Inbox: Will Rays maintain high level of defense?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers Tampa Bay fans' questions

Inbox: Will Rays maintain high level of defense?

I'm concerned about the Rays' defense, as so many of the new acquisitions seem to be average at best. If a prime defender like Kevin Kiermaier or Evan Longoria were to miss any time, could this team still get it done on defense?
-- John S., Palm Harbor, Fla.

Defense is a huge part of what the Rays do. Over the years, I've noticed how different a team can look when one of its main players is on the shelf with an injury. Normally that difference is subtle, and you don't really notice it until some time passes. Then it occurs to you that the double play is a half a click away from happening or the ball is just out of range for the fill-in player. Again, it's a subtle difference noticed over time, but all of those subtle differences add up to winning and losing games.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brett No. 8 on MLB Pipeline's Top 10 2B Prospects list

Braves' Peraza heads list, followed by White Sox's Johnson, Rockies' Wall

Brett No. 8 on MLB Pipeline's Top 10 2B Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com's 2015 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Friday on MLB.com, with the Top 50 revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at the Top 10 prospects at each position.

Graduations to the Major Leagues have taken a heavy toll on this list in the past year. Six of the second basemen on last year's preseason Top 10, including the top four, have lost their rookie eligibility, creating room for several newcomers.

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Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Gillaspie No. 6 on MLB Pipeline's Top 10 1B Prospects list

Bucs' Bell leads list, followed by A's Olson, Yanks' Bird

Gillaspie No. 6 on MLB Pipeline's Top 10 1B Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com's 2015 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Friday, Jan. 30, on MLB.com, with the Top 50 revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.

As has become an annual occurrence, the list of top first basemen lacks a bit in the elite prospect department. But there is good news: There are two players on this list on this year's Top 100: Josh Bell of the Pirates and Matt Olson of the A's. That doubles the total from the 2014 preseason list.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

O'Conner No. 5 on MLB Pipeline's Top 10 C Prospects list

Red Sox's Swihart sits atop list, followed by Rangers' Alfaro and Cubs' Schwarber

O'Conner No. 5 on MLB Pipeline's Top 10 C Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com's 2015 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Friday, Jan. 30, on MLB.com, with the Top 50 revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.

Though only one catcher (Blake Swihart of the Red Sox) fits in the top 40 spots on MLBPipeline.com's upcoming 2015 Top 100 Prospects list, talent behind the plate actually runs deep. The Minors are teeming with backstops who have the tools to contribute offensively and defensively in the big leagues in the near future. This list could see a lot of turnover a year from now, as Christian Bethancourt figures to be the Braves' starter and Swihart, Kevin Plawecki (Mets) and J.T. Realmuto (Marlins) could be playing regularly in the Majors by season's end.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Archer inspired, humbled by visit to South Africa

Rays pitcher went on trip in December as a Major League Baseball ambassador

Archer inspired, humbled by visit to South Africa

ST. PETERSBURG -- Chris Archer has a curious mind. He enjoys reading, learning and seeking answers.

So Archer was the perfect choice to travel to South Africa in December as part of Major League Baseball's ambassador program, which helps build awareness of the game in different countries and continents. The trip left him humbled.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays name Minors staff, with big change at Triple-A

Durham manager Sandberg replaces longtime skipper Montoyo after promotion to Majors

Rays name Minors staff, with big change at Triple-A

ST. PETERSBURG -- Jared Sandberg will have big shoes to fill as Triple-A Durham's new manager. The former infielder for the Rays and Bulls will be the skipper to follow Charlie Montoyo, the winningest manager in Bulls history.

Sandberg's new position highlighted Wednesday's announcement of the Minor League staffs in the Rays' farm system for 2015. Montoyo has been promoted to the Major League coaching staff, which brought about the vacancy at Tampa Bay's top farm club.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Inbox: Beckham a sleeper for Rays in 2015?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers questions from fans

Inbox: Beckham a sleeper for Rays in 2015?

What's become of Tim Beckham? It seems like we're asking that question every year come the start of Spring Training. I can't help but think how great this team would be had they drafted Buster Posey that year instead of Beckham. Will Beckham ever be a Major Leaguer?
-- Don P., Wesley Chapel, Fla.

True, Posey would look good in a Rays uniform. But hindsight is always correct. As for Beckham, it's likely he would have been with the team last season had he not injured his knee. Heading into this season, I believe he is the sleeper on the 40-man roster. With Zobrist's departure, the second-base and backup-shortstop slots are wide open. Beckham, along with Nick Franklin and Logan Forsythe, are all in the hunt. I saw Beckham working out at Tropicana Field the other day and he seemed to have a glow about him whizzing through drills. Yep, I think Rays fans are finally about to see what all the buzz was about concerning Beckham.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays Foundation accepting grant applications

ST. PETERSBURG -- Applications for the Rays Baseball Foundation's Community Fund Grant Program are now being accepted.

