Outfield, bullpen next on Rays' to-do list

Outfield, bullpen next on Rays' to-do list

ST. PETERSBURG -- Now that the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center is in the rearview mirror, as well as another Winter Meetings, the Rays can give themselves an attaboy for grabbing the catcher upgrade they so desired.

Wilson Ramos and the Rays finalized a two-year, $12.5 million deal Monday that includes playing time incentives to make up to $18.25 million. Mission accomplished.

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Now the front office must try and complete the puzzle for next season's team, particularly in the aftermath of Boston's acquisition of Chris Sale. Competing in the American League certainly isn't for the faint of heart.

Cash on Ramos' catching

"Yeah, it's hard," said Erik Neander, the Rays' senior vice president, baseball operations/general manager. "You have some high-quality teams, and [Boston's trade] is going to likely make life difficult for us up the road competing against those guys, but it's a decision they made and that's the way it goes."

When asked about the Rays' to-do list going forward senior vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom cut to the chase.

"We have room to round out the position-player group, especially in the outfield," Bloom said. "And then, obviously, our bullpen, we're going to have to continue to improve."

Added Neander: "I think where we are now, our outfield depth is not particularly thick. I think in an ideal world we'd be able to add someone to improve our run scoring and someone to improve our run prevention. And I think with our roster in the shape that we have it, there might be an opportunity to add multiple players."

Starting pitching is the area in which the Rays have the most depth, and it's a good area in which to have depth. In theory, since the team did not have to use any of its pitching depth to acquire a catcher, it might use a pitcher to acquire an outfielder it wants. Manager Kevin Cash wouldn't mind if the team sat pat, though.

"As a manager, you don't want to trade any of them, because what we've seen the last two years, you can never have enough starting pitching, and we do have a talented group," Cash said. "You know, we've got a good group of guys that are going to come back and they're going to be hungry to perform like they know they are capable of.

"That being said, I mean, that's what we get calls about. Leading up to the Winter Meetings, during the Winter Meetings, everybody wants to talk about our starting pitching because it's so valuable and it's so tough to find. It's a luxury for us to be able to have that, but I don't want to see any of them go."

And Cash echoed the sentiments of the organization, that many view as "The Little Engine that Could."

"[Boston] acquired a really, really good pitcher," Cash said. "The nice thing about Boston is they have already got a bunch of really good pitchers. I love the way our guys kind of rose to those challenges throughout the course of the year. The other left-hander they have [David Price] that we all know really well is pretty special, too. We had some really good games against him.

"Chris Sale is obviously as talented as anybody in the game, and he's going to present challenges. But it's something that I think our guys will be excited about. It will just add to -- kind of add to the competition in the AL East. It is what it is. That's how it works."

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.