Tampa Bay Rays - PlayerWatch
RHP Jeremy Hellickson could be a popular name in trade rumors this offseason. Heading into his second year of arbitration eligibility, the 27-year-old right-hander could be the odd man out of the Rays' rotation. Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Drew Smyly and Jake Odorizzi are all sure bets for Tampa Bay after solid seasons in 2014. Matt Moore will be back at some point after recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Rays have young right-handers Alex Colome and Nathan Karns, who would make the major-league minimum and fill Moore's spot until he's healthy. Hellickson, meanwhile, struggled to a 1-5 record and 4.52 ERA in 63 2/3 innings over 13 starts this season. It was his second straight down year after going 27-21 with a 3.06 ERA from 2010-12, with an American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2011. Hellickson made $3.625 million in 2014, a figure that will only go up in 2015 and makes him a potential trade candidate as the Rays look to cut down their payroll.
OF Wil Myers followed up his American League Rookie of the Year season in 2013 with a disappointing 2014 campaign, batting .222/.294/.320 with only six home runs and 35 RBIs in 87 games. Myers was also held back by wrist injuries, a right wrist fracture that sidelined him for nearly half the season and a nagging left wrist injury that may have led to some of his offensive struggles early on in the season. Myers said he would spend the offseason getting fully healthy and working harder to prepare for the 2015 season. "It was definitely tough, but I definitely learned from it," Myers said.
David Price to Detroit at the trade deadline, finishing the year with a 10-9 record and a 2.87 ERA that ranked sixth in the American League. Cobb pitched 166 1/3 innings over 27 starts after missing time early on due to injury. Cobb struck out 149 batters on the year and held opposing hitters to a .231 average. Don't be surprised to see Cobb on the mound come opening day in 2015. In the meantime, one question to consider over the offseason: Could Cobb be next in line for the kind of long-term, team-friendly contract extension given to rotation-mates Matt Moore and Chris Archer?
LHP Matt Moore is playing catch from 60 feet as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery performed in April. Moore hopes to be back in the Rays' rotation before the 2015 All-Star break, with a return in June seemingly the most likely outcome at the outset of the offseason. Moore said the plan is for him to throw off a mound at some point this winter, possibly as early as mid-December. Moore made only two starts with the Rays in 2014 before undergoing surgery. He was coming off an All-Star 2013 campaign in which he finished 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 150 1/3 innings over 27 starts.
SS Willy Adames, acquired as part of the three-team deal in which David Price was shipped off to Detroit, was the youngest everyday player in the Midwest League. Adames hit .271/.353/.429 with 41 extra-base hits and 61 RBIs in 125 games for Class A West Michigan and Bowling Green. Adames is a long way from the majors -- again, he's only 19, and this was his first full season in the minors -- but he has more upside than anyone in the Rays' system and could be their shortstop of the future and could get to Tampa Bay by 2017.
3B Evan Longoria played in all 162 games this season, perhaps his most important accomplishment, and finished the year with 22 home runs and 91 RBIs, making him the most productive hitter in the Rays' lineup. But it was a wildly inconsistent year for Longoria, easily the worst season he's ever had at the plate. Longoria posted a meager .320 on-base percentage and a .404 slugging percentage, marks that are 37 and 108 points, respectively, below his previous career averages. It's the second straight year Longoria's offensive numbers have taken a slide in the wrong direction, a trend that could become extremely concerning for the Rays and their franchise player. Longoria, manager Joe Maddon and hitting coach Derek Shelton have all pointed to Longoria's improved RBI numbers in the second half -- he drove in 47 runs over those 65 games compared to 44 in the first 97 -- but that yielded a .247/.301/.430 batting line that represents an overall decline in Longoria's offensive output. There's plenty of reason to believe it was just an off year and Longoria will be fine in 2015, but it's worth keeping an eye on going forward.
INF/OF Ben Zobrist put together the Rays' most complete performance in 2014, batting .272/.354/.395 with playing strong defense at second base, shortstop and all three outfield positions. He was also at his best when the Rays were at their hottest, batting .315/.403/.477 when the Rays went 37-19 from June 11-Aug. 15. According to the website FanGraphs.com, Zobrist led the team with 5.6 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), making him more than 1 1/2 wins more valuable than their second-best player, outfielder Kevin Kiermaier. The Rays hold a $7.5 million club option on Zobrist, and it seems certain they will pick up that option. What remains to be seen is whether they will consider trading Zobrist, in the final year of his contract, to cut down on payroll. Given his versatility and value to the Rays, the most likely outcome is that Zobrist will play out his contract with Tampa Bay.
OF Matt Joyce would seem to be the most likely Rays outfielder to be traded this offseason, as he's set to make more than $4 million in salary and is entering his final year under team control. Joyce, a native of Tampa who's always loved playing for his hometown team, hit .254 with a .349 on-base percentage in 493 plate appearances but slugged only nine home runs, his fewest since 2009. Joyce has mostly been limited to a platoon role in his time with the Rays, as they don't generally use him against left-handed pitching, and he's in line for another raise via the arbitration process after making $3.7 million in 2014. With Kevin Kiermaier, Desmond Jennings, Brandon Guyer and Wil Myers all available as younger, cheaper options and utility man Ben Zobrist able to man both outfield corners, Joyce realizes he may have played his last game with the Rays. "Obviously I'd like to be here. I have another year on the contract, and this is my home," Joyce said. "I've had a ton of fun and some amazing memories. For right now, I'm still a Tampa Bay Ray. I have every intention of working my butt off and getting ready to stay a Tampa Bay Ray and come back and have a successful season next year."