Tagged: Alex Colome

Tampa Bay Rays’ Biggest Winners and Losers in the First Half of the Season

As the first half of the 2013 MLB season nears an end, let’s look back at what went right and what went wrong for the Tampa Bay Rays after almost three months of baseball.

It’s been a frustrating first half for the Rays for multiple reasons, but at 42-39, they’re still very much in competition.

Here are the main winners and losers from the first half of the Rays’ season.

Winner: The offense

The Rays’ offense has been amongst the best in all of baseball this season. Tampa Bay ranks fourth in the MLB in wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plusat 109 and ninth in the league in runs (375).

The lineup, which has managed to stay healthy, has really clicked for Joe Maddon’s club. Evan Longoria (.388 wOBA and 47 RBI) has swung the bat very well, along with Matt Joyce (.348 wOBA) and James Loney (.361 wOBA). Ben Zobrist, Kelly Johnson and Desmond Jennings have also been key contributors.

With Wil Myers now in the meat of this impressive lineup, Tampa’s offensive could be even more dangerous in the second half.

Loser: David Price

It’s been a lousy 2013 for David Price coming off a Cy Young award-winning season last year. The Rays’ ace posted a 1-4 record with a 5.24 ERA and 4.03 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) through nine starts before hitting the DL with a tricep strain last month.

Not only have Price’s early-season struggles and injury hurt the Rays, but they haven’t helped out his future trade value much either. On a more positive note, though, he is set to join the rotation this Tuesday.

If one thing’s for sure, the Rays are going to need Price back to to form in the second half if they want to compete in October.

Winner: James Loney

James Loney has enjoyed a nice comeback year with the Rays so far after disappointing 2012 season. Loney’s put up an impressive .314/.367/.474 line with 40 RBI and a 134 wRC+.

He’s been very productive defensively as well, posting a 2.9 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating).

Loser: Jeff Niemann

The Jeff Niemann story is a very unfortunate one. It seems like every time the “Tall Texan” is about to break out into stardom, a big injury ruins his season.

The 30-year-old right-hander won’t throw a single pitch in 2013 due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. Niemann already lost his spot in the rotation in spring training to veteran Roberto Hernandez, so his future as a starter in Tampa Bay isn’t a very bright one, especially now with the emergence of Chris Archer, Alex Colome and Alex Torres.

Winner: Rookie pitchers

It’s been a good season for the Rays’ talented young crop of prospect pitchers. Chris Archer, Alex Colome and Alex Torres have all received some big league playing time this year thanks to injuries.

Archer, who proved he was Major League ready in 2012, has once again flashed his high potential this season. He owns a 4.40 ERA through six starts.

Colome has been solid in his big league debut this season, allowing just four earned runs in his first three starts with the Rays. He’s pitched 16 innings, striking out 12 batters but also walking nine.

Archer and Colome sure have been exciting, but neither have made as big of a splash as Torres. The 25-year-old southpaw has been ridiculously good out of the bullpen, allowing just one run in 23 innings while striking out 31 and walking seven. If Torres can continue to pitch lights out, he’ll find himself in a bigger role on the team.

Loser: The Bullpen

Tampa Bay’s bullpen has been a huge disappointment this year, blowing countless leads late in games after being nearly flawless last season. Rays relievers have posted a 3.79 ERA, which ranks 17th in the league.

Fernando Rodney has regressed significantly as well in 2012, blowing already five saves in 21 opportunities. However, Rodney—like the rest of the Rays’ bullpen—appears to be turning things around now as the ‘pen seems to be going into the second half on a high note.

Breaking Down Rays’ Best Trade Bait

We have a while to go before the MLB Hot Stove begins to heat up, but it’s never too early for Tampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Friedman to start thinking of potential trade options for later this summer.

Despite trading away James Shields this past offseason, the Rays organization is still stacked with young pitching talent that could come in handy once the deadline approaches.

Let’s take a look at possible Rays trade chips with the most value.

Alex Colome

There are many teams that could use a pitching prospect like hard-throwing right-hander Alex Colome more than the Rays. Colome, who is one of the top arms in the Rays farm system, probably would have already made his Major League debut with most other teams in the league.

