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Could The Rays Add More Free Agents?

photo: Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Rays

Rays fans needn’t worry: Nelson Cruz will not be in a Tampa Bay uniform as a player to start the 2024 season.  But there are plenty of players that are still waiting to see where they might have an opportunity to contribute this year.  After signing infielders Amed Rosario and Yu Chang Tuesday, could the Rays still look to add more pieces to the team?

Any Chance The Rays Sign One Of The “Boras Five?”

In a word: no.

Super-agent Scott Boras has come into the spring with five of his biggest clients in the free-agent market still unsigned: left-handed pitchers Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell, third baseman Matt Chapman, outfielder/first baseman Cody Bellinger, and designated hitter J.D. Martinez.  The first four of those players were expected to get some of the biggest contracts of the off-season given to a player not named Shohei Ohtani.  Now that Spring Training camps have started for every team, and games are slated to start by the end of the week, you’d think perhaps the asking price has come down for them.  But according to most baseball insiders, the cost of signing one of those players is still at a level that teams don’t want to approach, and so instead of being in a camp with a team, they’re all working out at Boras’ facility and waiting for the phone to ring.

Eventually, Montgomery, Snell, Bellinger, and Chapman will ink deals and report, but I don’t foresee any of them getting even close to a point where the Rays would be interested.

Martinez is another story, because I think he is at a point in his career where the Rays could be interested.  He’ll turn 37 during the season, and has already agreed once to a one-year deal, doing so with the Dodgers last season for $10 million.  But after a season in which he put up a fWAR of 2.2, I expect Boras is looking for a lot more for his client on a one-year deal this year.  And that will likely keep the Rays out of the running.

Could They Find An Upgrade At Catcher?

Tampa Bay came into camp with just one catcher on the 40-man roster (Rene Pinto), and the current race for the backup spot between a pair of non-roster invitees in Alex Jackson and Rob Brantly.  But the free agent market at catcher is currently quite barren.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, the only two catchers on the market that played last year in the big-leagues are former Ray Mike Zunino, who was released by Cleveland last June and was not picked up by another team, and Manny Pina, who has played in a total of nine games in the last two seasons combined and will be 37 in June.  If the Rays are going to upgrade the catching position from the current level, the will likely have to wait for other teams to make their decisions at the position and perhaps snag a catcher with an out clause that isn’t making their current team.

Could They Look At One Of The Most Polarizing Pitchers of This Generation?

It’s been surprising to me how many fans seem to be OK with the possibility of the Rays making an offer to pitcher Trevor Bauer.  I understand that the Rays rotation looks almost completely different than it did at the start of last year with Tyler Glasnow having been traded to the Dodgers and Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, and Jeffrey Springs all starting the season recovering from elbow surgeries.  But I don’t think the wisest move for a team having to deal with the legal issues surrounding Wander Franco is to bring in a player that is known to be caustic in clubhouses, and would bring from members of the media more questions about sexual misconduct that cost him most of his last contract with the Dodgers.

And to those on social media who believe it’s the media’s doing that is keeping Bauer from finding a job back in the big leagues, I will let you in on a little secret: the next time a front office executive makes a personnel decision based on the opinion of the media will be the first.  There’s a reason all 30 teams are staying away from him, and I believe they will continue to do so.

Written By

Steve Carney is the founder and publisher of St. Pete Nine. One of the people most associated with baseball coverage in Tampa Bay, he spent 13 seasons covering the Rays for flagship radio station WDAE, first as producer of Rays Radio broadcasts, then as beat reporter beginning in 2011. He likes new analytics and aged bourbon, and is the owner of one of the ugliest knuckleballs ever witnessed by baseball scouts.

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