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Rays poised for OF competition this spring

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Rays poised for OF competition this spring

New acquisitions Morrison, Dickerson and Pearce add to position battle.

ST. PETERSBURG — Competition is an element of any Spring Training, and the Rays have created an interesting battle this spring with the outfielders they have on their roster.

Having too many offensive players isn’t a situation too familiar to the Rays, a team that has struggled to find a few more runs in the tank. Yet here they are, heading to spring with a gaggle of qualified outfielders.

While this is a problem of sorts, it’s a pleasant problem to have.

The Rays kicked off their offseason with a Nov. 5 trade that brought Logan Morrison to the team. Speculation said that Morrison would become the team’s first baseman once the Rays traded James Loney. Morrison also plays outfield.

Now we’re less than a week away from the beginning of Spring Training, and Loney is still on the team, earmarking Morrison for DH, first base and outfield duties.

• Comeback candidates | Newcomers | Prospects to watch

Recently, the Rays made their second big trade of the offseason when they acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson from the Rockies. Hitting is Dickerson’s calling card, so he’ll likely see a good bit of time at DH. So what does Tampa Bay do with Morrison when Dickerson is at DH?

• Hot Stove Tracker

Finally, the Rays signed Steve Pearce, a slugging outfielder/first baseman/DH who can also play second base. Unlike Morrison and Dickerson, Pearce hits from the right side, which helps clear up the equation a little bit because he can be penciled in against left-handers. Still, he’s another body in the competition.

Morrison, Dickerson, and Pearce are the new boys. Add them to the likes of Brandon GuyerMikie MahtookKevin KiermaierDesmond Jennings and Steven Souza Jr., and one realizes the Rays have quite a crowded outfield situation.

Of the group, only Kiermaier seems to be a lock in center field, but it’s hard to discount any one of the group’s abilities. Even Matt Silverman, the Rays’ president of baseball operations, said that if the group goes through Spring Training healthy, they will have “too many.”

So let the competition begin. Expect a trade to take place at some point, but who do the Rays trade?

Of the group left over from last season, Jennings makes the most money at $3.3 million, so that would seem to make him the most likely trade candidate. But he had an injury-plagued 2015 campaign, which makes the prospect of trading him at this juncture remote.

Next in line to go elsewhere would be either Guyer or Mahtook. Both have shown they can contribute offensively, and each is athletic. Parting with one or the other would be a difficult call for Rays management.

There is no doubt that, at the beginning of Spring Training, Rays fans will be able to look into the dugout at any point of the game and see manager Kevin Cash juggling outfielders.

Watching the outfield competition will be fun as well as interesting. Who will be the last players standing?

Pitchers and catchers report
Feb. 19

First workout for pitchers and catchers
Feb. 21

First full-squad workout
Feb. 26

First Grapefruit League game
Home vs. Nationals, March 2 at 1:05 p.m. ET

Season opener
Home vs. Blue Jays, April 3 at 4:05 p.m. ET

Source: Rays poised for OF competition this spring by Bill Chastain

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