Several Storylines Surrounding Rays
Less than one week into spring training, Rays manager Kevin Cash feels good about his 2017 squad. Whether you take his “We are in a good place” words as simple optimism or something deeper one thing is for sure; the Rays have had the busiest off-season in franchise history. An off-season that provides these five storylines.
1) Will Matt Wieters join the Rays?
It’s no secret that the Rays have been linked to the four-time all-star. Reports indicate that the Rays have made a low-ball offer in an effort to capitalize on the market. In 2016 Wieters earned $15.8M. Clearly the Rays are not in position to offer anything in that vicinity. However, if the Rays were able to land Wieters it provides the team with several promising scenarios.
One, Wieters fills in for the injured Wilson Ramos until his return from knee surgery, then providing the team with a valuable switch-hitting first baseman. Two, the Rays could dangle him as trade bait if he gets off to a hot start. A contending team in need of an upgrade at catcher, a veteran presence, or a switch-hitter could yield a hefty prospect-haul. The Brewers acquired three of the Rangers’ top-10 youngsters in last summers deadline deal for Jonathan Lucroy.
2) Can Alex Cobb regain No.1 status?
In the two seasons prior to his injury Alex Cobb had elevated himself into top-tier status. His 2.76 ERA in 2013 would have been good for eighth in all of baseball had he reached the required innings pitched. In 2014 he posted the sixth lowest ERA (2.87) in the AL.
Entering 2015, his age-27 season, Alex Cobb appeared ready to solidify himself as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. The Rays are hopeful that his struggles last season after returning from Tommy John surgery were a mere hiccup and not a sign of what is to come. The Rays will surely be keeping a close eye on him during spring training.
3) Will Brad Miller succeed at second base?
The trade of Logan Forsythe to the Dodgers opened up a starting spot up the middle. Primarily a middle-infielder, the Rays tried Miller’s hand at first base last season. Miller is no stranger to defensive struggles, twice finishing in the top-5 in errors committed. The move to first base covered up several inefficiencies.
Plus, the thought of a 30 homer second baseman is very appealing. After all, the Dodgers were linked to Twins slugger Brian Dozier prior to inking Forsythe. Dozier (42) was one of only three second basemen with more home runs than Miller (30) in 2016. Now in Port Charlotte, he has committed himself to his new position, but will the Rays commit to him at the position for a full year if his defensive woes continue.
4) How will Chris Archer bounce-back?
Had you mentioned at the beginning of last season that the final win-loss record for Archer would include the number 19, the loss column is not where you would have placed the number. His 19 losses were tops in the majors. Just one year after an all-star selection and a top-five finish in the Cy Young race, Archer fell flat. There is cause for concern here. Even if you remove last season entirely, over the course of his previous three full seasons (31 wins, 29 losses) Archer was not able to record more than 12 wins in a single season.
His 10.4 K/9 suggest that the ability to dominate a game is present. However, he gave up a career high 30 HR in 2016. His fly ball percentage didn’t peak, just the number of homers. This could simply be a case of him trying to change something that didn’t need to be changed. Quite literally, Archer threw his changeup 6.7% of the time in 2015. Last year that number jumped to 11.3%. You can expect to see a high compliment of fastballs and sliders in 2017.
5) Is Kevin Cash on the hot-seat?
Last season the Rays lost 94 games. That’s the most since the team stopped calling themselves the Devil Rays. Surely Cash had some big shoes to fill when Joe Maddon left for Chicago – you know he did just end a 108 year world series drought. Cash was selected to manage this team with zero experience, typically that buys you a few years. According to Marc Topkin, even during rough times last year his job seemed safe.
The front office shake up mixed with a gluttony of transactions in the off-season show that the team is aware of the adjustments needed. If the Rays have another 90-loss campaign the next adjustment might be of the managerial variety.
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