Tampa Bay Rays Look To Shop at Wal-Mart

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIIDecember 6, 2009

If you're waiting for the Tampa Bay Rays to give you a big time free agent closer as a Christmas present, forget it. It's not happening.

No, your Tampa Bay Rays will be looking for arms in the bullpen but still do not feed the need to break the bank for a back end finisher.

"The bank is full," Principal Owner Stu Sternberg said. "There is no $7 million closer showing up."

Instead, look for the Rays to find role players. Guys like Jonny Gomes, Eric Hinske, or Wily Aybar. Guys who can give the team the most bang for the buck.

Mainly, the Rays will be bargain shopping for depth in the bullpen and continue to try to figure out if they've solved the hole at catcher.

If you look at the starting eight, there's really not many question marks.

Carlos Pena will continue to man first base. Ben Zobrist will become an every day player at second. Jason Bartlett will continue to patrol short. Longoria will man third. You'll see Carl Crawford in Left, BJ Upton at Center.

In Right Field, the Rays are hoping Matt Joyce can make the jump to the big leagues this Spring and take over in Right.

At catcher, it's really going to be a battle between recently acquired Kelly Shoppach and the incumbent Dioner Navarro.

The ever present Pat Burrell for Milton Bradley trade rumor remains out there but unless the Chicago Cubs are willing to pick up most of Bradley AND Burrell's contract, it's not going to happen.

And heck, if the Cubs are that desperate to part with Bradley—do the Rays really want this guy?

That's not to say the Rays wouldn't love to part ways with Burrell. Unlike the Yankees or Red Sox, Tampa Bay can't just shrug shoulders on major payroll blunders.

Tampa Bay wants to rebuild their bullpen with guys who are low cost but can churn out some quality innings. They also may want to rebuild the chemistry of the clubhouse with Cliff Floyd low cost veteran leaders.

"I think it's one of the most important jobs for the executive vice president, is to be objective and to crucially analyze the team," Executive Vice President Andrew Friedman told the Tampa Tribune , "It's my firm belief that we were better than an 84-win team last year, and we're going into the off-season operating accordingly. We feel like we got the nucleus in place to compete in the American League East in 2010, and our focus right now is on making the requisite improvements to put us in position to play competitive games in September."

Maybe so, but it won't be for big dollars.

"We feel we're in a position, even in our division and even the way the Yankees rolled through everything, that we can be there at the end of the year," Sternberg said.