The Rays have proven that small market teams can win in the American League East. It just takes a lot of talent, careful timing and some good fortune. Tampa Bay faces payroll cuts and the likely free agent departures of Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano this offseason, so president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman knows it's too early to say exactly what will happen this winter. But a few months from now when Friedman looks back at the offseason, he knows precisely what he would like to see.
"That we were able to add a meaningful number of bullpen arms," Friedman told MLBTR. "Some with guaranteed deals, some on Spring Training invites and just have the options in house for us to pick and fill out a bullpen. Also to add a bat or two to the mix that helps balance us out offensively and ideally have an extended term of control beyond just 2011 [for the hitter] in an ideal world. Ideally. You asked for ideally. It may not play out that way; we may get a guy on a one-year deal and that's fine."
The Rays bullpen will look considerably different in 2011, since Soriano, Randy Choate, Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler are all free agents. How does the team address a bullpen that's completely in flux?
"It's a good question," Friedman said. "We don't really know the answer yet in that we have a number of trade targets that we're focused on, we have a number of major league free agents, we have a number of six year [minor league] free agents and [from] some combination of all three of those pools of players, we're going to have to come out of it with four or five bullpen guys that hopefully offer a diversified look and allow us to replicate some of the success we've had recently in the bullpen."
Building a 'pen in the AL East is tough, but the Rays will look for relievers with above average pitches and hope for good luck. They won't necessarily wait around to address the 'pen, but like the Padres, they will probably add relievers later on in the offseason.