was not enough to combat the problems.

With the Tampa Bay Rays payroll limitations, signing a free agent reliever will not be easy.

However, the Rays do have the potential to acquire a reliever via a trade, but it will likely cost them a starter (Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi or Matt Andriese). On the other hand, they could come from the minors or possibly out of the rotation.

First things first, if Silverman trades a starter Brent Honeywell, or Jacob Faria could join the rotation. Another scenario would be moving Andriese and or Smyly to the bullpen on a full-time basis.

The other area in dire need is the catching, the one position that the Rays have always had difficulty filling.

Hank Conger lasted until the All-Star break before being optioned; Curt Casali, Luke Maile and Bobby Wilson all have their deficiencies, with Maile showing the most defensive promise. Offensively though all are inadequate.

However, there is promise down the road with Justin O’Conner (Montgomery) and Nick Ciuffo (Charlotte) but neither can be counted on for 2017.

Therefore, that leaves a free agent signing – where there will be good number of potential candidates available. Headlining the list is likely to include Josh Thole, Matt Wieters and Jason Castro among others.

Another area, though not necessarily a primary need is to add a power-type/defensive first baseman.

The jury is still out on whether or not Brad Miller is the answer at first, though from an offensive standpoint his numbers are that of a first baseman. However, his defense remains the 64,000-dollar question.

It is doubtful that Logan Morrison will be re-signed, so that leaves Richie Shaffer who could have the inside track, but currently is more of a platoon player.

On the other hand, the Rays do have some internal options in Casey Gillaspie or Jake Bauers.

Gillaspie the Rays Minor League Player of the Year could challenge, with Bauers being a long shot.

Finally, regards the corner outfield positions where more production that is offensive is needed. Corey Dickerson despite his late season power-surge and Steven Souza Jr. have not produced as expected. Dickerson cannot hit left-handed pitching, Souza strikeouts too much and staying healthy is a concern as well.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Work Needed on Bottom Half of Lineup

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Mikie Mahtook and Jaff Decker are clearly platoon players, with not much offense – thus leaving the Rays to look within the organization (Johnny Field, Dayron Varona, and Jake Goebbert at Durham) or through trades/free agency.

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