The Rays will need to squeeze every last ounce of value out of their existing roster and payroll if they are to make a real bid for the postseason in an incredibly stratified American League. Here’s the latest, with all links to the reporting of Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:
- With some payroll space evidently still available, the Rays have “maintained regular contact” with legendary reliever Craig Kimbrel, Topkin tweets. A successful pursuit remains “unlikely,” per the report. Surely the Rays would only consider Kimbrel on a short-term deal, as the organization has always been careful not to tie up too much future payroll. Whether Kimbrel will ultimately settle for a one or two-year pact — and, if so, what will drive his decisionmaking — isn’t yet evident.
- Two important young Tampa Bay hurlers are making progress in their efforts to return from Tommy John procedures, Topkin further reports (Twitter links). Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon each threw against live hitters for the first time. It was only 15 pitches apiece, but that’s still a good sign that both of these well-regarded young hurlers are coming along. The Rays will likely continue to take things slow, but surely also entertain visions of either or both making an impact as a mid-season call-up.
- Topkin also looks in at Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, whom the team badly needs to turn in a healthy and productive campaign. Soon to turn 29, the rangy outfielder is coming off of a disappointing season at the plate in which he slashed just .217/.282/.370. Kiermaier has averaged barely more than 400 plate appearances annually over the past three years due to a variety of injuries. The maladies have tended to come about in the course of Kiermaier’s hard-charging play, though it doesn’t seem as if the team thinks there’s much to be gained from trying to rein him in. “It’s probably best for us to stay out of the way and keep our fingers crossed that none of the freak things happen,” says skipper Kevin Cash.