With baseball's annual Winter Meetings approaching, the Rays have already gotten a head start, addressing their rotation and bullpen concerns in two major transactions this past week.
After signing veteran relief pitcher Troy Percival on Friday to a two-year contract, the Rays' bullpen makeover may be set. Openings could also possibly exist in the starting rotation, though the Rays may be finished there after acquiring Matt Garza from Twins on Wednesday. Any additional moves could come via free agency, but more than likely, the Rays would be looking to make another trade.
The Rays' collection of position players may also be set, leaving catcher as their only real concern.
2007 finish: 66-96, fifth place, American League East.
Deals so far: Picked up the option for RHP Al Reyes; acquired LHP Kurt Birkins off waivers; did not pick up the option for OF/DH Greg Norton; acquired RHP Matt Garza, SS Jason Bartlett and RHP Eduardo Morlan from the Twins for OF Delmon Young, SS Brendan Harris and OF Jason Pridie; signed RHP Percival to a two-year contract.
Players eligible for arbitration: 1B Carlos Pena, RHP Grant Balfour, RHP Gary Glover, OF/DH Jonny Gomes, LHP Scott Kazmir and RHP Dan Wheeler.
Free agents: C Josh Paul, Norton and RHP Shawn Camp.
Needs: What was recently a need may now be a strength after adding Percival. After inking the veteran righty to close, the only real question is how Reyes will adjust to setting up again for the Rays in 2008. The Rays finished the 2007 season with a stronger bullpen than they had earlier in the season, and Reyes, Wheeler, Scott Dohmann, Balfour, Glover and Juan Salas will all be in the mix for the bullpen in '08. Shoring up the catching position is also a need, but not a must. The Rays have said that they will spend the money if they find the right free agent, but it's more than likely any deals that get done will come via trades.
Dealing strengths: The greatest depth at the moment is the Rays' outfield and the team's young arms. Left fielder Carl Crawford is the most-mentioned name in trade rumors, but any team that wants the budding superstar will likely have to ante up in a big way to convince the Rays to pull the trigger on any deal. The Rays' starting outfield of Crawford, B.J. Upton and Rocco Baldelli is extremely talented. Other Rays outfielders include Jonny Gomes, Elijah Dukes, and quality prospects Fernando Perez and Justin Ruggiano. With Kazmir, James Shields and Garza leading the rotation, the Rays have a strong front end, with the other two spots being filled by the likes of Jeff Niemann, Mitch Talbot, Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson and Jason Hammel. All are young and talented, with plenty of young arms down in the farm system.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Associate reporter Anthony DiComo contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.