Rays Notes: Offense, Choi, Arozarena, Kiermaier, Zunino

For a fourth consecutive season, Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander held a press convention to talk about his staff’s playoff go out — this time after seeing the Rays’ lineup held to only one run in 24 innings right through a two-game Wild Card ousting by the hands of the Guardians (hyperlinks by means of Adam Berry of MLB.com and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times). In huge phrases, Neander spoke of a wish to support the offense, specifically towards right-handed pitching, whilst additionally praising the intensity and high quality of the returning pitching personnel.

As a collective unit, Rays hitters batted simply .234/.305/.373 towards right-handed pitching. Their 24% strikeout charge towards righties was once seventh-worst in MLB (and trailing just one playoff membership, Atlanta). Rays hitters attached on 108 homers towards righties, striking them twenty second amongst MLB golf equipment.

There are various causes for the struggles towards righties. Playing a lot of the season with out injured lefty-swinging Brandon Lowe, a profession .257/.353/.505 hitter when maintaining the platoon merit, disadvantaged the Rays of one in all their most sensible energy threats towards right-handed opposition. Wander Franco and Kevin Kiermaier additionally overlooked considerable time, and the Rays gained a moderately pedestrian appearing from closing date pickup David Peralta, who was once in large part bought for his observe listing on this particular space. The spate of well being problems driven the Rays to lean on more youthful, unproven avid gamers extra steadily than they’d have preferred and likewise caused extra right-on-right matchups than the staff would indubitably have most well-liked.

To that finish, Neander indicated that adjustments are most likely at the horizon. While in fact declining to say particular names, the staff’s most sensible decision-maker indicated a wish to “raise” the staff’s “offensive standards” and evidently indicated that the Rays can’t merely “stand pat and assume things will get better.” As ever with the Rays, an lively offseason apparently awaits.

Some stage of turnover was once all the time to be anticipated, given the Rays’ large slate of nineteen arbitration-eligible avid gamers — probably the most of any staff in Major League Baseball. That crew will value a projected $42MM subsequent season, in step with MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Paired with the more or less $25MM in assured contracts on subsequent 12 months’s books (Franco, Lowe, Manuel Margot, Tyler Glasnow and Brooks Raley), plus a handful of pre-arbitration avid gamers to spherical issues out, that $42MM sum would push the Rays north of $70MM — a small payroll quantity for many organizations however person who’s extra vital at Tropicana Field. The Rays ran out a franchise-record payroll in 2022 however nonetheless clocked in round $85-86MM, illustrating the relative heft of this 12 months’s arbitration magnificence.

As a ways as doable applicants for a transformation of surroundings, Topkin unsurprisingly signifies that first baseman Ji-Man Choi “seems to be on the way out.” Given Choi’s projected $4.5MM wage, his proximity to loose company (subsequent wintry weather), and the truth that he’s observed his energy dip whilst his strikeouts have risen over the last couple seasons, he sticks out as a moderately obtrusive business or non-tender candidate. The Rays continuously to find cheap platoon choices to start with base and designated hitter, which is how Choi landed in Tampa Bay within the first position. (Southpaw Ryan Yarbrough, who misplaced his rotation spot this 12 months, is out of youngster league choices in 2023 and may just earn greater than $4MM in arbitration, turns out like any other transparent candidate, in my opinion.)

More curiously, Topkin means that the Rays will no less than be open to the speculation of buying and selling Randy Arozarena this wintry weather (even though, to be transparent, that’s a a ways cry from suggesting he’ll be shopped or that he’s more likely to be moved). The 27-year-old continues to be controllable for any other 4 seasons and is best projected to earn $4MM subsequent season within the first of what’ll be 4 journeys via arbitration as a Super Two participant, so there shouldn’t be any urgency for the Rays to transport him. At the similar time, Arozarena may just fetch some quick MLB lend a hand in different spaces if the Rays are both assured of their in-house outfield choices or in the event that they’re in a position to obtain some further nook outfield lend a hand, be it by means of business or loose company.

While subtractions from the arb magnificence — be they by means of business or loose company — will decrease the membership’s payroll, so will the predicted departure of a few veteran mainstays. Kiermaier’s $13MM membership possibility will indubitably be declined in choose of a $2.5MM buyout after the perennial defensive standout noticed his season truncated by way of July hip surgical operation. Catcher Mike Zunino, in the meantime, underwent surgical operation to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome. That pair accounted for a mixed $19MM in wage this previous season.

Neander famous that each avid gamers had been essential to the Rays over the last a number of seasons and that the staff will likely be open to discussing returns with every of them. Obviously, with Kiermaier and Zunino each lower than 3 months into their rehab from notable surgical procedures, the standing in their restoration will likely be paramount each with reference to the prospective are compatible and worth level in loose company. Both determine to attract hobby from different golf equipment, too, taking into consideration their defensive excellence and the near-perennial shortage of high quality open-market choices in heart box and at the back of the plate.

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