With the World Baseball Classic just a few months away, the rosters are beginning to take shape. More names surfaced Monday as the World Baseball Classic released an initial list of 30 players who are confirmed to be participating in the 2017 tournament.
Spanning 16 countries, the players include 24 Major League All-Stars, but the upcoming WBC, which will take place in March, provides a global stage for veterans and rising stars alike.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Hitting lessons with Rays slugger Brad Miller is among three opportunities for Rays fans to bid on for the Play Ball charity auction.
Major League Baseball and all 30 clubs have organized a charity auction benefiting youth baseball and softball in Little Ferry, N.J., the hometown of former Mets public relations executive Shannon Forde.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Last season didn't turn out the way the Rays had intended. Now that the front office has had a chance to evaluate what went right and what went wrong, the Rays head to the Winter Meetings ready to shape a winning team for 2017.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 9 a.m. ET.
Hal Bodley, dean of American baseball writers, 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.
Honeywell, Wong on Fall League's Top Prospects Team
Selected by AFL managers and coaches, the team recognizes 24 players who stood out
By Mike Rosenbaum
The 2016 Arizona Fall League came to an end on Nov. 19, when the Mesa Solar Sox, powered by a two-homer, 4-for-4 performance from Cubs top prospect Ian Happ, defeated the Surprise Saguaros, 6-1, in the championship game at Scottsdale Stadium.
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have hired Joey Greany as their Major League strength and conditioning assistant.
Greany comes to the Rays after nine seasons with the Royals' organization, most recently as its Triple-A strength and conditioning coach. With the Rays, he joins Trung Cao, who was recently promoted to Major League strength and conditioning coordinator.
Seems like every couple of days there's another report about teams having interest in acquiring Rays right-hander Chris Archer, an All-Star in 2015 who led the Major Leagues with 19 losses in '16.
It's been going on since July, when the Dodgers, Rangers and Cubs were among the believed suitors for the 28-year-old workhorse who is coming off back-to-back 200-inning seasons. It has continued into the offseason, with the Braves among those being mentioned lately.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Peace & glove: Owners, players reach CBA deal
New agreement includes change to home-field advantage in World Series
By Richard Justice
IRVING, Texas -- Major League Baseball's players and owners reached a tentative five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement through the 2021 season on Wednesday night. The parties will follow up today with a formal document, which then must be ratified by representatives of both sides.
At 8:40 p.m. ET, an assortment of happy players, owners, lawyers and staffers poured from meeting rooms to exchange handshakes and hugs. That's how quickly 36 hours of round-the-clock negotiations ended, nearly four hours before today's deadline of 12:01 a.m. ET to reach a deal. Short of an agreement, the sport was faced with the best-case scenario of an extension or owners could have imposed a lockout.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Making deals is the sexy part of the Winter Meetings. However, that lure won't necessarily prompt the Rays to agree to any deals.
"We've had a lot of conversations so far this offseason and expect plenty more as we move into the Winter Meetings," said Rays senior vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom. "Whenever all 30 clubs gather in one place, you can expect it to be busy; there will be a ton of dialogue and many different things to consider. We'll look forward to exploring the landscape thoroughly and seeking opportunities to improve our club."
The Arizona Fall League always is loaded with talent, and it was stronger than usual in 2016. In the initial installment of MLBPipeline.com's "The Next Big Leaguers," which premieres Tuesday, we focused on five prospects: Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger, Twins shortstop Nick Gordon, Cubs outfielder Eloy Jimenez, Red Sox infielder Yoan Moncada and Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres.
We could have spotlighted many more promising prospects if not limited by time constraints, and below we'll do exactly that.
While the most talented team doesn't always win the championship, it did in the Arizona Fall League. The Mesa Solar Sox wrapped up the East Division crown on the final day of the regular season before rolling to an easy victory in the AFL's one-game playoff for its first title since 2003.
Mesa had the league's deepest lineup, as evidenced by its seven hitters who rank among the AFL's 20 best prospects below. The Solar Sox had star power with outfielders Eloy Jimenez (Cubs) and Bradley Zimmer (Indians) and second baseman Ian Happ (Cubs), all of whom sit in the 20s on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list. They also had emerging talents such as shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang and outfielder Greg Allen, who have been overshadowed in a deep Indians system, and league home run leader Brian Anderson (Marlins No. 4 prospect), who had support for making our list.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Steven Souza Jr. has been an enigma throughout his two-year tenure with the Rays.
