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What's up with Brad Boxberger? Will he be used in a trade, or will he re-sign with the Rays?
-- Fred S., Fort Worth, Texas
Boxberger is not a free agent, so Tampa Bay controls his rights. However, he is eligible for arbitration, so if the Rays tender him a contract and agree to go to arbitration, he'll be back with the team unless he's traded. However, I wonder whether they will trade him. Late in the 2017 season, Boxberger was used primarily in earlier innings than he had been used in previous seasons.
Do you feel that Lucas Duda or other signings messed with team chemistry? Will management keep payroll where it is, or will it want to see where the market takes it? Lastly, where are we with the stadium issue?
-- TW, West Central, Fla.
From what players told me inside the clubhouse, I felt like they had nice chemistry, before and after the trades. Next, I don't anticipate the payroll going higher, but the Rays have shown a willingness in the past to be flexible if a player they want is available. Finally, we should know more about the stadium issue in the coming months. Hillsborough County recently presented a plan for a stadium location, so that's cause for optimism.
Why are there some parks that have concrete walls? Also, why is a start of six innings with three earned runs a quality start?
-- Ken B., Homosassa, Fla.
I'm on your side as far as safety is concerned. I'm all for padded walls. As for the quality start, I'll throw another one at you: Three earned runs in six innings is a 4.50 ERA, yet allowing four runs in nine innings -- an ERA of 4.00 -- is not considered a quality start. Thus, I'll agree with you: The quality start is a flawed stat.
You asked if the Rays would have made the postseason with another manager. I think they would have with Charlie Montoyo.
-- Donald C., Tampa, Fla.
Obviously, we can't say whether either of us is right. Montoyo did have success in the past as the manager of Triple-A Durham. I'm sure you've seen the news that he will now be the Rays' bench coach. So let's agree to disagree and see what happens.
What do Joe McCarthy, Justin Williams and others have to do to get a chance?
-- Kevin D., Carterville, Ill.
I've seen both players play during Spring Training, and I've been impressed. Williams, Tampa Bay's No. 10 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, hit .301 with 14 home runs and 72 RBIs for Double-A Montgomery in 2017. When he connects, the ball turns small quickly. He came over to the Rays in the '14 trade that sent Jeremy Hellickson to the D-backs.
McCarthy, the Rays' No. 18 prospect, hit .284 with seven home runs and 56 RBIs for Montgomery, with 90 walks and 20 stolen bases. Tampa Bay selected him out of the University of Virginia in the fifth round of the 2015 Draft. Given the fact that both played at the Double-A level last season, I wouldn't expect to see them with the Major League club in '18, but stranger things have happened.