Inbox: Are the Rays a World Series contender?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers Tampa Bay fans' questions

Inbox: Are the Rays a World Series contender?

Looking at the team we have so far, there is no doubt that it has playoff potential. Is it too early to even say World Series potential? How are the battles going to be in the American League East in 2014 with the Red Sox and the Yankees?
-- AJP, Tampa, Fla.

I think you are correct, the Rays have the potential to be a playoff contender and perhaps even have World Series potential. The team has its entire infield returning; an outfield consisting of David DeJesus, Desmond Jennings, Wil Myers and Matt Joyce; bolstered catching with the addition of Ryan Hanigan; and a deep group of talented starters. On top of that, you have Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman leading the franchise. Meanwhile, Boston and New York seem to be in transition phases.

What do you think the starting rotation will look like if David Price is traded? Who will be dropped if Price is our No. 1 starter?
-- Dalton C., Lexington, Tenn.

Good question, even though I'm beginning to think the team will keep Price this season. I believe right-hander Jake Odorizzi will be most affected by what happens with Price. If Price is not traded, the right-hander acquired from the Royals in the James Shields trade would likely be the odd man out.

If Price is traded, I believe Odorizzi would become the team's fifth starter. He seemed to make nice strides last season in several stints. Others in the hunt for the fifth spot, sans Price, would be Alex Colome and Enny Romero.

Are the Rays confident that Heath Bell is a realistic closing option after he's struggled since he left the Padres? If they don't feel he is, what are some names they could look at?
-- Taylor L., Bradenton, Fla.

First, one of the club's strongest suits under Friedman's reign has been the identification and signing of veteran relievers. Given that success, I'm sure the Rays are confident that Bell can return to form. Hedging their bet, they have former Marlins closer Juan Carlos Oviedo to compete for the job. If neither of those options work, Jake McGee and Joel Peralta are competent options.

I'm also curious about Fernando Rodney's status. Tampa Bay's closer from the past two seasons hinted at the end of the season that he would return for a discount. If the market does not yield the kind of return Rodney is looking for, will the Rays pony up the money to bring him back? Stay tuned.

Alex Cobb sure pitched well last season. Do you think his performance was more a case of the right-hander getting into a good groove? Or do you think the best is yet to come?
-- Les K., St. Petersburg

Cobb made great strides in 2013. He's a competitor with quality stuff and a tough kid. No telling how stellar Cobb's numbers would have been had he not missed a significant portion of time after getting hit in the head by a line drive. And you can't say enough about the courage he showed by returning -- and excelling -- as he did. At the end of the season, Cobb tilted the field in the Rays' favor every time he took the mound. I'm completely sold on Cobb, and I think the best is yet to come -- he's the real deal.

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