2013 was another one of those seasons that the Rays have seemingly been having for years. Tampa Bay won 92 games with a solid defense, a great pitching staff, and unlike in past years, an above average offense. And once again, in typical Rays fashion, they have numerous holes to fill this offseason.
The club is going to need to replace first baseman James Loney, who will be testing the free agent market after having an incredibly successful rebound season with the Rays. Backup catcher Jose Molina is also a free agent, but retaining him shouldn't take much of a financial commitment. Closer Fernando Rodney was the ultimate buy-low option for the Rays over the last two years, and is set for a nice payday this winter. Bit players Kelly Johnson, Luke Scott, and Roberto Hernandez are all also free agents this winter, and all could come back if the deal is right – though only Johnson contributed much this year.
If Corey Hart doesn't have a lot of interest this winter following his microfracture knee surgery in the spring, the Rays could be a real good fit for him, especially with their revolving door at DH allowing him to stay healthy. Justin Morneau is another guy that might interest the team, especially after his power disappeared in the second half this year to drive his value down a bit.
The Rays have had so much success with retread relievers in the past, and I'd expect them to once again revisit that path. Ryan Madson hasn't pitched in two years and would likely come for near the league minimum, but there's a substantial bit of risk with him given that layoff. Kevin Gregg had a decent year as Cubs closer, but he's already flamed out in the AL East with the Orioles. I could see Tampa Bay also rolling the dice with guys like Brandon Lyon and Carlos Marmol. Marmol especially fits the "island of misfit toys" model that the Rays have been drifting towards in recent years.
This one is easy: David Price. Price is going to start getting real expensive over his final two years of arbitration, and dealing him seems like a certainty a year after Tampa Bay traded James Shields to the Royals. The only other player I can see the Rays possibly dealing is super utility player du jour Ben Zobrist, who will make $7 million in 2014 and has a club option for 2015.
The Rays won't be looking to trade young talent for established veterans. That's a given with this club. For Price, they're going to look for a nice package of elite young talent, topping even what they got for Shields last winter. Considering that trade netted the Rays Wil Myers, one of the best hitting prospects in baseball, the return for Price could be glorious. There are plenty of teams that will likely be interested, but how many would really be able to pony up the players that the Rays want? As the sweepstakes for Price heats up, the storylines are going to be getting more and more interesting.