Before we jump into the 25-man and 40-man roster projections, let’s take a look at the one area where we can expect the most change, the bullpen. But before we start thinking about who the Rays may add to the mix, let’s take a look at who might be back in 2010…

WHO’S IN?

  • JP Howell, Andy Sonnanstine and Mike Ekstrom look to us like the only sure-things. We suppose the Rays could dangle Sonny and see if anybody still thinks he can be a big league starting pitcher, but we have a feeling that the Rays see Sonnanstine as worth more in their bullpen than on the trade market.
  • We are not completely sold that Jake McGee is ready. But with so many spots available, he is certainly close.

WHO’S OUT?

  • We know some of you are still holding out hope, but we don’t see the Rays re-signing Rafael Soriano. And while some of you are dreaming of Joaquin Benoit in the 9th inning next year, we have a feeling several other teams with more money are thinking the same thing.
  • We would be surprised if the Rays offer Lance Cormier arbitration, so he is probably headed for free agency.
  • Dale Thayer will probably be back in triple-A as he still has one option remaining.

THE MAYBES

  • Randy Choate is a very effective lefty-specialist, but he is also a free agent. Will there be a lot of demand for Choate on the open market? We have a feeling he will be back in 2011.
  • The Rays will likely try to re-sign Grant Balfour and Chad Qualls. Qualls will be easier than Balfour, but both could be back.
  • The Rays have a $4 million option on Dan Wheeler which is more than they will want to pay. So look for them to decline the option and try to bring Wheeler back at a cheaper rate. He is a favorite of Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey, so we expect him back.

If we assume that the Rays will indeed bring back all 3 of the “Ins”, that would leave 4 open spots. McGee is in if he is ready. Wheeler, Qualls, Choate and Balfour are all possibilities. But can you really see the Rays re-signing all four?

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17 Comments

  1. Charles says:

    MLB Trade Rumors lists Wheeler & Balfour as Type A relievers - what effect do you think that will have on their futures here?

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      Relievers are always tough. I think the Rays will offer Balfour arbitration. And if they do, it will severely impact his status as a free agent. Can't imagine any teams will give up a first-round pick for Balfour. So that will make it very likely that he returns.

      As for Wheeler, I can't see the Rays offering him arbitration, because Wheeler would almost certainly accept it. And if he does, an arbitrator will give him something close to what he made this year and that is more than the Rays want to play.

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  2. Chris D says:

    Swindle is possibly a cheap replacement for Choate. Rays should give Winston Abreau a look as well as he's been basically lights out in AAA.

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  3. Greg says:

    Couldn't you have let me go a little farther into the offseason before telling me Dan Wheeler will probably be back?

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  4. Brixology says:

    Count me in as dreaming of Benoit in the 9th. I will not let that dream go until he has his press conference with [insert rich team name].

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  5. Kevin says:

    I think the Rays will definitely offer Choate arbitration. If he accepts, fine, if he doesn't, the Rays won't make a big effort to re-sign him since he's a type-B FA.

    And why on Earth is Mike Ekstrom a lock? He's just not a good pitcher.

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    • Beth says:

      He's cheap and under team control.

      And on what basis do you say he's not a good pitcher? I'm not defending him -- just wonder how you've seen enough of him to draw that conclusion? He's pitched very few major league innings. Clearly he's not on track to be a star, but is he worse than other, more expensive options?

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      • Kevin says:

        I worded that poorly. I was wondering why Ekstrom, who I think is at best a league-average guy, would be a "lock." I don't mean he's terrible, I just don't think he's good enough to go "Yeah, he'll definitely be in the 'pen."

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        • Cork Gaines says:

          couple of things...

          1. as stated above, he is cheap. The Rays are going to need a couple of Mike Ekstrom's in the bullpen next year.
          2. he wasn't terrible in his limited action. He gave up 6 runs in his first 4 appearances. In his last 11 appearances, he held the opposition scoreless.
          3. i think the Rays feel more highly of him than a guy like Winston Abreu. After all, Ekstrom was on the roster in September and Abreu wasn't.
          4. There could be as many as 4 spots that the Rays need to fill. I can't see the Rays signing 4 free agents, even if some are league minimum types. So the Rays are going to need to fill 1-2 spots from within the organization with scrub(s). Ekstrom is that guy.

          But you are right. Maybe "lock" is a little strong. And things can certainly change. But the way the roster is right now, I give Ekstrom about an 80-90% chance of being in the bullpen. I would say he is closer to "lock" than to "maybe."

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    • MJ says:

      I agree, i havn't seen anything from him in the limited innings his pitched. Doesn't pass the eye test, thats for sure.

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  6. leningan says:

    my benoit lies over the ocean, my benoit lies over the sea, my benoit lies over the ocean...oh, bring back my benoit to me!

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  7. John S says:

    Benoit for $4-5 million a year. The Rays can afford that. Now if Beniot is going to get offered more than that is a problem but I just can't see a team risking more on such an injury prone player for most of the last 3 years.
    He has another good season and all bets are off but I would imagine they are going to want to see him perform a full year first with his history.

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  8. i really don't want to see Thayer, Ekstrom, Sonny, Wheeler or Qualls back next year. I can live with Choate when only used against lefties.

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    • MJ says:

      Wheeler is good to have back there if he comes back for less. I dont really understand why most people hate on Wheely so much. He did have some obvious blow ups in the second half of the season, but his body of work is pretty solid. More so than pretty much anyone else we are going to keep. I have no problem getting rid of Qualls however.

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      • Alex says:

        You don't get why people hate Wheeler? Are you joking? Did you ever feel good with a 3 run lead or less and Wheeler coming in? And a one run lead or tie game? Forget it. Wheeler was an absolute lock to give up a homerun or a few extra base hits. I'm sorry if we don't want to see Wheeler throw his 87 mph fastball down the middle next year. But Maddon loves his little Wheels so he'll be back. Much to our dismay.

        And Cork if you really think Mike Ekstrom is a better lock than McGee then you sir, are crazy. Ekstrom was awful in San Diego...what pitcher struggles in San Diego? He was terrible with us when he had meaningful innings. His September innings were all garbage time innings where the Rays were either dead in the water or up so much that he couldn't possibly blow it

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