Offseason Outlook: Tampa Bay Rays

Next up in our Offseason Outlook series, the Rays.  Their likely 2009 commitments:

C – Dioner Navarro – $413K+
C – Shawn Riggans – $400K
1B – Carlos Pena – $8MM
2B – Akinori Iwamura – $3.25MM
SS – Jason Bartlett – $417K+
3B – Evan Longoria – $550K
IF – Willy Aybar – $402K
IF – Ben Zobrist – $400K
LF – Carl Crawford – $8.25MM
CF – B.J. Upton – $413K
RF – Gabe Gross – $414K+
OF – Fernando Perez – $400K
DH – Jonny Gomes – $1.275MM+

SP – Scott Kazmir – $6MM
SP – James Shields – $1.5MM
SP – Matt Garza – $405K
SP – Andy Sonnanstine – $400K
SP – David Price – $750K

RP – Troy Percival – $4MM
RP – Chad Bradford – $3.5MM
RP – Dan Wheeler – $3.2MM
RP – Trever Miller – $2MM (club option)
RP – Grant Balfour – $500K+
RP – Edwin Jackson – $413K+
RP – J.P. Howell – $400K

Other commitments: Cliff Floyd – $250K, Jeff Niemann – $1.04MM

That’s about $49MM committed, plus arbitration raises to Navarro, Bartlett, Gross, Gomes, Balfour, and Jackson.  Payroll could approach $60MM to bring this group back.  I’m not sure how high the Rays can go, but they started the year at $43.7MM.

The Rays had a middling offense in 2008, but still reached the World Series.  They didn’t hit lefties very well, so it makes sense to acquire a righthanded hitting slugger for right field or DH.  Pat Burrell, Magglio Ordonez, Josh Willingham, and Casey Blake could fit the bill.  Milton Bradley too, if the Rays want to go there.  Matt Holliday is technically available.  The Rays could, of course, expand their search to include lefthanded hitters.

The bullpen could be tweaked, but a major signing is probably unnecessary. 

The Rays are one of the few teams in baseball who can boast of a legitimate starting pitching surplus.  When Jackson and Wade Davis can’t crack your rotation, you’re in good shape.  Trading the arb-eligible Jackson could make sense this winter.  This is entirely speculation, but would Jackson for Ryan Ludwick, Jermaine Dye, or Billy Butler make sense for anyone?

It’s a great time to be a Rays fan – they have a young, affordable, contending club.  Andrew Friedman only needs to tinker this winter.

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