The 24-year-old has a high ceiling for potential, which should make him an attractive trade piece if the Rays’ were to put him on the block. Colome has electric, frontline-starter type stuff including an excellent fastball and a good feel for his secondary pitches. Once he improves his command, he’ll definitely be MLB rotation worthy.

Colome is currently playing with Triple-A Durham, and is enjoying a solid start to the season. His numbers after six starts include a 2.84 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 15 walks over 31.2 innings pitched.

With already great pitching depth and a bright future starting pitching wise, dealing Colome while his value is pretty high may be a good idea for the Rays.

Enny Romero

Enny Romero is another hard-throwing, high-upside pitching prospect in the Rays minor league system. The 22-year-old southpaw, like Alex Colome, also has very exciting stuff.

He should be an effective Major League starter once he refines his mechanics and command.

Being one of the better pitching prospects in the game, he’ll likely be able to reel in a decent amount of offensive talent if he were traded. Romero, who’s off to a slow start to the year with Double-A Montgomery, seems to be at least a full year away from making a big league impact as he continues to develop in the minors.

Chances are, of course, that the Rays will hang on to Romero, but trading him is definitely an interesting thought.

Jeremy Hellickson

Jeremy Hellickson drew a lot of interest last winter, and there’s no question that a handful of teams would still love to have a consistent and solid starter like him in their rotation

After a shaky start to the season (4.79 ERA in seven starts), his value has gone down a bit, but the Rays still may look into trading Hellickson before the deadline or possibly even after the season. He hasn’t been somebody bouncing around trade rumors lately, but he could be a potential trade target in the future.

One reason for this is the fact that the 2011 Rookie of the Year and 2012 Gold Glove award-winner is a client of Scott Boras. Therefore, signing Hellickson to a long-term deal will be challenge for Tampa Bay and their small budget. Also worth noting is that he’ll be eligible for arbitration after the 2013 season.

A Hellickson deal should be able to draw some quality bats and/or an impressive prospect package. Don’t expect to see another Wil Myers-James Shields type blockbuster obviously, but nonetheless a swap that can make a large impact on two organizations.

David Price

David Price has been the center of both Rays and MLB trade rumors since spring training. It’s become clear that the Rays aren’t going to be able to afford the reigning Cy Young award-winner long term, and the league anticipates to see Price on the market when his value’s at its peak.

If one thing’s for sure, his trade value’s not where it was before the season started. He’s suffered an awful start to the year, posting a 6.25 ERA over his first seven starts. He simply doesn’t look like the same pitcher; velocity has dropped significantly and opposing batters are hitting him hard.

Hopefully it’s nothing more than some early season rust, and Price will maintain his status amongst baseball’s top trade candidates. Assuming that Price bounces back, the Rays will be receiving a talent-packed haul of prospects whenever they decide to pull the trigger on dealing their 27-year-old ace.

Last month, I proposed a few possible trade packages that I thought were good enough to pry Price away from Tampa Bay.

5 Rays Prospects Having Eye-Opening Starts to the Season

We’re just a little over two weeks into the MLB regular season, but there’s been plenty of action down at the farm in the Tampa Bay Rays organization.

Top prospect Wil Myers has been the talk of the town and Chris Archer has also drawn his fair share of hype, but neither of the two have had real intriguing starts to the season.

Take a look at five names to keep an eye on as the 2013 minor league baseball season takes flight.

Alex Colome

It’s been a fantastic start to the season for hard-throwing right-hander Alex Colome with Triple-A Durham.

Colome, who’s considered one of the top pitching prospects in the organization, has allowed just one run over 16 innings (three starts). His line includes eight hits, eight walks and 18 strikeouts.

His electric stuff has looked dominant, but he’s going to have to cut down on the walks if he wants to make his big-league debut this year. Hopefully, he can rise above the cluster of talented arms in the Rays’ system and make a positive contribution to the bullpen as soon as possible.

Jesse Hahn

Right-hander Jesse Hahn was a speculated breakout candidate coming into the 2013 after his success last year in his pro debut. Following Tommy John surgery which sidelined him for the entire 2011 season, Hahn hit his stride with short-season Hudson Valley in 2012. He got better as the season progressed, and clearly hasn’t cooled off yet.

Hahn’s made three starts of three innings each so far with Class A+ Charlotte, giving up just one run on six hits and one walk while striking out 11.

