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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?