Tampa Bay Rays Rumors: In Pursuit of Free Agent Hitters

The Tampa Bay Rays are open to signing Jose Bautista. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
The Tampa Bay Rays are open to signing Jose Bautista. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tampa Bay Rays are mulling numerous free agent hitters that could potentially answer their need for another outfielder/designated hitter/first baseman.

So far this offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays have completed just one task off their “to do” list and that was signing a catcher. Remaining though is an outfielder/designated hitter/first baseman with some power who preferably bats right-handed.

Although there are many remaining free agents that fit the requirement, and that could certainly help the Rays, budget wise they do not. However, as the day’s move closer towards the end of the year with spring training around the corner there is hope of an exception.

At the same time, expectations that the Rays can trade one or possible two of their starters for respectable returns that can make an immediate impact. It is important though, that if all fails, the 2017 season becomes a “rebuilding” one and then the “wait till next year” slogan lingers all season long with another offseason of uncertainly.

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Bottom line, the Rays need to make a big move in order to get a big return and there is no time like the present time to do it. It is time for them to take a chance, whether it is making a blockbuster trade or signing a major free agent not named Pat Burrell.

According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays have been looking and have discussed among their baseball guru’s some second-tier free agents. In the group that the Rays are looking at are Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Howard, Brandon Moss and Luis Valbuena – all of whom are left-handed hitters and even right-handed hitters Billy Butler and strikeout king Chris Carter, plus Logan Morrison, whom I didn’t want to include but there is talk of bringing him back for round-two.

Of those mentioned above, they would all be low budget acquisitions with what I would call a below return investment. Most of them are second-tier for a reason and I know that the Rays have had success in the past with those types, but if getting back into contention is one of their priorities, then they must do it right.

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I am intrigued tough with Moss and Carter. Moss has bounced around with six different organizations in ten years of major league service. In each stop (Boston – where it all started, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Oakland, Cleveland and St. Louis) Moss has averaged 25 home runs, 76 RBIs and a slash line .241/.319/.455/.773. Lest I forget an average of 152 strikeouts per season… and that comes with better production playing in the American League.

Despite leading the majors in home runs in 2016 with 41, Carter was non-tendered by the Brewers and there is no doubt he would be a legitimate home run threat anytime at the plate, as would a strikeout. Carter has averaged 206 per season with a slash of .218/.314/.463/.777 in seven major league seasons with Oakland, Houston and Milwaukee. In 2016, his home runs and RBIs (94) were career highs as were the 160 games played while hitting .222.

The biggest news though is that the Rays could go all out by giving up their competitive balance draft pick, No. 31 overall to sign Jose Bautista. That is however under one condition – that Bautista would be will to give the Rays a big, and I mean big hometown discount.

"“I think we’re at a position where we feel like we need to at least play it forward and take a crack at it,” GM Erik Neander said. “If the interest and market dictates that we go a different direction, we have to consider it and trust our evaluations. But we believe in a lot of the players we have.”"

Bautista lives a stone’s throw away (okay, a little bit further) from Tropicana Field where he would have the luxury of sleeping in his own bed, being around his family and friends and not having to pay state income tax.

Even though Bautista had a sub-par season, he still hit .234/.366/.452 in only 116 games with 517 at-bats with 22 home runs and 69 RBIs. However, if the Rays could come up with a very heavy incentive-laden one-year contract, Bautista could reap the benefits of returning to free agency and getting the big bucks in 2018.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Rumors: Interest for Colome, Starters

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As always when it comes to the Rays, they can continue to wait to sign a free agent hoping that the price comes on said players down even further. Unfortunately, the wait could result in a smaller pool of players.