It really looks like it could the beginning of a big breakout year for the 23-year-old right-hander.

Alejandro Segovia

Catcher Alejandro Segovia is another player who is worthy of the breakout prospect discussion.

The 22-year-0ld Venezuelan native is batting .286/.333/.619 with four home runs and 10 RBI through 12 games. His exciting power is definitely something to watch as the season progresses.

Talent at the catching position is something that the Rays organization lacks, so Segovia emerging as a top prospect would be huge.

Alex Torres

Alex Torres’ name kinda got lost in the mix last year after an atrocious year with Durham. Again with the Bulls in 2013, the 25-year-old southpaw looks to be turning things around so far.

Torres has made two starts (11 innings), not allowing a single run while striking out 11 batters and letting up just four hits. Control has been the biggest issue for Torres throughout his entire career, which is why it’s both surprising and encouraging to see that he’s walked only one batter thus far.

Torres is a guy who already has some major league experience as a reliever, so if he stays on track he could possibly see time in the ‘pen.

Jeff Ames

It was a big year for Jeff Ames’ development last season. The 2011 first-round draft pick had a outstanding campaign with Hudson Valley, and has started his first full pro season (Class A Bowling Green) off on the right foot.

Ames surrendered just two runs (both home runs), five hits and one walk with 15 strikeouts over his first three first starts (five innings each).

He’s a player with sky-high potential and believe he’ll shine this season in the Midwest League.

Tampa Bay Rays Top 10 Prospect Rankings 2013

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Last year on The Rays Rant, I evaluated the Tampa Bay Rays’ top 20 prospects based on MLB.com’s annual rankings. This year, I’m giving my own rankings on the organization’s top prospects.

The logic of the rankings are based off of the prospects’ tools and potential, as well as previous performance in the minors leagues.

Because most of the prospects on this list are at different stages of development, future upside was a large factor in putting together these rankings.

Without further ado, here’s a look at my top 10 Rays prospects heading into spring training.

1. Wil Myers

Wil Myers was the top prize in the four-prospect trade package that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City. After putting together an outstanding 2012 season in Class AA and Class AAA ball, the 22-year-old has become arguably the best hitting prospect in all of baseball.

Myers batted .314/.387/.600 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI last year, earning him both the J.G. Taylor Spink Award and the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year award.

As you can see from the numbers, Myers’ main forte is his impressive raw power. He also has great bat speed and the ability to hit well for power and get on base proficiently. On the base pads, he’s an average runner with decent speed.

Myers’ main weakness overall is his plate discipline. The exciting power does come with some swing-and-miss tendency, as he struck out 140 times in 134 games last season. Hopefully, Myers will be able to fix the holes in his swing as he matures overall as a ballplayer.

Defensively, Myers is nothing special but nothing below average either. He played centerfield, right field and some third base in 2012, but right field will most likely be his main position in the majors. With a plus arm and average range, he should manage pretty well there.

Barring an injury, Myers will most likely get his first taste of the big leagues this season with Tampa Bay. The only question is how early. If he goes on a tear this spring he could even make the Opening Day roster.

2. Taylor Guerrieri

Drafted by the Rays in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, 20-year-old right hander Taylor Guerrieri didn’t hesitate at all to open eyes in his professional debut with Class A- Hudson Valley last year. Guerrieri posted an impressive 1.04 ERA through 12 starts (52 innings) with 7.9 K/9 and 9.0 K/BB.

He has a good feel for four pitches, including a two-seam fastball with excellent late sinking action and a plus curveball. He’s also in the process of developing a changeup which could also transform into an above-average pitch.

Guerrieri’s fastball reaches up into the mid-upper 90’s and he still has plenty of room to grow into his six-foot-three, 195 pound frame to build up velocity in the future.

Besides for having great stuff, Guerrieri has also displayed advanced control and command with the ability to pound the strike zone. He only walked five batters throughout the entire 2012 season.

3. Chris Archer

Chris Archer has been one of the top prospects among the Rays’ plethora of young arms for a while now, and it looks like his minor league days could be coming to the end as spring training rolls in.

Archer made his MLB debut last season, making four starts as a replacement in the rotation. He posted a 4.60 ERA through four starts (29.1 innings), but continued to show a bright ray of light with an outstanding 11.0 K/9 ratio.

