Will the fact that Chris Sale now seems to be on the market affect what the Rays do in regards to trades? He's got to be considered the top pitcher on the market now.
-- Paul K., Brandon, Fla.
Rumors concerning Rays players have swirled throughout the Major Leagues this trade season, primarily because Tampa Bay is lower in the standings than the club has been in recent years. Prominent among the rumors are Chris Archer, Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi.
Of the three, the Rays' demands for Archer are said to be exorbitant. So if Sale is now the most desired pitcher on the block, would that affect how much Tampa Bay could demand, for, say, Archer?
It probably does not, since the Rays do not have to move Archer. Remember, Tampa Bay will always listen to any offers for any players. But listening and trading are not the same thing. On top of that, I don't see the White Sox trading Sale. He's a No. 1 starter and is signed to a friendly contract.
Based on what I've seen of this year's team, I can't really pinpoint any one problem. Just seems like everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. The way the team finished last season, I felt really optimistic about the team's chances this year. What have you seen? And do you think Kevin Cash needs to go?
-- Ken S., Tampa, Fla.
I think the biggest single flaw in the blueprint for this year's team has been the underachieving of the team's starters, though they have really begun to come around in the second half. The group is accountable, and I believe if you asked any one of them, they'd tell you they have not accomplished what they would have liked.
Heading into the season, I did wonder if too much was made about the strong finish to last season, as the Rays won eight of their last 12 games to finish 80-82 in 2015. Looks like the front office viewed that finish as a baseline they could build on. So they brought in some more power with the likes of Corey Dickerson, Steve Pearce, Logan Morrison and Brad Miller.
Unfortunately, for Tampa Bay fans, that tweaking didn't accomplish what they had hoped. I think the big question is: Would the Rays be in contention if the starting pitching had not got off to such a bad start? As for Cash, I can't pinpoint any one reason why he should be fired. Ultimately, a team's performance is on the players.
What are the Rays going to do with Tim Beckham? I watched the little hot streak he went on recently and wondered why he doesn't hit like that more often. Other times I think Tampa Bay got a bust in the 2008 Draft and needs to cut its losses.
-- Ben D., St. Petersburg
Beckham did have a nice hot streak last week when he had hits in eight consecutive at-bats, and he even played a decent first base when pressed into action at a position that he'd never played. I don't know what the answer is. There are times when he looks incredibly talented and other times when he doesn't. Since the Rays appear to be out of contention, I would personally like to see Beckham get a chance to play every day. If he pans out, maybe the team has a shortstop for the future. If he doesn't, than maybe it's time to cut ties.
What do you think about the Rays' catching situation now that they've sent down Hank Conger and brought up Luke Maile? Maile and Curt Casali certainly aren't great sluggers, but at least they appear capable behind the plate.
-- Jack G., Tampa, Fla.
I'd have to say the catching appears to be on solid ground with the addition of Maile and the subtraction of Conger. Based on what the front office's apparent intentions this past offseason were, I understand why the Rays brought in Conger. They looked at the team's offense and decided they would sacrifice a little bit in the field to have the potential to score more.
Unfortunately, for both Tampa Bay and Conger, it didn't work out. Conger struggled offensively and defensively before getting optioned to Triple-A Durham. Maile is off to a quick start behind the plate. The pitchers like throwing to him, and he's shown a quality arm against attempted basestealers. Combined with Casali's work, the Rays seem to be in a good place behind the plate for the time being.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.