The Community Fund Grant Program provides financial support to local nonprofit institutions in the Tampa Bay region. These funds will support current youth and/or education programs offered by community-based nonprofit organizations. Grants averaging $5,000 are awarded through this program.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

A's, Rays could ride overhauled rosters to postseason

Oakland's Beane, Tampa Bay's Silverman surprise with bold moves

A's, Rays could ride overhauled rosters to postseason

Raise your hand if you think the Rays and Athletics are both going to the postseason in 2015. Funny game, isn't it?

Turns out, neither team ever intended to punt on the 2015 season. From the beginning, both tried to tell us there was a larger plan.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cobb among eight Rays to avoid arbitration

Cobb among eight Rays to avoid arbitration

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have agreed to terms for the 2015 season with all eight of their arbitration-eligible players: right-hander Alex Cobb, infielder Logan Forsythe, catcher/designated hitter John Jaso, outfielder Desmond Jennings, right-hander Kevin Jepsen, left-hander Jake McGee, catcher Rene Rivera and left-hander Drew Smyly.

In doing so, the Rays avoided going to arbitration.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays sign five to Minor League deals

Rays sign five to Minor League deals

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays signed five players to Minor League contracts on Friday, each with an invitation to Major League Spring Training: catcher Mayo Acosta, outfielder Joey Butler, infielder Juan Francisco, right-hander Jhan Marinez and left-hander Everett Teaford.

Acosta, 27, has thrown out 39.9 percent of attempted basestealers in his eight-year Minor League career. He spent the 2014 season with Triple-A Durham, appearing in 30 games. Acosta played in 28 games for Toros del Este of the Dominican Winter League, throwing out 10 of 20 attempted basestealers.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Retooled Rays see a chance to prove doubters wrong

Retooled Rays see a chance to prove doubters wrong

ST. PETERSBURG -- Just to make one thing clear, Rays management has not been dismantling the 1927 Yankees this offseason.

The 2014 Rays won 77 games. That's a 15-win drop-off from the previous season. So keep that in mind while throwing salvos at the makeover that new president of baseball operations Matt Silverman has directed this offseason. Did anybody really think the organization should have stood pat?

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Silverman foresees improved offense in 2015

Silverman foresees improved offense in 2015

ST. PETERSBURG -- Offensively, the 2014 Rays didn't exactly set a high bar. Last year's team scored 612 runs, while the opposition scored 625.

Translation: Tampa Bay's offense needs to improve. New president of baseball operations Matt Silverman believes that will happen in 2015.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Hal Bodley

Rays have been in position to surprise before

Counting out AL East's scrappiest squad a mistake not worth repeating

Rays have been in position to surprise before

ST. PETERSBURG -- Nearly four years ago, Joe Maddon stood outside his team's clubhouse during Spring Training and boldly stated, "The demise of the Tampa Bay Rays has been greatly exaggerated."

"Sure," I said to myself. "Damage control at its best."

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Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. Follow him @halbodley on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays' prospects getting taste of big league life

Rays' prospects getting taste of big league life

ST. PETERSBURG -- Tropicana Field's infield resembled ripening fruit on Wednesday morning, and that fruit was Major League prospects.

The Rays were in the midst of the organization's annual Winter Development Program. Now in its sixth year, the program is for select Minor League players. Before this week is complete, the 29 players on hand will have attended daily workouts, received instruction from Minor League and Major League staff as well as instruction on a variety of subjects, including media training. They also will have served as goodwill ambassadors for the organization by making visits to MacDill Air Force Base and the Northside Boys & Girls Club.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Moore targeting June return to Rays' rotation

Moore targeting June return to Rays' rotation

ST. PETERSBURG -- Former Rays manager Joe Maddon used to say that a player's face would let you know how he felt. Well, judging from Matt Moore's face, the left-hander is well on his way to a total recovery from Tommy John surgery.

Moore and his best friend Griffin, a chocolate goldendoodle, were on hand at Wednesday's workout at Tropicana Field. He underwent the surgery to his left elbow on April 22 and the prognosis is good.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays 2015 Fan Fest scheduled for Feb. 21

ST. PETERSBURG -- Fan Fest is fast approaching. The Rays announced on Tuesday that the 2015 Tampa Bay Rays Fan Fest is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 21, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field. Admission and parking for the event are free.

As usual, kids will be a priority at the yearly event. Among the myriad of kids activities will be "Reading with the Rays," new interactive zones and photos with Rays mascot Raymond and DJ Kitty.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cobb has stuff to be among AL's elite starters

Rays right-hander went 6-3 with a 1.79 ERA in second half of 2014

Cobb has stuff to be among AL's elite starters

ST. PETERSBURG -- James Shields is gone. So is David Price. That leaves Alex Cobb, at age 27, as the elder statesman of the Rays' starting rotation.

"It's a little weird," Cobb said. "I guess it was kind of astounding how quickly it happened. I just remembered getting up here, my eyes wide open, and watching Shields and Price, and all these older guys ahead of me. And I couldn't wait to be an established big leaguer. I can't describe how quickly it did come around to be the situation that it is."

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Source: Rays sign Francisco to Minors deal

Source: Rays sign Francisco to Minors deal

The Rays have signed infielder Juan Francisco to a Minor League contract, a source confirmed to MLB.com's Bill Chastain. The club has not confirmed the deal.