The 24-year-old right-hander has great stuff, including a fantastic fastball that reaches velocities in the upper-90’s range along with great live movement. He also has a very good slider, giving him a nice two-pitch combination with the fastball. His changeup is still lagging behind, but it does seem to be improving.

Command and control are by far the biggest issues for Archer. He’s struggled throwing strikes in both the majors and minors, and it’s been holding him back from a breakout season.

With such a terrific arsenal, the sky is the limit for Archer. His big league future can be anything from a middle reliever to an All-Star starter. If he can just improve his command enough, the Rays are going to have yet another dangerous starter in their rotation.

4. Jake Odorizzi

Jake Odorizzi was another highly-ranked prospect acquired from Kansas City in this winter’s blockbuster trade. The Rays may have lost two talented starting pitchers in that deal, but they did gain one back in Odorizzi.

The 22-year-old right-hander had a very productive 2012 season, going 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA and 8.4 K/9 through 145.1 IP.

He has four pitches in his arsenal, including a solid fastball that reaches the mid-90’s and a plus curveball and slider. His changeup is still a work in progress, but he has displayed excellent command over all his pitches for a pitcher at such a young age.

Odorizzi already made his big-league debut last year, making two starts with the Royals, and will be fighting for a spot in the rotation this spring. If he stays on the path he’s on he’ll eventually make it, and should be exciting to watch with a very high ceiling to be a frontline starter in Tampa Bay.

5. Hak-Ju Lee

Like Chris Archer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee was acquired from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade back in 2011. Ever since, Lee’s appeared in two MLB Futures Games and rised to be the organization’s best position player prospect until the Wil Myers trade this offseason.

The 22-year-old Korean native posted an underachieving .261/.336/.360 line with 37 RBI and stolen bases last year in Class AA ball. He failed to make much progress and unfortunately didn’t even get the call for Triple-A Durham.

The main concern with Lee is hitting, which is really the only thing holding him back in Double-A. He has no power, so getting on-base is crucial for him, and he’s going to have to do a better job of that this season if he wants to break into the big leagues.

On the other hand, Lee’s strong points are fielding and speed. He’s a very good shortstop with both great range and a good arm, and definitely has high upside defensively at the position at the major league level.

6. Alex Colome

Alex Colome is definitely a name to watch for in the minor leagues in 2013. The 24-year-old right-hander went 8-4 with a 3.44 ERA and 8.8 K/9 through 17 starts last year in both Double-A and Triple-A.

What makes Colome such an exciting prospect is his electric stuff, making him one of the higher upside prospects in the entire organization.

Colome’s arsenal is highlighted by a great fastball which he throws up to 97 MPH with plenty of live action. He also throws a pretty good curve, along with a slider and changeup which are still developing.

Like many talented hard-throwers in the Rays’ farm system over the years, the team has done a nice job gradually transforming Colome from a thrower into a pitcher. His command—which is his main weakness—is slowly but surely improving as he moves up the ranks.

7. Richie Shaffer

The Rays drafted Richie Shaffer 25th overall in last summer’s draft, adding a talented bat to Tampa Bay’s farm system.

After a succesful college career with the Clemson Tigers, Shaffer made his pro debut with Short-Season Hudson Valley. There he hit .308/.406/.487 with four homers and through 33 games.

Shaffer—a right-handed bat—is a very good hitter overall, with big-time power and a nice plate approach. He does have holes in his swing and tends to strikeout often because of them, but he has his whole minor league career ahead of him to work on it.

Defensively, the 21-year-old’s main position is third base. Although his strong arm profiles well for the position, lack of range makes his future at third a question mark. Both first base and/or right field could be possibilities for him long term.

8. Blake Snell

Blake Snell is another pitching prospect on this top 10 list with the tools to become a frontline starter in the major leagues.

Selected by the Rays in the first round of the 2011 Draft, Snell shined in the Appalachian League last season being named Pitcher of the Year. He went 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA and 10.1 K/9 through 11 starts (47.1 IP).

The 20-year-old lefty has four pitches in his arsenal. He throws a low-90’s fastball that touches the mid-90’s, and with such a lanky physique the Rays can expect Snell to gain velocity as he matures.

Snell also throws a plus changeup, which leads his two other secondary pitches; the slider and curveball. The slider—which he developed last year—could serve as a good pitch for him down the road. The curve is also a work in progress and lacks sharpness a bit.

