Inbox: How will the Rays improve this offseason?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers questions from fans

Inbox: How will the Rays improve this offseason?

I read a lot about Rays players that might be traded, usually to lower the payroll. I read almost nothing about how the Rays might get better. It's season-ticket renewal time. Why do you think the Rays might do better next year?
-- Larry A., Seminole, Fla.

Really good question, and tough to answer. One of the biggest challenges facing the Rays' front office during the offseason is evaluating what they have on their roster. The club must examine every player and decide whether his performance was up to par, and if it wasn't, whether that was an aberration or the front end of a trend. 

Having said that, I like some of what the Rays have in place. For example, an infield with Evan Longoria, Matt Duffy, Logan Forsythe and Brad Miller. Kevin Kiermaier is in center field, and it looks as if Steven Souza Jr. will be in right, with Wilson Ramos at catcher. The bullpen needs to be rebuilt, but they can build down from the top since they have Alex Colome and Brad Boxberger at the back end. That leaves a hole in left field to be patched. Will they use one of their starters to trade for a hitter who can fill that void? We'll have to wait and see. But I think the team looks formidable on paper.

Hot Stove Tracker

Will the Princeton Rays be coming back in 2017? My wife and I enjoy going to as many games as we can.
-- Danny R., Peterstown, Fla.

To my knowledge, the Princeton Rays are going nowhere. I even asked the Rays' public relations staff if anything had changed with the Rays' affiliate in the rookie Appalachian League and I was told it hadn't. So hopefully you'll continue to enjoy going to Princeton games.

I really don't get the Rays' trading behavior. Successful teams either trade for immediate help, or they trade for prospects. The Rays try kind of a mixture. I'm wondering if they will change that approach after looking at the impact the acquired players did not make last season.
-- Carl T., Boston

The Rays have always pointed to their financial situation as a small-market team and noted that they must keep one eye on the present and the other on the future. While some of the players did not work out last season, the Rays did manage to acquire two players who appear to be cornerstones going forward in Duffy and Miller. I look for the Rays to continue trying to keep their farm system stockpiled, particularly in young arms, as they feel that is the one area they can never afford to go to market to acquire.

Submit a question to the Rays Inbox

Could someone please explain to me why we never see any press on Jake Odorizzi? If you consider the Rays' paltry offense giving him basically zero run support, his stats are outstanding.
-- Fritz B., Highland, Ill.

Fritz, I couldn't agree with you more. Odorizzi is the sleeping giant of the rotation. While he's not the shiny new Corvette straight out of the showroom, he is the dependable model that just keeps getting better. I've been impressed with Odorizzi ever since the Rays acquired him in the trade that sent James Shields to the Royals. He's the consummate professional. He constantly evaluates where he's going, then does whatever is necessary to make improvements. You nailed it with your observation.

Mine is not a question but a "what if." I know that relief pitchers have been part of the game almost forever, but what if a team uses a starter for one time through the order, then goes to another starter for the second time through, then uses another starter for the third time through? I believe it would really help. A team could use most starters almost every day. What do you think?
-- Bob J., Largo, Fla.

In theory this might sound great. The problem comes in recovery. The human body is not built to throw a baseball at high velocities every day. I think most would agree that, sooner or later, everybody would break down under your scenario.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.