ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' front office is in the midst of trying to piece together the 2018 team.
Chaim Bloom is right in the middle of the fray, hoping to find the right combination of players to put the Rays into the playoffs next season. Despite his busy schedule, the senior vice president of baseball operations managed to free up for a Q&A with MLB.com.
MLB.com: You've had some time to review the 2017 season. Do you feel like with the talent you had that the team underacheived, or overachieved with 80 wins?
Bloom: I think we all felt we had the pieces, and we had the talent to play in October, and obviously, we didn't end up doing that. In that sense, we're disappointed.
MLB.com: Did you feel the team chemistry was there, even after the trades you made?
Bloom: I think the vibe in our clubhouse this year was great. I think our guys battled. I think they battled every single day until the last out. And I think they had each other's backs in a real way. I thought we had good chemistry. The best way to describe it, we had a lot of really good individual contributions, and a lot of good contributions from different units of our team. But we just couldn't get it synced up to where we were firing on all cylinders for an extended period of time.
MLB.com: The 2018 roster has yet to be determined, but you do have some solid pieces in place. What do you have right now as far as constants going into next season?
Bloom: It's tough to know exactly what the offseason will bring. But we come into it feeling like we have a talented group and a fairly deep group. We got to see a lot of these guys take steps forward. The new pieces to this ongoing core took steps forward and showed what they could do this year to where we feel good about the depth we have in pitching, and the upside of both the guys in our rotation, and also some of the guys who might be a part of our bullpen. And you go around the diamond, and I think you feel pretty good about having a number of different options we like, whether it's in the infield or the outfield, or behind the plate.
MLB.com:Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison likely won't be back at first base since both are free agents. What are you looking to do at that position? Will Jake Bauers get a good shot at earning the job?
Bloom: We think the world of Jake Bauers, and he showed last spring [when he was in Major League camp] what he's capable of. And we believe that he's got a chance to be a fixture here for a long time. Having said that, you never want to put too much pressure on a young player. And we're always going to look for ways to make sure that we do have depth. And we do have options to go to, because we know it's going to take more than just 25 guys to get to the finish line. And especially to get there the way we want to get there. So I expect a scenario where we'll be active looking at the market and looking for the right fit.
MLB.com: A few years ago, the organization seemed to be thin where position players were concerned. Has that changed? Do you believe we'll start to see an influx of position players coming to the Rays from within the organization?
Bloom: There's no question for us to be competitive, we have to grow our own. For us, it's all about having that competitive core of players that we can sustain for many years. And that has to be driven in large part by contributions from our system. You can never have too much talent, but we think our system is in as strong a place as it's been in years. There are a number of guys with really good upsides.
MLB.com:Willy Adames and Brent Honeywell have drawn rave reviews, but seem to be blocked to a certain extent at the Major League level. How do you play that when you have a top prospect who appears to be ready, yet there's not necessarily a place for them?
Bloom: It's interesting that you asked that. I was just in the Dominican Republic and saw Willy. He came over to our academy to talk to our players there. I think the player is always going to be the first driver of that, in terms of what he does on the field will tell us when he's ready, and when he's ready to bust the door down. There are other things that play into it, obviously. So sometimes it's a balancing act so you have lanes of opportunity for the guys that you feel are part of your future, and also so you're not putting them out there without a safety net.
MLB.com: Do you believe the Rays have a chance to make the playoffs in 2018? If so, why?
Bloom: Absolutely. I think when you step back and you look at a lot of the contributions we got individually, and you look at the progress a lot of our young players showed, both at the Major League level and through the Minor Leagues from start to finish, you can get really excited looking around the diamond and thinking what some of these guys might be capable of. And with talented players, sometimes that progress can come in leaps and bounds. So if you have that kind of talent and can surround it with the right complementary pieces, absolutely.
MLB.com: It will be a good offseason if ... ?
Bloom: For us to compete and win, we have to have those core players that we can have together here for a number of years. That's going to drive the success of that team. So I think the biggest marker of our offseason is how much we were able to bring that core together, and how much we were able to augment it. And assemble a bunch of guys that we feel will fit well togeher. Grow together, and develop into a championship club.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.