Even though they’ve traded Evan Longoria, more moves should be expected for the Rays before Opening Day, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Rays ownership has directed the front office to reduce payroll, and the team still projects to have a higher Opening Day payroll in 2018 (currently $83.6MM) than it did in 2017 ($70MM). There’s no indication that Tampa Bay has to cut it back to that $70MM level, nor is there a specific target that has been reported in recent weeks. But Topkin notes that the Rays are in a tough position of having to move veterans — possibly Denard Span, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome, Corey Dickerson or Brad Miller — while also still trying to fill out the roster. The bullpen, for instance, is lacking in experience, while Miller is projected to be the first baseman. If the Rays can clear enough cash, it stands to reason that they could reinvest some of those dollars in lower-priced options at those two positions (especially, I’d imagine, if Miller is one of the players to be jettisoned, thus creating a further opening at first base).
A bit more from around the American League as the sports world still buzzes about the Super Bowl…
- Twins right-hander Michael Pineda tells reporters that he threw for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery yesterday, making 30 throws from a distance of 60 feet (video link via the Minneapolis Star Tribune). Pineda, who signed a two-year, $10MM contract with Minnesota, declined to specify which other clubs he considered in free agency this offseason but said the concept of joining the Twins was one that immediately interested him when presented by his agent. The big righty said his expectation is that he’ll be able to get back on the mound before the end of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on July 18, 2017, though obviously there’s a long road ahead of him.
- Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram profiles a number of options for the Rangers as they head into camp uncertain about who will serve as Robinson Chirinos’ backup behind the plate. Brett Nicholas is the front-runner at this time, Wilson notes, though Juan Centeno, Jose Trevino and non-roster invitees Curt Casali and Mike Ohlman are all in the mix as well. Wilson notes that if the decision were to be made on defense alone, the organization would go with the 25-year-old Trevino, who many with the organization feel could be a plus MLB defender now. But, Trevino’s offense cratered in Double-A last year (.241/.275/.323) after a very good 2016 season in Class-A Advanced (.303/.342/.434). The Rangers undoubtedly hope he can be a long-term piece for them, so they’ll likely send him to the minors to further his development.