12/03/07 11:04 PM ET
Notes: Wilson lost on waivers to Bucs
Rays choose to keep Zobrist, putting 40-man roster at 38
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Wilson's departure, coupled with the Elijah Dukes trade, put the Rays' 40-man roster at 38.
"From a roster standpoint, Josh came and did a great job for us," senior vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "We're going to have [Ben] Zobrist in a middle-infield/utility role, and we'll have competition in [Spring Training] camp there, too."
Wilson was out of options, which Friedman said limited the Rays' flexibility.
"And the guys that we still need to add position player-wise need to have a little more of a bat or a little more position flexibility," Friedman said.
Wilson hit .251 with two home runs and 24 RBIs in 90 games with the Rays -- mostly at shortstop -- after coming to the team via waivers from the Nationals on May 10.
Friedman said the Rays chose to keep Zobrist over Wilson because of two reasons. One, Zobrist still has options, giving them more flexibility with the roster, and two, his bat -- since he's a switch-hitter.
"Zobrist was the guy to go with," Friedman said.
Longoria's status: Top Rays prospect Evan Longoria would appear to be a highly likely option at third base next season, given the team's recent activity.
The Rays acquired shortstop Jason Bartlett, along with right-hander Matt Garza and Minor League reliever Eduardo Morlan, last week when they sent right fielder Delmon Young, infielder Brendan Harris and Minor League outfielder Jason Pridie to the Twins. The departures of Wilson and Harris make Zobrist the team's backup at shortstop or perhaps the team's starter at second base, depending on whether third baseman Akinori Iwamura moves to second base to accommodate Longoria at third.
At the end of the 2007 season, the Rays said that they would make a decision prior to the start of Spring Training on whether Longoria will be the team's Opening Day third baseman. The decision will be based primarily on input from the organization's development people and whether they feel he is ready to make the jump.
"The biggest thing we're going to do is in the best interest of Evan Longoria's development," Friedman said.
Rays' needs: The Rays still want to acquire a left-handed hitter who can hopefully play some right field and fill in at designated hitter. If the season were to start today, Rocco Baldelli and Jonny Gomes would likely fill the two slots. Ideally, Friedman said he would like three guys -- including the as-yet-to-be-acquired left-handed hitter -- to fill the two holes.
"We always had a little more emphasis on a left-handed bat who could be an outfielder," Friedman said. "That being said, if we find the right left-handed bat, no matter where he plays, he could just DH more than anywhere else. And we have two guys who can go out and play the outfield. ... The ideal profile is still a guy who can play the outfield and DH, but it's someone who's going to get enough at-bats that the bat is very important."
Friedman said he does not know if the desired player will be acquired through free agency or by trade.
"I think it's too early to say," Friedman said. "We've narrowed down on a couple of free agents and we've narrowed down on a couple of trade targets, so we're trying to figure out the options we've gone through and kind of done that, and now we're going to kind of systematically attack those various options."
And speaking of players who might be traded, Friedman said he's been amused about the constantly changing reports about Carl Crawford's availability. He reiterated that the Rays have a policy of listening to trade offers to try to improve the team. But listening is not the same as trying to trade a player away, particularly when that player is as talented as Crawford.
While the Rays suddenly look thinner in the outfield than they have in some time, Friedman said he would rather be searching for a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield than to be trying to find a starting shortstop and a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Friedman also said the team would like to further strengthen the bullpen if possible, and he is now optimistic the 'pen can become one of the team's strengths.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.