The Rays have one clear priority for the offseason, writes MLB Insider Jim Bowden (via Twitter). They’ve let the other 29 teams know: they need catchers. That’s been the case for the Rays most offseasons. Tampa has long been unable to find a long-term solution at the catching position. Rays catchers (Mike Zunino, Michael Perez, and Kevan Smith) finished 25th in the Majors by bWAR in 2020 with -0.3 bWAR. None of the three are currently employed by the Rays, as Perez was selected off waivers by the Pirates, and Zunino and Smith are free agents. Ronaldo Hernandez currently sits atop their depth chart, and while the Rays have high hopes for the slugging 23-year-old, he has yet to appear above High-A. The free agent market isn’t likely to offer a ton of options for the Rays’ price range. Speculatively speaking, if they do go the free agency route, a reunion with Zunino might make the most sense. Other options they could consider include Matt Wieters, Tyler Flowers, Sandy Leon, Robinson Chirinos, and Alex Avila.
- Bowden (via Twitter) also enumerates the Royals plan for the winter: acquire a starting pitcher, middle-of-the-order bat, and centerfielder. They also want to improve their overall on-base percentage, notes Bowden. The Royals tied with the Mariners for 25th in the Majors with a .309 OBP. A team 7.8 BB% also tied for 25th in the Majors. To this point, Hunter Dozier (.344 OBP) and Salvador Perez (.353 OBP) were the only Kansas City regulars with an on-base percentage over .330. Outfield prospect Khalil Lee might provide an internal solution. The 22-year-old walked at a rate of 11.9% in Double-A in 2019, and the oganization holds him in high regard.
- The Rangers will give Sherten Apostel a look at first base in the lead-up to the season, per Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Apostel has come up as a third baseman, though at 6’4″, 235 lbs, there’s at least a question of whether he’d fare better defensively at first. Still, the Rangers believe he can stick at third, per Wilson. The issue is more that Isiah Kiner-Falefa is fresh off a Gold-Glove-winning season, and in the long-term, top prospect Josh Jung profiles for the hot corner. In the short term, Ronald Guzman could be unseated at first after slashing just .230/.308/.417 over 809 plate appearances the past three seasons. His 0.9 bWAR per 650 plate appearances doesn’t scream stability at first. Apostel, 22 in March, got a cup-of-coffee in 2020, though he’s likely to start the year in Triple-A. If he starts hot, however, the Rangers could make room for him at first.