The Tampa Bay Rays have already started this offseason better than last year.
Instead of talking about key players that will likely depart the team, the discussion is on players that are returning.
They picked up the $7.5 million option for starting pitcher James Shields and the $3.3 million option for closer Kyle Farnsworth.
For a team that has had its owner repeatedly make comments about operating with a very reduced payroll these moves at least provide some hope that the team will continue its past success, reaching the postseason in three of the past four seasons.
In 2011, Shields went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and 225 strikeouts. He also pitched for 249.1 innings while compiling 11 complete games. If Shields can eat up even close to the same number of innings next season he will place the Rays in a good position to be competitive.
When the starting pitcher can't throw a complete game, you need to have a good closer. That's where Farnsworth makes a difference.
Farnsworth had a career-high 25 saves in 2011 in his first full season as a closer. He also had a 2.18 ERA and held opponents to a .211 batting average.
The formula for success for this team will not change anytime soon. They will be relying on quality starting pitching, great defense, and timely hitting. This is why bringing back Shields and Farnsworth is the first step to putting a roster together that can compete.
While the team exercised the options on Shields and Farnsworth, they declined the option on catcher Kelly Shoppach.
This may be addition by subtraction in the end. Last season, Shoppach had a .176 batting average on a team that struggled greatly on offense. It is possible that the team could sign him later at a reduced price but, it would be in their best interest to find a catcher that brings more to the plate, pun intended.