Now that the holidays have come and gone and the days are getting longer, it won’t be long till the boys of summer begin to gather at Tropicana Field to begin pre-spring training workouts.
The Rays have had a busy off-season as they will have a new starting catcher, a new first baseman, and a new starting pitcher.
The Rays began the month of November sending OF Mallex Smith along with minor leaguer Jake Fraley to the Mariners in exchange for C Mike Zunino, OF Guillermo Hernandez, and P Michael Plassmeyer.
Although it was tough to see Smith leave Tampa, the Rays picked up a young C in Mike Zunino who can be a fixture behind the plate for a long time.
With the trading of Smith, that opens the door for Austin Meadows to move into a full-time OF position. Meadows had a cup of coffee with the Rays at the end of last season after being acquired from Pittsburgh in the Chris Archer deal.
Zunino is an upgrade over Michael Perez and Nick Cuiffo who handled the catching duties after the Wilson Ramos trade.
Zunino is very good defensively and can swing a pretty decent bat which is something the Rays have lacked in that position after the Ramos trade.
Zunino throw out 35% of base runners which was 9% above the MLB average and also hit 20 HR’s. Zunino is also very good at handling pitchers and will have a good influence on the pitching staff.
The Rays also were involved in a three way team trade with the Cleveland Indians, and the Seattle Mariners as they picked up IB Yandy Diaz from the Indians along with P Cole Sulser in exchange for 1B Jake Bauers.
Diaz is another Cuban prospect who was stuck behind All-Star Jose Ramirez in Cleveland and was not going to get a chance for a lot of playing time.
Diaz can play three apposition, IB,3B, and LF. In 88 games with the Indians, Diaz hit .283 with 1 HR and 28 RBI’s. Diaz is a highly rated prospect and the Rays are hoping with more playing time he will live up to that potential.
Diaz will probably DH and play 1B primarily as no one will move Matt Duffy from 3B, and Ji Man Choi will get a chance at 1B as well.
Diaz can also play LF, so there is a good chance his bat will be in the lineup most games throughout the season.
The revamped Rays infield will now feature Zunino at C, Choi/Diaz at 1B, Wendle at 2B, Adames at SS, and Duffy at 3B.
As the winter meetings were winding down the Rays announced that they had signed P Charlie Morton to a 2 year $30 Million contract. The $15 million per year is the highest salary that the Rays have paid anyone in their history.
Morton comes from the Houston Astros where he played a key role in their Worl Series Championshis in 2016 and their playoff run in 2017.
Morton went 15-3 last season and over the last two years is 29-10 with an ERA around 3.40. Morton will join Snell, and Tyler Glasnow in the Rays 3 man rotation as Kevin Cash has said he will continue to use relief pitchers as openers or starting pitchers throughout the 2019 season.
I like the moves the Rays have made. Zunino will be an upgrade behind the plate, and Charlie Morton will make the Rays pitching staff better.
The jury is still out on Yandy Diaz. Everyone is waiting for home to have that breakout season. The Rays rolled the dice acquiring Diaz. They are hoping that this will finally be the season that Diaz becomes the player that everyone is expecting him to be.