Margins in flux as Rays' roster takes shape

Camp competition could determine winners of final infield, outfield and bullpen roles

Margins in flux as Rays' roster takes shape

With Spring Training fast approaching, takes a look at a different aspect of this year's Rays squad each day this week. Today's topic: Predicting the 25-man roster.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- After winning just 68 games in 2016, there had to be some turnover with the Rays -- and there was.

Left-hander Drew Smyly got traded to the Mariners, outfielder Mikie Mahtook went to the Tigers and second baseman Logan Forsythe was dealt to the Dodgers.

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Meanwhile, the Rays moved to upgrade at catcher and in left field by signing free agents Wilson Ramos and Colby Rasmus.

With the start of Spring Training on the horizon, the thinning of the herd will begin. So let's take an initial position-by-position look at what the 25-man roster could look like by Opening Day.

Catcher (2): Luke Maile and Curt Casali. Yes, the Rays signed Ramos, but he's recovering from knee surgery and won't be with the team until the midway point of the season. That means Casali and Maile should split duties to start the season.

Maile's solo home run

Infield (6): Evan Longoria, Matt Duffy, Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Nick Franklin and Tim Beckham. Longoria will be at third, Duffy at short, Miller at first and second, and Morrison at first. If the Rays decide to go with Miller at second, that could force the team to trade either Beckham or Franklin. Daniel Robertson could also push his way into contention for a spot, but for now, Beckham and Franklin look like they'll be the utility guys, filling in at most of the infield spots and in the outfield some, too.

Outfield (4): Rasmus, Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr. and Mallex Smith. Rasmus will be in left, Kiermaier in center, and Souza Jr. in right. Corey Dickerson will be the fourth outfielder/DH. Smith, who came over in the Smyly trade, could factor into the starting equation, but an injury or trade would probably have to happen. He'll likely be a speedy option off the bench.

Rasmus on preparation for 2017

DH (1): Dickerson. Along with playing some outfield, Dickerson should see most of the work at DH. But with Souza and Rasmus coming off surgeries, those two, along with Morrison, could also find themselves in the mix.

Starting pitching (5): Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell and Matt Andriese. The first four names are locks for the rotation, which leaves Andriese, Chase Whitley and Jose De Leon competing for the fifth spot. Given the way the Rays have treated young arms, De Leon seems earmarked to begin the season at Durham. That would likely place Andriese in the fifth spot and Whitley in the bullpen.

Neander on acquiring De Leon

Bullpen (7): Alex Colome, Brad Boxberger, Xavier Cedeno, Erasmo Ramirez, Shawn Tolleson, Whitley and Danny Farquhar. With the six other relievers certain to make the roster, Farquhar looks as though he has the best chance to be the seventh man in the 'pen entering camp.

A lot can happen between the opening of camp and Opening Day. There are injuries, players returning from injuries and options to consider. All will be factors, but this is the initial guess. We'll revisit this later in Spring Training.

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