Although the Rays have picked up a pair of right-handed hitters in Carlos Gomez and C.J. Cron since last weekend, they could add another outfield-capable righty-swinger, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. One free agent who might draw their attention is Jose Bautista, who’s “keenly interested in playing for the Rays, presumably knowing it would be for a low salary,” Topkin writes. The 37-year-old Tampa Bay resident has long been a rival of the Rays, having played with the Blue Jays from 2009-17. While Bautista was a terror for opposing pitchers for the majority of that run, he’s now coming off his worst year in nearly a decade, which helps explain why he remains on the market. Bautista took 686 trips to the plate in 2017 and batted a subpar .203/.308/.366, albeit with 23 home runs.
More on Tampa Bay and two of its AL East rivals:
- The Rays have recently parted with several notable veterans, including Evan Longoria, Steven Souza Jr., Corey Dickerson and Jake Odorizzi, but their front office insists they’re not tanking and never have, as Topkin details in a separate piece. Rather, according to general manager Erik Neander: “This is a season, as things stand now, where on paper we’re somewhere in that middle territory yet again. But what’s been building underneath is getting awfully close to colliding with what’s a middle-of-the-pack team. And when those things come together, you’ve got a chance for something special.” And even though the Rays finished under .500 in each season from 2014-17, Neander believes there was serious progress behind the scenes. “As our teams have been kind of treading water, there’s been that wave that’s really building, really coming together, probably even better than I think we expect it,” Neander said. “It’s about there.”
- In-house issues prevented the Orioles from signing free agent infielders Ryan Flaherty and Ryan Goins during the offseason, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Flaherty was with the Orioles from 2012-17 and wanted to re-sign with the club, even showing a willingness to take less money than he did to join the Phillies. Philadelphia made Flaherty an offer with a three-week deadline to accept it, but he wanted to hear from the Orioles before taking it. The O’s then submitted a counteroffer, though it “didn’t get club-wide approval in time to meet the Phillies’ deadline,” Encina writes. As a result, he said yes to the Phillies’ minor league proposal. Given that Flaherty has a late-March opt-out in his deal, it’s possible he’ll hit the market again and rejoin the Orioles before the season, Encina notes. Like Flaherty, Goins also settled for a minor league pact (with the Royals). However, he actually was set to sign a major league contract with the Orioles beforehand, according to Encina. Orioles ownership didn’t approve it in time, though, leading the former Toronto utilityman to head to Kansas City.
- Red Sox reliever Robby Scott has changed representation and is now a client of Meister Sports Management, Rob Bradford of WEEI tweets. The 28-year-old, who’s currently vying to open the season as Boston’s top left-handed bullpen option, tossed 35 innings of 3.79 ERA ball and notched 7.82 K/9, 3.28 BB/9 and a 42.6 percent groundball rate in 2017. He won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2019 campaign.