No one expected the Tampa Bay Rays to join the ranks of the free spenders in free agency. Their patience could pay off in the next few weeks.
Unless things dramatically change, the Tampa Bay Rays are never going to be amongst the top spenders in free agency. While they may dabble in the market, looking for bargains or scouring for diamonds in the rough, they are not going to land any of the top players in any given year. At least, that is the conventional wisdom, and would be the case most years.
This has not been like most years. Even the top free agents had their flaws or injury concerns. The Rays were able to ink Wilson Ramos on a reasonable two year contract because of those injuries, giving them a legitimate hitter behind the plate for the first time since…..well, ever. Other top free agents did not sign until the year changed to 2017, and other bigger names are still available.
With Spring Training upon us, and these players till unsigned, the Rays are in a great spot as they look to add to their roster. As the price tag for players like Matt Wieters continues to drop, those needed bats may be out there after all. Likewise, the catcher position, which had been a weakness for so long, could be solved for 2017 by signing the top two catchers on the free agent market.
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It is not just Ramos, and possibly Wieters, that the Rays have benefited from. Colby Rasmus was signed for just $5 Million. Although he was coming off a down year, Rasmus is still a solid outfielder with enough pop in the bat to improve the lineup. Logan Morrison was brought back for less than the league average. And, as the Rays continue to look for another right handed bat, those available players will only get cheaper as time goes on.
This bargain hunting could continue into the Spring as well. Even though the Rays are planning on seeing which players in the system emerge during camp, other roster casualties could be an opportunity for Tampa Bay as well. Depending on which players are cut loose, the Rays could find other options suddenly available.
Typically, at this time of year, teams are sifting through the dirt to try to find that last small nugget of gold. Typically, they find nothing. Occasional chunks of pyrite may appear, looking good at the start of camp until players begin to ramp up for the start of the season. However, this year, there are still a few possible gems available.
The Tampa Bay Rays have been patient this offseason, and that has paid off thus far. With another move or two, this offseason could potentially have turned into the perfect storm.