12/04/08 11:00 AM EST
Improving on breakout squad
To repeat 2008 run, Rays will look to fill holes in 'pen, right field
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
BULLPEN HELP -- The Rays need to add two new members to the 'pen, whether they come from within the organization or outside. If David Price is in the starting rotation, that means either Edwin Jackson or Andy Sonnanstine is available for the role (provided neither gets traded and the staff remains healthy). If they go outside the organization, adding a lefty to replace Trever Miller would help, as well as adding another arm who can pitch in late-inning situations since Troy Percival's health is a question mark.
POWER-HITTING DH -- Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske, and Rocco Baldelli could all be gone, which would leave the DH duties to Willy Aybar. Acquiring a power bat for the DH spot would be a nice luxury for the team and would give the offense a much-needed boost.
Who they can or need to trade:
RHP Edwin Jackson -- Jackson is a 14-game winner and could be out of a job -- or moved to the bullpen -- if Price moves into the starting rotation. He appears to have turned the corner and has a huge upside based on his physical talent. The Rays like him, so they aren't looking to trade him, but he could bring them what they need on offense.
SS Reid Brignac -- Brignac is highly regarded in the organization, but he is in a bad place between everyday Major League shortstop Jason Bartlett and up-and-comer Tim Beckham, the No. 1 pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft who also plays shortstop. Brignac hits left-handed and has some power, in addition to being a much-improved fielder.
RHP Jeff Niemann -- The fourth overall pick of the 2004 Draft has been a work in progress, but showed promise in several stints with the Rays in '08. He throws hard and his pitches arrive on a difficult angle for hitters to hit since he's delivering them from atop a 6-foot-9 frame. While he still seems to have a large upside, others in the organization are catching up to him and passing him, which would make him expendable.
Price, Beckham, RHP Wade Davis, LHP Jake McGee, OF Fernando Perez and RHP Jeremy Hellickson -- These players would be hard to pry out of the Rays organization.
Brignac and Niemann -- These are players the Rays would be more likely to deal this offseason.
Big contracts they might unload:
Eligible for arbitration:
Aybar, Gross, C Dioner Navarro, Bartlett, RHP Grant Balfour, OF Jonny Gomes and Jackson.
Gomes is the only non-tender candidate.
The Rays will work with a payroll of approximately $55 million in 2009, which would serve as a $10 million hike over '08.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.