One thing to like about Snell is his command, which is pretty impressive for such a young pitcher. He does well throwing strikes, and is able to entice groundballs by throwing low in the zone.

9. Enny Romero

Another electric arm in the Rays’ system with very high upside, Enny Romero has steadily moved up the farm over the past five years level by level.

Romero spent the entire 2012 season with Class A+ Charlotte, going 5-7 with a 3.93 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and a .201 opponent’s batting average.

The 22-year-old southpaw throws a powerful fastball in the mid-to-upper 90’s, along with a hard curveball with very high potential as his secondary pitch. He also throws a changeup, but there’s still plenty of refining needed to be done there.

Unsurprisingly, Romero’s main area that needs improvement is his command and control. Throwing strikes and pitch location has frequent issue with the flame-throwing MLB Future Gamer.

Romero could also use good share of work on his mechanics, which has caused inconsistency in pitches.

10. Drew Vettleson

The Rays have an intriguing bat to keep an eye on with 21-year-old Drew Vettleson emerging in their farm system.

Vettleson had a solid 2012 season with Single-A Bowling Green after being drafted 42nd overall in the 2010 Draft, hitting .275/.340/.432 with 69 RBI, 15 homers and 20 stolen bases.

What I like about Vettleson is that he’s a very well-rounded player. His excellent swing and terrific bat speed provide him with both the capability to hit for average and for power.

He’s also a good baserunner, and has above-average speed which should help him continue to steal bases throughout his career.

Defensively, he fields well at both corner outfield positions. With a good arm (was a rare ambidextrous pitcher in high school) and good range, he should be able to play right field.

Most Exciting Rays Prospects to Watch for in Spring Training

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Baseball has returned, and spring training has officially started for the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte as players report to camp.

The Rays have a handful of exciting prospects and non-roster invitees who have plenty to prove this spring, and it should be interesting to see which surprise players will grab everyone’s attention.

Here are seven names to watch for in the next six weeks.

Tim Beckham

Ever since being drafted first overall by the Rays in 2008, Tim Beckham has been nothing less than a disappointment. The 23-year-old middle infielder was obviously drafted with sky high expectations, but has yet to break out in the minors during his four seasons in the organization.

Beckham will most likely be starting the season with Triple-A Durham, but is out on a mission this spring to prove that this is the year he’ll finally break into the big leagues.

Many thought that year would be 2012, but a 50-game suspension and injuries were huge setbacks in Beckham’s progress. Hopefully, spring training will serve as a clean sheet for Beckham to start over and turn things around in what has been an unfortunate young career.

Mike Montgomery

The Rays acquired 23-year-old southpaw Mike Montgomery from the Royals in December’s blockbuster James Shields trade. Montgomery spent four seasons in Kansas City’s organization considered to be one of the teams top prospects, but has struggled the past two years at the Triple-A level posting a lopsided 8-17 record with a 5.46 ERA.

He probably won’t make an impact on the Rays in the near future, but he’s out to prove he’s not too far away from major league ready.

Although he has very good stuff and the tools to be an MLB starter, a career as a reliever seems more likely at the moment. If he pitches well enough in 2013, we could maybe even see him contribute to Tampa Bay’s bullpen this season.

Alex Colome

Alex Colome is one sleeper prospect with very high upside who should be kept an eye on this season. The 24-year-old right-hander has gradually moved up the ranks over the past years in the Rays’ farm system and pitched his way into Triple-A last season.

Colome has impressive raw stuff that can blow away big league hitters, which should make him a sight to watch in Port Charlotte.

This could be the year he makes his MLB debut as he continues to develop as a pitcher. That being said, spring training will be a great opportunity for him to show off his potential to the Rays.

Jake Odorizzi

Right-hander Jake Odorizzi was one of four prospects acquired in the James Shields trade this offseason, adding yet another talented young starting pitcher to the Rays’ organization.

Odorizzi had somewhat of a breakout year in the minors in 2012, going 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA through 25 starts in both Double-A and Triple-A. He also got his first taste of the big leagues with the Royals, making two brief starts.

He’ll be battling for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring against teammates Jeff Niemann, Roberto Hernandez and possibly even Chris Archer. His odds of making the Opening Day rotation are not good at all, but if he shines bright enough he could maybe just sneak in there.

