The Rays expect to deploy Yandy Díaz frequently at first base during the upcoming season, manager Kevin Cash informed reporters (link via Joe Trezza of MLB.com). He’ll presumably pick up the lion’s share of at-bats there after Tampa Bay dealt Ji-Man Choi to the Pirates at the start of the offseason.
Díaz has plenty of experience at the position, logging just under 1000 MLB innings there. He led the team in first base playing time as recently as 2021 — narrowly topping Choi that season — but spent the bulk of his 2022 campaign at third base. Díaz started only 15 games at first last season and was penciled in at the hot corner on 97 occasions. Public defensive metrics have never rated him especially favorably there. Last season was no exception, with both Statcast and Defensive Runs Saved grading him among the league’s bottom five defensive third basemen.
The 31-year-old is coming off arguably the best season of his career on the other side of the ball, however. Díaz hit .296/.401/.423 with nine home runs and more walks than strikeouts in 558 trips to the plate. The Rays rewarded him with a three-year deal to buy out his final two arbitration seasons and extend their window of club control by potentially two years (including a 2026 club option). He’ll surely be in the lineup on most days and manning first base would lighten his defensive responsibilities while leaving greater opportunities at the hot corner for players like Isaac Paredes and Taylor Walls.
In other news out of Tampa:
- The club won arbitration hearings over relievers Colin Poche and Ryan Thompson over the weekend. After the decisions were handed out, Poche expressed some frustration with the arbitrators who heard his case (link via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times). “I thought my agency, and the lawyers from the Players Association, made a really strong case. I thought we had a good chance,” Poche said. “But that’s kind of what happens when you leave it up to a panel of arbitrators who have experience in the process, but they’re outside the realm of baseball. So there’s a lot of things that maybe we place more importance on that they don’t fully grasp the same level of importance.” The left-hander indicated he felt the panel wasn’t properly suited to value non-closing relievers, in particular, and opined the arbitrators didn’t place enough emphasis on his 23 holds last season. Poche stressed he had no gripes with the Rays or the manner in which they presented their case (as did Thompson), confining his criticism to the arbitrators themselves. Both players had small filing gaps relative to the salaries they’ll wind up making. Poche will make $1.175MM rather than his desired $1.3MM, while Thompson will collect $1MM instead of a $1.2MM filing figure.
- The Rays’ efforts to get a new stadium in the Tampa area took a step forward a few weeks back when St. Petersburg mayor Ken Welch backed the club’s proposal for a redevelopment plan of the city’s Gas Plant district. That doesn’t tie the franchise to the city but sets the stage for continued negotiations. Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times provided an update on the process over the weekend, reporting the city has begun drafting a term sheet that’d commit the Rays to St. Petersburg for an initial term of 30 years if eventually agreed upon. Those drafts have yet to specify any proposed funding commitments between the city, Pinellas County and the Rays’ organization. That’ll obviously be a key issue to hammer out over the coming months, with the process expected to continue well into the summer. Wright notes the city retained a Minneapolis-based law firm last week in preparation for negotiations.
all in the suit that you wear
Rays Fans: Will the Rays offense be better than last year?
Not a Rays fan but given the sheer amount of time missed by key players last year there is definitely reason to believe the offense will be better if Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe and Manny Margot are healthy
GOAT Closer Esteban Yan
I mean, it can’t be much worse than last year. If it stays healthy, it will definitely be better. Will it be enough to take them further in the postseason is another question. I am hopeful that Mead, Aranda, and even Lowe will contribute whenever they’re called up. I do wish they got another lefty bat to balance the lineup.
I imagine the Rays will be watching the waiver wire as training camp winds down looking a lefty bat that doesn’t make a different team
Both Lowes in line up this year adds 2 lefty but really hope top 1B prospect Manzardo can be a June call up that sticks
No. The Rays push a patient approach at the plate that is always at odds with their young hitters. The team will always look lost at the plate.
9 HR for Diaz?
I feel like he hit them all against the Jays last year, at least it feels like it.
824 OPS and only 9 dingers….. impressive
Seriously? I thought he hit ten against the Sox. That’s insane
I don’t understand why the Rays want to build a new stadium in their current location. For most Tampa residents, it is very difficult to get to the existing site due to roadways and traffic. Even if they build a beautiful ballpark there, I fear the charm will wear off quickly with Tampa residents and they’ll be lucky to sell 50% of the seats 2-3 years after the stadium is built.
The Rays really should build their stadium in Tampa Bay. Tampa is a great sports town and sells out both Bucs & Lightning games. The Rays would do the same if they built a ballpark in a better location.
Well first off, the Rays don’t want to build anything, they want other people to build it for them. And since the people in Tampa don’t have any interest in giving the team a few hundred million dollar subsidy they aren’t going anywhere.
Wait until the Bucs need a new stadium & see who ends up paying for almost all of it.
I think the Bay Area has great elected officials and know which owners are engaged and helping build a better community. Lessons learned from Loria in Miami
Just like you, most folks don’t know the difference between Tampa Bay and Tampa. Saint Petersburg is in Tampa Bay, but it’s insanity to think a new satdium there will suddenly fix the problem. If Rays build a stadium in TAMPA, they would have much better attendance.
“Both players had small filing gaps relative to the salaries they’ll wind up making. Poche will make $1.175MM rather than his desired $1.3MM, while Thompson will collect $1MM instead of a $1.2MM filing figure.”
It’s certainly subjective, but I wouldn’t call a 10% and 20% gap small. If anything those amounts matter the most to these types of players.
So is the city of Tampa going to a push for the Rays? All the talk seems to be around St. Petersburg.
Just visited Tampa/St.Pete area
And seeing where the current Stadium is and the amount of Traffic to get there I can see why they have so little fans
I think a move to Tampa would be the smart choice for near and long term success
*so little fans that attend live games.
The Rays are middle-of-the-pack in TV ratings. The fans are there, but the stadium’s location is the main problem.
Pinellas county is already vested and rays will find it much easier to get the deal they want in St Pete vs Tampa. If the Rays were more engaged in local community like Veniks or willing to pay for half the project that would be a different story.
Most fans forget that the size of the TV market central Florida offers. It’s Orlando to Tampa all the way down Ft Meyers. It’s already a Top 10 market and top 5 in growth. NBA in Orlando, Tampa has NHL and NFL with mlb in St Pete