Watching the postseason and how the different managers used their bullpens, I started wondering if we'll see some new thinking going forward. For example, would the Rays consider using Alex Colome in the sixth instead of saving him for the ninth? Your thoughts?
--Bill B., St. Petersburg
In my recollection, the defined closer role for the ninth inning really began with Tony La Russa's use of Dennis Eckersley in the late '80s with Oakland. Based on that use, the closer comes in for the final inning if his team has the lead or if the game is tied (on occasion). That formula worked with Eckersley, along with many closers who have followed.
However, I have noticed over the years that some teams force a guy into a closer's role when that guy is not really equipped to handle the heat of the late-game situation. Do I believe that bullpen roles will change? I don't think we'll see regular-season games managed like the postseason. Because of the 162-game season, managing a bullpen like the postseason would be difficult. For example, one reason the Eckersley thing worked so well was because La Russa knew that having Eckersley pitch the ninth meant one less thing he had to worry about. Having defined roles just seems to work better during the regular season.
I look at the players we have heading into the offseason and I think we've got a pretty good group. This is a team that finished last in the AL East. The Rays have to do something to be competitive, but, like I said, I like the guys we have. Your thoughts?
--Ted W., Winter Haven, Fla.
I think the Rays share your feelings. On top of that, the front office must be cautious about overreacting to last season. Do you clean house, or do you have enough faith in the group you have to think 2016 was an aberration? I'm not really sure what the Rays have in store for the offseason. If pressed, I'd say their approach will be much like this quote from Braves GM John Coppolella when he was recently asked about the Braves' approach: "We're sort of like 7-Eleven. We're not always doing business, but we're always open."
I do believe the Rays will trade one of their higher-priced starters if the price is right, and I believe the price will be right given the less-than-stellar group of free-agent starting pitchers. Such speculation always makes Hot Stove season fun to follow.
Every year we trade off more of the players we've enjoyed watching and grown attached to just because the Rays are unable to afford them. All we get are more prospects. Meanwhile, you look at a team like the Cubs, they have our players -- Ben Zobrist, and our manager, Joe Maddon, and they're the ones who win a World Series. It's frustrating year after year to be a fan and see the same thing. Why do the Rays do business the way they do?
Jeff T., Tampa
First, you brought up the Cubs, so let's go there. The Rays normally make deals that bring back prospects. How do you think the Cubs acquired their starting shortstop Addison Russell? If you don't remember, I'll refresh your memory. They got him in a 2014 deal that sent established right-handers Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija to the A's. They also acquired Anthony Rizzo in a trade. Both were prospects. As for Zobrist, how do you think the Rays acquired him in the first place? Again, a refresher, they got him from the Astros in 2006, along with right-hander Mitch Talbot, for veteran Aubrey Huff. Zobrist was one of your dreaded "prospects" that the Rays got in return. Now, look at the deal the Rays made to send Zobrist to the A's. They were able to package shortstop Yunel Escobar, who was signed to a bad deal, and Zobrist, to the A's for John Jaso along with prospects Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell. Robertson plays shortstop and appears to have plus talent. Meanwhile, Powell was used in the deal with the Mariners that brought over Brad Miller. The Rays prefer to stay young, which allows them to keep fresh talent on the field, and it suppresses the payroll to a certain extent. This method has worked in the past and there's no reason to believe it's not going to work again. Prospects are the lifeblood of the Rays organization. And the last thing the Rays want to do is hang on to a veteran player until he no longer has any value.
Chris Archer needs a haircut! Go back to the first part of the 2015 season, when he pitched his best for the Rays, he'd yet to grow out his hair. After that, he let his hair grow and he struggled. I think his hair has somehow thrown off his delivery and it's not going to get any better until he heads to the barber shop.
--Ken C., Clearwater, Fla.
So you believe he's just the opposite of Samson, do you? While I'll agree that Archer pitched his best during the first half of 2015, I don't see a correlation between performance and hair. The hirsute have shown in the past that you can win with a full top (see the A's of the early 1970s). Archer seems to like his hair, so I don't expect him to cut it closer. I simply look for him to continue to strive to repeat his delivery and make the quality pitches that get hitters out.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.