Inbox: Rays' solution for first base in-house?

Inbox: Rays' solution for first base in-house?

Inbox: Rays' solution for first base in-house?
How come Leslie Anderson and Henry Wrigley are not given consideration for next year's team given the need at first base? They both had a good season at Triple-A Durham last year.
-- David L., St. Petersburg

I began to wonder that myself as the season progressed and both did so well at Triple-A. I have not seen Anderson play much, but I did see Wrigley play some during Spring Training, and I liked what I saw. When the September callups arrived to the Rays, I asked about Wrigley, and every player I talked to told me he seemed to hit the ball hard a lot. That being said, there is a huge difference between playing at the Triple-A level and the Major Leagues. The Rays have not addressed why they did not bring up either player.

I got upset with the Rays' management the other day after reading an item about all the Rays who got away, such as Delmon Young, Buster Posey and Josh Hamilton. What if we would have had all of those guys -- can you imagine what we might have done?
-- Brian R., Tampa, Fla.

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I don't believe you can be too hard on the organization once you examine why the players you mentioned are not Rays. Let's go player by player. Young is the easy one to defend. Tampa Bay got Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett in the deal that sent Young to Minnesota -- enough said. Next, Posey. Yes, Posey has turned out to be quite a talent, and he was available when the Rays selected Tim Beckham with the first pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.

I'm sure Tampa Bay would like to have that one over. But just remember this: Beckham could still pan out, and the Rays have done pretty well at taking the right guy when they've had the top pick of the Draft. Young, Hamilton and David Price are all legitimate Major Leaguers. Whether they missed on Beckham remains to be seen, but as an organization, they are batting .750 in four trips to the plate when they've had the top pick.

Finally, Hamilton. While this one looks particularly bad, because the organization did not protect him in the Rule 5 Draft, the Rays went through plenty of well-documented episodes with Hamilton during his tenure in the organization, and nobody but the club's front-office members can know exactly what went on behind closed doors in dealing with him and his substance problems. When Tampa Bay opted not to protect Hamilton, he had just returned to baseball, and he had never played at the Major League level. Finally, keep in mind that every team has stories about players who got away. But equally important are the ones they managed to acquire and keep.

If the Rays go with an outfield of Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce in 2013, who will likely compete for the shortstop and second-base positions?
-- Austin B., Sarasota, Fla.

As I've said in previous Inboxes, I think Zobrist will end up as the Rays' starting shortstop in 2013. I have speculated on what the outfield might look like if, indeed, B.J. Upton goes elsewhere via free agency. Don't forget the possibility of Sam Fuld starting in center field, either, with Jennings in left and Joyce in right.

Also consider that for Zobrist to move back to right -- where he's played pretty darn well -- the team will need a shortstop. Right now, the in-house candidates are Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac, Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee. Brignac, Rodriguez and Johnson all played the position at the Major League level in 2012, while Lee and Beckham remain prospects. If Tampa Bay chooses not to stay in-house for a shortstop, the club might leave Zobrist at the position and look for another outfielder.

Is there a chance that Carlos Pena will be re-signed? I know he's a "hit-and-miss" guy, but he did have a great few months this year, and when he's on fire, he's on fire! As far as I'm concerned, he is the best first baseman in the Major Leagues right now. He can make plays at first base that no one else can. This season, if the score was tight when he wasn't starting, he was always playing the last couple of innings because of his prowess at first base.
-- Linda T., Lakeland, Fla.

I think Pena returning to the team is unlikely, but never rule out anything with the Rays. They will keep you on your toes. Pena remains one of the most popular players in team history, so seeing him struggle in 2012 was tough for the organization and the fans. If he were to return, I believe Tampa Bay would have to be convinced that the 2012 season somehow was just one of those years for Pena. Again, though, I'm not seeing it.

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