Even if we don’t see Odorizzi with the Rays early in the season, we can expect to see him contribute to the team sometime later in the year.

Wil Myers

Wil Myers is the prospect to watch in Major League Baseball this spring. The 22-year-old phenom slugger was the prize acquisition in the James Shields trade, and is considered arguably the top hitting prospect in all of baseball.

Even if Myers plays well during spring training, his chances of making the Opening Day roster are very slim. There is one backup outfielder on the 25-man roster, and although Myers may be good enough for the spot, the Rays are not going to want their top prospect to start the year on the bench.

Whether he makes the roster or not, his powerful bat will be a ton of fun to watch in the coming weeks.

Brandon Guyer

After missing almost the entire 2012 season with a shoulder injury, outfielder Brandon Guyer is returning to baseball this spring hoping for a fresh start.

Guyer has already had two very brief stints in the majors in the past two seasons, but has spent most of his time with Triple-A Durham where he has produced pretty well.

After missing such a significant amount of time, Guyer is no longer considered a top prospect in the organization like he was once. Spring training will be a great opportunity for him to prove that he’s an MLB-caliber player.

He’ll also be competing for the backup outfield spot on the Opening Day roster, but it’s probably going to take a standout performance this spring to accomplish that.

Hak-Ju Lee

One of the Rays’ better position player prospects and shortstop prospects in all of baseball, Hak-Ju Lee is definitely a must-watch this spring in Port Charlotte.

His blazing speed and tremendous defensive upside will surely attract plenty of attention in the next few weeks.

Lee has played with both Class A+ Charlotte and Class AA Montgomery for the past two seasons after being acquired in the Matt Garza blockbuster trade. He still hasn’t had the breakout year in the minors that Rays fans have been anticipating, but nonetheless has made slow progress up the organizational ranks.

Lee will be eyeing a spot on Triple-A Durham’s Opening Day lineup, and a good spring training performance would obviously help his case.

5 Things the Rays Should Try to Do at the Winter Meetings

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With Day 1 of the MLB Winter Meetings already behind us and Day 2 now in progress, Andrew Friedman and the Tampa Bay Rays have shown that they’re not going to hesitate to pursue players on the free agent or trade market. After being involved in a flurry of rumors on Monday, it looks as if the Rays could be pretty active this week in Nashville.

With a handful of possible trade possibilites on the table and multiple teams contacting the Rays, here are five things the club should try to do over these next few days.

Trade Jeremy Hellickson or James Shields

The chances the Rays trade either one of the two talented starters seem very likely at the moment. As important as these two top-tier arms are to the Rays’ rotation, trading one of the two (not both) would make a lot of sense for a couple of reasons.

Tampa has a surplus of starting pitching and is in serious need of offensive help, and both Shields and Hellickson are currently at very high value on the market. In addition, if the Rays were to trade Shields, it would be one less huge salary to pay (that they can hardly afford anyway).

Trading either Hellickson or Shields (or David Price) is really their only way of acquiring a star-quality player or top prospect caliber talent this winter. Knowing that Rays will probably trade one of them should make the next couple of days pretty exciting.

Not trade David Price

The Rays have made it clear that they’re willing to trade away Cy Young award-winner David Price for the right offer, taking into account the 29-year-old phenom’s upcoming pricey contract issues. In a recent article on ESPN.com, columnist Buster Olney points out the fact that Price may very possibly be traded sometime in the next year as the Rays are probably not going to be able to afford him eventually.

Although his value may be at its career peek right now, I think dealing Price this offseason would be a mistake. The Rays could use the offensive boost, but the core of the franchise is still pitching and defense, and trading away a player like Price would potentially be too big of loss for the team.

Put Alex Colome, Alex Torres, Alex Cobb and Wade Davis on the trade block

Believe it or not, the Rays could actually enter the 2013 season with a much better better offense without trading one of their three top starters. Being so deep in the starting pitching department, the Rays have major-league ready starters that aren’t even being used to their full potential and a handful of talented pitching prospects that they could afford giving away.

If the Rays can keep the same ridiculously good starting rotation they had this year and at the same time put together a better offense for next season, they’re going to be one very serious contender in 2013.