The 27-year-old Francisco spent last season with the Blue Jays, hitting .220/.291/.456 with 16 home runs in 106 games between first and third base.

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Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Zobrist expresses gratitude for 'chapter' with Rays

Super utility man spent nine seasons with Tampa Bay before trade to Oakland

Zobrist expresses gratitude for 'chapter' with Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- A day after getting traded to Oakland, Ben Zobrist noted that he was "sad to be leaving Tampa Bay."

On Saturday, the Rays traded Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the Athletics for catcher John Jaso and a pair of prospects, shortstop Daniel Robertson and outfielder Boog Powell.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays bid farewell to Zobrist in five-player deal with A's

Escobar also heads to Oakland; Tampa Bay reunites with Jaso, adds two prospects

Rays bid farewell to Zobrist in five-player deal with A's

ST. PETERSBURG -- Most figured Ben Zobrist would be elsewhere in 2015. On Saturday, that speculation came to fruition when the Rays traded one of the most popular players in team history to the A's. The surprise came in the fact that Yunel Escobar joined him.

In return for their shortstop and utility man, the Rays received catcher John Jaso and a pair of prospects, shortstop Daniel Robertson and outfielder Boog Powell.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays finalize deal with Asdrubal

Veteran signs 1-year pact, likely to start at short

Rays finalize deal with Asdrubal

ST. PETERSBURG -- In the backdrop of Saturday's news that Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar had been traded to the A's, the Rays announced that free-agent infielder Asdrubal Cabrera is officially a member of the team.

Cabrera signed one-year contract that will pay him $7.5 million. Sans Zobrist and Escobar, Cabrera will likely be the team's starting shortstop. Nick Franklin, Logan Forsythe and Tim Beckham will likely vie for the starting second-base job.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays Spring Training now available

Rays Spring Training now available

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays announced on Friday the process for purchasing single-game tickets to 2015 Spring Training games and also introduced the new Spring Three-Game Pack. The Rays open their Spring Training season on March 5 against the Orioles at 1:05 p.m. ET at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla.

Single-game tickets will go on sale next week, based upon availability. On Friday, Spring Training tickets will go on sale online to the general public exclusively at raysbaseball.com at 10 a.m. ET. On Jan. 17, Spring Training tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. via phone at 888-FAN-RAYS or 1-800-745-3000, online at raysbaseball.com or at the following locations:

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Silverman discusses new role, Rays' direction

President of baseball operations expects club to succeed in 2015

Silverman discusses new role, Rays' direction

ST. PETERSBURG -- When Andrew Friedman left to become the Dodgers' president of baseball operations, Rays team president Matt Silverman changed roles to assume Friedman's position as Tampa Bay's president of baseball operations.

Silverman hasn't exactly had time to ease into the job.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays' prospects taking part in Winter Development Program

Rays' prospects taking part in Winter Development Program

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays will hold the organization's sixth annual Winter Development Program for select Minor League players from Monday through next Wednesday at Tropicana Field.

Twenty-nine players will attend workouts each day and receive instruction from Minor League staff, along with an education in a variety of other subjects, including media training.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Spring workout dates announced for all clubs

Spring workout dates announced for all clubs

Spring is officially on the horizon.

Major League Baseball announced the first Spring Training workout dates for all 30 of its clubs on Thursday. Pitchers and catchers for the reigning World Series champion Giants -- along with the Phillies, Pirates and Reds -- will be the first to work out, with a Feb. 19 start date. Thirteen other clubs will work out pitchers and catchers for the first time the following day.

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AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cobb: Rays' rotation eyes 1,000-inning plateau

Cobb: Rays' rotation eyes 1,000-inning plateau

ST. PETERSBURG -- A big part of the Rays' success this year will be determined by how well the starting rotation does. Several of the starters have already expressed a desire to log 1,000 innings as a rotation.

Likely Opening Day starter Alex Cobb addressed the prospect of the group achieving such a lofty goal.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Archer headlines list of 10 Rays out of options

Archer headlines list of 10 Rays out of options

ST. PETERSBURG -- A consideration at every Spring Training camp is the players who are out of options. If a player is out of options, the club can't simply option him back to Minor League camp. The team would have to designate him for assignment, which would bring the risk of another organization being able to pick him up during this process.

Entering this year's camp, the following players are out of options: Chris Archer, Grant Balfour, Jeff Beliveau, Brad Boxberger, Alex Colome, Ernesto Frieri, Brandon Guyer, Kevin Jepsen, Jake McGee and Rene Rivera.

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Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McGriff falls short of election to Hall of Fame

Writers elect four players to Cooperstown for first time since 1955

McGriff falls short of election to Hall of Fame

NEW YORK -- Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in a blockbuster vote by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. The three pitchers were voted in their first time on the ballot, while Biggio was selected in his third year.

It was the first time in 60 years that the BBWAA has elected four players from the same ballot and the first time three pitchers were elected in the same year. The BBWAA has now elected 119 of the 215 Major League players in the Hall.

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Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.