The Everett, Wash., native came over in a three-way trade among the Padres, Nationals and Rays in December 2014. Since his arrival, he's appeared at times to be the answer to the Rays' quest for power. At other times, he has not.
Do we know if the Rays are planning to address the catcher, left field and DH positions via trade? This offseason seems to be the perfect time for the Rays to use their pitching and prospect depth to solve all three of those issues. The Rays could use some bullpen help too.
-- Michael B., Odessa, Fla.
First, given the team's depth at starting pitching, trading a starting pitcher remains at the forefront of possible offseason action. According to the rumor mill, Chris Archer is the most sought after of the Rays' starters. Based on needs, one might assume that the Rays would be in the market for a catcher or a left fielder. However, history has shown that the club has always danced to a different beat. Observing how it likes to do things, I believe if it trades one of its starters, it will be for the best player (or players) it can bring back in return -- and not a player just to fill a need.
Right-hander Dylan Thompson, the Mariners' 22nd-ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, along with first baseman/outfielder Dalton Kelly and right-hander Andrew Kittredge, join the Tampa Bay organization.
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyRsports This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Rays announce 2017 Spring Training schedule
By David Adler
The Rays announced their 2017 Spring Training schedule on Friday, with the first workout for pitchers and catchers set for Feb. 14. The first full-squad workout will be on Feb. 19, and the team's first game is set for Feb. 24 on the road against the Twins.
The Rays, entering their ninth season at Charlotte Sports Park, play their first home game of the spring on Feb. 25 against the Pirates. The Rays' Grapefruit League home games during Spring Training will start at 1:05 p.m. ET.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Chris Archer is in play. That's what the Hot Stove rumor mill has to say about the talented Rays right-hander.
Given Archer's talent, plus the fact that he's signed to a relatively modest and club-friendly deal, why would such speculation be so rampant? Well, the Rays certainly aren't going to offer an answer to that question. Club policy dictates that they don't comment on any deals, on or off the record. That leads to careful -- and independent -- analysis of why Archer is coveted and why he could be available.
Watching the postseason and how the different managers used their bullpens, I started wondering if we'll see some new thinking going forward. For example, would the Rays consider using Alex Colome in the sixth instead of saving him for the ninth? Your thoughts?
--Bill B., St. Petersburg
In my recollection, the defined closer role for the ninth inning really began with Tony La Russa's use of Dennis Eckersley in the late '80s with Oakland. Based on that use, the closer comes in for the final inning if his team has the lead or if the game is tied (on occasion). That formula worked with Eckersley, along with many closers who have followed.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Kiermaier earns Defensive POY Award in CF
By Manny Randhawa
Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier on Friday night was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year for the position.
The Defensive Player of the Year Awards recognize the nine best defensive players in the Major Leagues, with one honored at each position. Wilson also names a top defensive team and one exemplary performer as top defensive player.
Chris Archer was a senior at Clayton (N.C.) High School in the spring of 2006, when the World Baseball Classic debuted as the sport's premier international tournament.
"I still remember watching Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens take the field for Team USA," Archer recalled Friday. "I was in awe. I realized there was no higher level of international competition for our sport. This is the equivalent of the World Cup of soccer.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Predictably, the early rounds of the Hot Stove season include the names of Rays players. Evan Longoria and Chris Archer were front and center on Wednesday, though the rumors don't sound serious and the Rays did not confirm either.
Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweeted that Tampa Bay is open to listening to deals that would include Longoria. Though the scenario isn't exactly likely, there are plausible reasons to believe the Dodgers might try to pry away Longoria from the Rays.
It was easy to write off Chris Archer as having had a poor season in 2016, wasn't it? Yes, he lost 19 games, tied with James Shields for the most in baseball. Yes, Archer had a career-worst 4.02 ERA. And yes, he played on a last-place team that lost 94 games. It's easy to have not paid much attention to what Archer did in the second half of the year.
Perhaps it was too easy, though, because you may not have noticed that Archer was actually very good over the final months of the season, more or less back to his old self. His "old self," remember, finished fifth in the 2015 American League Cy Award Young voting, in one stretch striking out 38 over three games without a walk. That came on the heels of two very good seasons in '13-14.