With prospects like Colome and Torres, and MLB-ready starters like Davis and Cobb, the Rays have the opportunity to do so.

Acquire Asdrubal Cabrera or Jason Kubel

The shortstop position has been a weak area for the Rays for two years now, and picking up a star shortstop like Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera would be a very nice solution to the problem. The 27-year-old is one of baseball’s best offensive shortstops, posting a wOBA of over .330 and a wRC+ of over 110 for the past two seasons.

The Indians are looking for three to four— preferably four—prospects in exchange for him (per the Cleveland Plain-Dealer). The Rays have the pieces to make a deal like this happen, and Cleveland could really use some young starting pitching talent.

Over in Arizona, Justin Upton has been the main talk in Diamondbacks trade rumors so far this offseason, but now sources are saying that they may be shopping OF Jason Kubel instead. According to Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com, the Rays are one of multiple teams that could be a possible suitor for the veteran slugger.

Kubel had himself a very nice 2012 season, posting a .352 wOBA while hitting 30 homers and 90 RBI. Not only would Kubel add depth to the Rays’ outfield, but he would also be a perfect fit for the DH role.

Sign a catcher

One big area of need to address on Tampa’s roster is without a doubt at the catcher position. The four catchers that the Rays used this this year combined for an RBI total of just 65 without one reaching a wOBA as high as .290. Defensively, the four weren’t very good either.

The two main catchers on the roster (who were the team’s two catchers in 2012 as well) are Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton. Molina had a poor season offensively last year, but did well throwing out baserunners and framing pitches, essentially helping out the pitching staff throughout the year. The main problem with Molina is that he’s 37, and can’t really provide the Rays with many innings.

Therefore, the team’s backup catcher is a crucial role. Lobaton is in that position right now, and he’s not the kind of guy the Rays would [or at least should] like playing 65+ games for them. Lobaton posted a .222/.323/.317 line last year with very little power while throwing out just 16% of would-be base-stealers.

Whether it’s via the trade market or free agent market, the Rays really need to sign a backstop this winter.

Prospects Who Could Make an Impact on the Rays in 2013

As the 2012 regular season winds down to another exciting finish, a handful of Rays minor leaguers look forward to breaking into The Show in 2013. Besides for Matt Moore, no prospects have really made a significant impact on the Rays thus far this season. Hopefully it won’t be the same story next season, and a few names will be able to give the Rays a boost. Here are some farmhands to keep in eye on for 2013.

Hak-Ju Lee

Despite a mediocre 2012 season thus far, Hak-Ju Lee is currently considered the Rays’ No. 1 prospect by many. The 21-year-old is expected to be the franchise’s future at shortstop, and 2013 could be the year he begins his anticipated big league journey. Lee has spent the entire season with Double-A Montgomery, and has hit .261/.336/.360 with 37 RBI and 37 stolen bases. The offensive stats are nothing to get too excited about and neither are his defensive numbers, as Lee has posted a .954 fielding percentage this year. He’s still young and has good potential, so nobody should be surprised to see him with the Rays next September.

Chris Archer

Chris Archer—who’s considered the Rays’ top upper-level pitching prospect—has already made an impact with the club in 2012. The 23-year-old right-hander put up a 3.66 ERA in 25 starts with Durham this season and a 3.86 ERA in his two first major league starts. With James Shields likely not returning next year and Jeff Niemann’s health seemingly always in question, Archer will likely have a much more significant role in the starting rotation in 2013.

Alex Colome

Alex Colome flashed his high potential as he progressed nicely through the Rays’ farm system in 2012. A recent shoulder injury has ended his season, but at this rate many still expect to see Colome as a late-season call-up next year. Colome combined for an 8-4 record and a 3.44 ERA through 17 starts (14 with Montgomery, 3 with Durham) in the minors this year.

Tim Beckham

It’s been another disappointing year for former No. 1 draft pick Tim Beckham. The 22-year-old middle infielder is still fairly young, however, and is gradually progressing in the Rays’ organization. A 50-game suspension for drug use really hurt his chances of making a big league push this season, but he there’s actually still a possibility he gets called up this month. Beckham will likely join the Rays at some point in 2013, obviously depending on how he plays with Durham. This year Beckham has posted a underachieving .256/.325/.361 line with 28 RBI and a .946 fielding percentage through 72 games.