Tampa Bay Rays Rumors: Continue to Explore Doable Options

Sep 27, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Chris Carter (33) is congratulated by his teammates in the dugout after hitting a two run home run in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 27, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Chris Carter (33) is congratulated by his teammates in the dugout after hitting a two run home run in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

It has been a busy January for the Tampa Bay Rays and it does not look as though it will be slowing down anytime soon as the team continues to explore their options to fill their remaining needs.

Bargain hunting is where the Tampa Bay Rays are as the days draw closer to the start of spring training. The rumors continue as many teams maintain their interest in starter Jake Odorizzi and closer Alex Colome.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports via Twitter reports that the Rays continue to “draw interest” on Alex Colome, but the club feels “no urgency” to deal the right-hander who saved 37 games last season.

Early on this offseason, Colome had been linked to the Washington Nationals as a replacement for Mark Melancon however, they are also showing interest in Greg Holland.

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At the same time, the Rays carry on to explore their options for second base, add another fixture in the bullpen and of course, find that elusive right-handed bat. Finding that right-handed bat could certainly come at anytime, though Jon Heyman reports that Chris Carter is on not only the Rays list, but the Texas Rangers as well.

The Rays do have a bit of extra cash available ($8.5 million) since they traded Logan Forsythe, which they certainly can use to sign Carter and or Napoli. Heyman states that the Rays a looking for a “steep bargain” and that both teams are offering low base salaries, possibly adding incentives to up the ante.

Jon Heyman of FanRag reports point out Napoli is not happy with the Rangers offer (only one-year) and that talks have cooled off – meanwhile, the Rangers signed former Ray’s first baseman James Loney to a minor league deal, which could mean they are willing to move on without Napoli.

With the Indians last season, Napoli hit .239/.335/.465 with 34 home runs and 101 RBIs in 150 games, but struggled down the stretch (.140, 13-for-93, 5 HR, 13 RBIs) and in the postseason (.173, 9-for-52, 1 HR, 3 RBI). Regardless of that, Napoli was not offered a qualifying offer from them. Varying reasons could be given his age (35) and that his defense at first base declined according to Fangraphs (13 errors, DRS -4) in 2016.

Chris Carter is not busting down any fences yet, but as time dwindles down, he may not have any choice but to sign with the team that is willing to give him the best opportunity, which is looking more and more like the Rays.

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Over the last four seasons, Carter has averaged over 30 home runs and besides his abilities to play first base, he can play the outfield corners.

Yes, he had a career year in 2016 belting 41 homers and driving in 94, in his first season of being given a full-time role.

However, defensively he is a liability at first base. Baseball-Reference.com tells the picture nice and clear (-19 DRS, 31 Errors) in 384 career starts (3402.2 innings, 3537 chances), so I doubt that Carter would be a lock to play first every day.

Nonetheless, in 192 games as a designated hitter, Carter’s has hit .232/.319/.502 with 50 home runs and 122 RBIs – the highest batting average and highest slugging percentage in his career.

It is feasible for the Rays to give him a two-year, incentive laden deal say in or around $3 to 5 million annually, though they’ll probably opt to a one-year, incentive laden deal and cash-in at the trading deadline if he is having a super productive year.

A new interest for the Rays could be Los Angeles Angels first baseman C.J. Cron, who could be dealt for the right piece, which would be starter Jake Odorizzi. Luis Valbuena was just signed to a two-year deal and GM Billy Eppler via a conference call to reporters (Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register and Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times), said that Valbuena will play at good chunk of the season at first base and Cron will have to fight for playing time.

Cron is not going to knock down the fences like Carter or Napoli would, but he does fit the Rays mold, as he has not reached arbitration and is under team control for four more years before reaching free agency – more importantly, he is very affordable (less than $600,000).

Offensively, he is not your home run hitter but he does have the ability to hit 20-25 four-baggers and drive in runs. In 2016, he hit .278/.325/.467 (all career-highs) with 16 home runs, 69 RBIs in 445 plate appearances.

On the other side, Cron is defensively sound as a first baseman, having committed just six errors in 818.2 innings (815 chances) in 2016, with a (DRS 3). Career wise; in 176 starts at first (1471 chances in 1530 innings, 191 games), he has committed just 13 errors, though his defensive runs saved sits at -7.

The Angels rotation was decimated last season by injuries as C.J. Wilson did not throw a single pitch, ace Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney missed the majority of the season due to elbow injuries, and Nick Tropeano underwent Tommy John surgery.

C.J. Wilson is gone as is Jared Weaver… and although Richards is expected to return at some point this season, the Angels are left with question marks concerning Matt Shoemaker who was hit in the head by a line drive in September, and their three remaining projected starters give the Angels a very thin rotation.

Odorizzi would certainly help the Angels, but Cron alone will not make this deal happen and from the looks of the Angels farm system they may not have any pieces that the Rays would be interested.

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The reason being is the majority of their prospects have been given a grade of C to C+, which are players that do have some positives, but have question marks and are likely too far away from the majors.