[Update] This projection has been updated to reflect the re-signing of Gabe Kapler. We have to assume that he will now be platooning in right field, and that will most likely be with Matt Joyce. This move bumps Fernando Perez back to the minors.
25-Man Roster Projection and Lineup (notes and explanations on the projection can be found following the roster)…
Notes on the 25-man roster projection…
- LINEUP: The questions here are catcher, second base and right field. And most of the answers are in-house. Dioner Navarro could be non-tendered if the Rays want to save a few bucks, but more likely he will be back as either the most-days catcher or part of a platoon. Ben Zobrist could start at both second (v lefties) and in right field (v righties). That would open the door for both Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce to get regular playing time (Rodriguez at 2B v LHP; Joyce in RF v RHP). The Rays may want both of those guys to be everyday players eventually, it just won’t be out of the gate in 2010. There are also slim chances of trades that would ship Carl Crawford, BJ Upton or Pat Burrell out of town.
- BENCH: Willy Aybar is in. After that are three question marks. The Rays need a backup catcher and they could bring back Gregg Zaun, but only at a cheaper rate than his $2.0 million option. The other two spots depend on how the Rays want to handle 2B and RF. Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce could be part-time starters. That leaves one spot for a fourth outfielder. That could be Gabe Gross, Gabe Kapler or Fernando Perez. We give the edge to Perez because he is cheaper and gives the Rays speed off the bench, something they lacked in 2009. And if Joyce is on the team, Gross would be redundant.
- ROTATION: The first four are set with James Shields, Matt Garza, David Price and Jeff Niemann. The final spot will almost certainly go to Wade Davis, unless the Rays pursue a veteran starting pitcher and want Big Dub to get a little more seasoning in triple-A.
- BULLPEN: This is where the Rays are most likely to add from outside the organization, just don’t look for that to be a high-priced closer. We looked at who was in and out last week. JP Howell, Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler are locks. We think Andy Sonnanstine is in. Lance Cormier may be also, but do the Rays need him and Sonny? Randy Choate will be the lefty-specialist over Brian Shouse unless the Rays can find a league-minimum alternative. Jeff Bennett provides something that is lacking outside of Balfour: a power fastball. At best, Bennett will compete for a job in spring training. The most likely scenario has the Rays adding two or three cheap relief pitchers via trade or free agency to come in and compete with Bennett, Cormier and Choate for the final bullpen spots.
- WHO’S OUT: Joe Nelson, Michel Hernandez and Joe Dillon have already been declared free agents. Dillon and Hernandez could be back on minor league deals. Troy Percival, Chad Bradford, Gabe Kapler and Jason Isringhausen will be free agents, and only Kapler has an outside shot at being back. The Rays are likely to decline the options on Aki Iwamura, Brian Shouse and Gregg Zaun, although they could bring Zaun back at a cheaper rate. Gabe Gross is arbitration-eligible and could be back, but we suspect he will be non-tendered, unless Joyce is not ready to make the jump.