As 2012 begins, the Rays' Hot Stove is about to heat up.
Since the Andrew Friedman era started back in 2005, January has been the month with the most off-field activity for the Rays. As you can see in this graphic, courtesy of DRaysBay.com, January is clearly the busiest month for the Rays' front office.
That brings up the big question—what moves will the Rays make this month?
With constant rumors starting to flare, all signs are pointing towards offseason action in the coming weeks. With four new names emerging in Rays chatter in just the last five days, things could get interesting here.
Free agent Ryan Theriot is one of those names who's apparently attracting interest from the Rays. According to sources, the Rays are among multiple teams that may be after Theriot's middle-infield services. Last year, Theriot batted .271 and also contributed with solid defense at two positions for the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.
I don't see the Rays landing Theriot as a high possibility, but it would be a good acquisition, considering the Rays' shortstop situation.
The next couple of players have made a splash in Rays rumors lately, and definitely should excite Rays Republic.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the Rays may work out a trade with the Angels, bringing either Kendry Morales or Mark Trumbo to Tampa Bay. The potential trade suggested here makes a lot of sense.
With Albert Pujols now the team's future first baseman, the Angels are stuck with two extra first baseman. It seems likely that LA would shop one of the two, and Tampa appears like a probable destination. The Angels would probably be looking for another starter to add to an already-impressive rotation, while the Rays are in need of a first baseman.
If you remember, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann are still sitting on the trade block, and it wouldn't be a shocker if LA is keeping a close eye. The Rays absolutely need to aggressively pursue a trade for either Trumbo or Morales this month. These are a pair of talented sluggers who could really bolster the Rays' offense.
Trumbo had a great rookie season for the Angels last year, finishing second place in the Rookie of the Year voting. The 25-year old belted 29 homers and knocked in 87 RBI's, giving the Angels' a huge offensive boost during the season.
Morales seems to be more of an attractive trade piece for the Angels, rather than a current interest of the Rays. The obvious reason for this is his infamous 2010 injury, which kept him out for the entire 2011 season.
Still, his terrific production during his '09 and '10 seasons may soon open up eyes in the front office. Of course, none of this will be necessary if the Rays can pull of a trade with San Diego Padres potential star Anthony Rizzo, who should be the main target right now.
The last name that could develop into a rumor later this month is Kurt Suzuki.
There haven't been reports of any teams interested in him yet, but the possibility of him leaving the Oakland Athletics in the near future is no secret.
Even though the Rays signed Jose Molina to fill in at the catcher spot, the backstop issues aren't over by any means.
Suzuki isn't anyone to get too excited about, though. The 28-year old Hawaiian owns a career .258 batting average with mediocre run production, and he has proven to be only decent defensively. However, this is much better than most of the Rays' future catching options.
But, Suzuki's contract is probably a bit too expensive for the Rays.
Chances are the Rays will have to do with Jose Molina in 2012.