The Rays find themselves in a difficult position as the 2011 season approaches. Forced to cut payroll, they've lost Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, (presumably) Rafael Soriano, and most of their bullpen to free agency, and traded Jason Bartlett as he approaches his final arbitration year.
Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times looks at some of the issues left to be addressed as the Rays begin bargain shopping this offseason:
- The Rays have added some bullpen pieces in Joel Peralta, Adam Russell, Cesar Ramos, J.P. Howell, and Rule 5 pick Cesar Cabrel, but they'll still need someone to pitch the ninth and probably the eighth, Topkin opines. He lists some potential candidates as Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, Kevin Gregg, Trevor Hoffman, Grant Balfour, and Chad Qualls as options. Remember, the Rays also have Jake McGee.
- There's not much in terms of affordable names for the Rays on the market. Some clarity will be brought to the issue once Adam LaRoche and Derrek Lee sign. Topkin mentions Casey Kotchman as a speculative option. Dan Johnson is a fallback if the team can't find an upgrade.
- Johnson is also a backup plan at designated hitter, but the Rays have options at designated hitter, with Johnny Damon, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Jason Giambi on the market.