In the wake of the Matt Garza trade, the Rays have insisted they want to compete in 2011. They saved some money by sending Garza to the Cubs, and the Rays want to use that payroll space to add pieces. According to Marc Topkin, the Rays have committed only $32 million in payroll — $32 million! — so they have some room to spend and maintain limited spending. Topkin notes that they’re looking to add one or two relievers and one or two hitters. The addition of catcher Robinson Chirinos could also leave them free to trade Kelly Shoppach.
What I’m wondering is whether the Rays remaining free agent targets and Yankees targets might overlap.
The remaining Type-A relievers are former Rays Grant Balfour and Rafael Soriano. Brian Cashman has indicated the Yankees aren’t willing to lose draft picks to sign either of them, and my guess — strictly a guess — is that the Rays would like to spend elsewhere and get those draft picks when Balfour and Soriano land elsewhere.
If that’s true, it would leave the Yankees and Rays looking through the exact same group of relievers, with the Rays able to offer the ninth inning to any pitcher with an eye on being a closer. Even before the Garza trade, the Rays were said to be interested in Brian Fuentes to take over the ninth inning.
The most natural fit for the Yankees is a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder who can come off the bench and start occasionally against lefties. Isn’t that the same sort of outfielder the Rays will be looking for?
B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings can play center field, so the Rays primarily need help in the corners, and they already have Matt Joyce and new addition Sam Fuld swinging from the left side. The left-right preference probably isn’t as significant with the Rays as with the Yankees, but my guess is that it’s there to some extent because they already have two left-handers who are strictly outfielders, and one DH option — Dan Johnson — is also a lefty.
This is the most obvious difference between the Rays needs and Yankees needs. The Rays could pump some of their money into the significant DH market, while the Yankees seem unlikely to be involved. The Rays could also get into in the first-base market — where the Yankees also won’t be involved — though that market is down to nothing more than low-cost options like Russell Branyan and Casey Kotchman.
Obviously it’s better for the Yankees if the Rays spend their time and money on players who don’t fit the Yankees plans.
Associated Press photo of Garza