I like the Rays bullpen, but they need to add a closer or add two more good arms or both. What do you think?
-- Paul H., Jacksonville, Fla.
I think they would love to add a closer, but the question is: Who is available and at what cost? I, too, like the Rays bullpen and feel as though it just needs a little tweaking. While several pieces of last year's 'pen won't be back for various reasons, it should still have a solid core heading into Spring Training. The most likely scenario would be for the team to add some solid veteran arms that would bolster its depth. Historically speaking, there are a lot of busts at closer who have signed big deals. And there is always a chance a closer could evolve from within the organization. I've heard Jake McGee's name mentioned more than once as a potential end-of-the-game guy.
If Billy Wagner does decide to play in the 2010 season I think he would be perfect to be the Rays' new closer. Yes he did have Tommy John elbow ligament reconstruction surgery, but if he has a healthy 2010 season he would not only help Tampa Bay contend but would also have a good shot at breaking the saves record (reaching 400 saves) -- since he is 15 shy. Wagner does want to close again and I think he should be the Rays' 2010 closer. What do you think?
-- James Y., St. Pete Beach, Fla.
I began hearing speculation about Wagner even before the end of the season, so I'm sure the Rays will at least talk to him. Once conversations begin, who knows what can happen? If both sides believe they have a good match, Wagner could be in a Rays uniform next year. But there are a lot of variables, such as Wagner's health, and would he take less money to play for the Rays as a closer than he would, say, the Yankees or Red Sox to be a piece in their respective bullpens?
Now that management has unloaded Kazmir's contract, do you think that it will be more involved in the free-agent market this winter and if so will it be smarter with its money instead of last winter when it gave too much money to Pat Burrell and didn't see a good enough return on the investment?
-- Pat W., Tulsa, Okla.
If you're the Rays, you hope any free-agent shopping this year turns out better than last year. In their defense, they had been on a really good roll until this past offseason. In essence, the free-agent market is a yearly crapshoot. General managers and scouts crunch numbers, review reports and talk to the players they might sign to try to determine the most intelligent decisions they can make. And I'll confess I'm guilty of believing at the time of Burrell's signing that bringing him in was the perfect solution for the team's designated hitter spot.
Are the Rays better off not signing Akinori Iwamura and just keeping Ben Zobrist as an everyday player? Zorilla sure had the RBIs and all percentages covered (slugging, on-base, etc.) and his defense was superb, no matter where he played. What's your take on this unfortunate situation for Aki but reality of baseball? I know Zobrist will make the team but what about poor Aki, he's a gamer but I just don't see a spot for him anywhere.
-- Sandy F., Riverview, Fla.
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Given the financial constraints the Rays work under, I don't see them picking up Iwamura's option for $4.25 million for the 2010 season. However, I do know the Rays like Aki. There is always the possibility that if they do not pick up his option that he would test the free-agent market and eventually re-sign with the Rays at a reduced rate.
Can you please tell me what manager Joe Maddon sees in Dioner Navarro that the rest of us don't? His defense is poor. His handling of pitchers is questionable and he has a .250 average, 24 home runs and 130 RBIs in three full years in the Majors. The Rays need a solid veteran catcher to handle their young pitching staff.
-- Dave E., St. Petersburg
Agreed, Navarro did not have a stellar season this year and the team needs improved play at catcher, which obviously is a reason the team brought in Gregg Zaun. Perhaps the Rays would not be as patient with Navvy if there were more available quality catchers out there, but there simply isn't such a supply to shop from.
Do you think Zobrist should stay in one position and play at that position every day?
-- Yu-Hung Su, Chiayi, Taiwan
I think Zobrist will be an everyday player at second and right field in 2010. There are a lot of possibilities that would see such a situation evolve that would involve who they decide on to play in the outfield. They could bring back Gabe Kapler to play against lefties or Matt Joyce to play against righties or perhaps play every day. Also, are Sean Rodriguez or Reid Brignac ready to play second base? One of the great advantages of having Zobrist is the flexibility he gives the team. And he actually enjoys moving around.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.