ST. PETERSBURG — Executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman had his first meeting Wednesday to begin the process of mapping out another offseason of change for the Tampa Bay Rays.
With nine free agents and a bullpen that will undergo its yearly tweaking, the 2014 roster will look different from the one that won 92 games and beat the Indians in the AL wild-card game before being ousted Tuesday by the Red Sox in four games in the ALDS.
“I anticipate that there will be a decent amount of turnover,” Friedman said. “That being said, there are a decent amount of guys who are going to be free agents from our 2013 team that we would be interested in bringing back.”
RHP Fernando Rodney, 1B James Loney, DH Luke Scott, INF/OF Kelly Johnson, RHP Roberto Hernandez, C Jose Molina, RHP Jamey Wright, DH Delmon Young and RHP Jesse Crain are all free agents.
The Rays are interested in re-signing Rodney and Loney.
Friedman is interested to see what the market value is for both players. Compared to his 2012 season, Rodney had a down year in 2013. Blowing nine saves might work against him on the open market.
The Rays got Loney on the cheap for 2013 because he was seen as an underachieving first baseman. His .299 batting average and play at first base will draw interest, but his 13 home runs might keep his price down enough for Tampa Bay to be in the mix.
Also, both Loney and Rodney want to return to Tampa Bay.
“I know Fernando is willing to sacrifice some money to come back,” RHP Joel Peralta said. “We've talked about it. We'll just see what they offer or how many offers they got on the market, who knows. I think he's going to get better offers somewhere else.”
Molina likely will return because the Rays lack depth at that position.
The Rays are also interested in bringing back OF David DeJesus, who will make $6.5 million in 2014 if the Rays pick up the team option. They could pay him a $1.5 million buyout and try to resign him for less than $6.5 million.
DeJesus, who played on his first winning team after the late August trade/waiver claim that sent him from the Cubs to the Nationals to the Rays, said he would like to return to Tampa Bay.
The Rays hold options on 2B Ben Zobrist ($7 million) and SS Yunel Escobar ($5 million) and are expected to pick up both.
Owner Stuart Sternberg said the Rays' major league-low attendance will impact the payroll, meaning it could come down from the $61 million of this season.
Trading LHP David Price, who could make $13 million during his second year of arbitration, would clear some salary space. So will removing Scott ($2.75 million), Johnson ($2.45 million) and Hernandez ($3.25 million) from the books.
“I think it's safe to say we're not going to have a lot of headroom from a payroll perspective,” Friedman said. “That being said, we've always been very creative in terms of how we put together the best 25-man roster we can. That's our focus and our goal, and we're confident when we get to Port Charlotte next February we'll be in position to have a very good year.”
Hick and the gang
The contracts for the coaching staff expire Oct. 31. Manager Joe Maddon said he expects the unit to return in full. Bench coach Dave Martinez and third-base coach Tom Foley could be asked to interview for some of the managerial openings.
Jim Hickey, considered among the top pitching coaches in the game, said he has no desire to leave Tampa Bay even if he draws interest from other teams.
“My contract has been up 10 other times, too, and it hasn't been very eventful, so I'm not anticipating much of a change there,” he said. “I'm not looking to go anywhere, that's for sure.”
Crain wants to return
The bullpen could have used another back-end arm down the stretch, and the Rays' search for that pitcher could take place in their own clubhouse.
Crain, who came over from the White Sox in a July 29 trade but did not pitch because of a strained right shoulder, expects to be ready to pitch by the start of spring training and would like to remain with the Rays.
“For sure,” he said. “It was awesome to get a taste of this organization for the last two months, meet the guys, be around and see how they run things. It's a very comfortable place.
“They treat you well, you come and get your work done and that's how it's supposed to be.”
Crain was in the final year of a three-year, $13 million deal that paid him $4.5 million last season. His injury should knock that salary down in 2014 despite being an All-Star.