Orestes Destrade Q&A: Digesting Rays’ offseason moves, new hires

The hiring manager Kevin Cash (left) and Matt Silverman's new role as president of baseball operations are two of the major changes to happen to the Tampa Bay Rays during the offseason.

Chris O'Meara

More may happen, but there’s already plenty to digest in the Tampa Bay Rays’ offseason.

From key departures to Matt Silverman’s new role as president of baseball operations, from Kevin Cash’s hire as manager to headline transactions, the Rays have been far from idle this winter.

Of course, much about all these moves remains unknown until a fuller picture begins to form when pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 21. Recently, Sun Sports analyst Orestes Destrade touched on the transactions completed so far and what could come before the offseason’s end.

FOX SPORTS FLORIDA: This has been an offseason of change for the Rays. What are your overall impressions of the developments?

DESTRADE: I get Andrew Friedman leaving. Not a mega surprise. There were previous offseasons when he entertained some things. … All the other moves that have happened (after Friedman and Joe Maddon left), you have to look at it objectively that they were all going to happen anyway. If you imagine that Friedman is still here and Joe is still here, are you telling me that they weren’t going to unload (Jeremy) Hellickson, unload (Matt) Joyce, unload (Joel) Peralta, unload (Cesar) Ramos? Maybe the only surprise one is (Wil) Myers, but I even get that, especially with getting Steven Souza, who I have seen play. Watch out for this guy, OK? Because he may be a mega surprise. There are no surprises with all these things. They all make sense. You’re talking about guys who are going to be making $3, $4, $5 million hitting arbitration that it made sense to trade them. What they got in return, I’m extremely pleased.

FSF: Cash will make his debut as a manager of any kind next season. What do you think of his hire?

DESTRADE: I was candidly thinking (Don) Wakamatsu, because I know Don, and I was thinking a little bit of stability (would be gained) as far as hiring a guy who has already managed. But I also get (hiring Cash), because they can work with a young, enthusiastic, really go-get-them, smart presence. But I think they went with the idea that, "You know what? Brad Ausmus has done a nice job. (Mike) Matheny has done a nice job." That kind of sentiment of never managing before but they’re former catchers. … But Cash, a former catcher and someone who had success with the Cleveland Indians’ pitching staff, will work well. And I believe that. I do believe that former catchers tend to be outstanding managers.

FSF: With Friedman’s departure, Silverman has transitioned from Rays president to president of baseball operations. How would you rate his performance so far?

Rays newcomer spotlight: Outfielder Steven Souza Jr.

DESTRADE: I really have to give him an "A". The dust truly hasn’t settled, because they haven’t put their spikes on for the first time in spring training and played some games. … He stood strong and took the reins of it, because he has been very involved all along with the moves of this organization, obviously with Andrew, along with their incredible scouting department. They all were involved in this grandiose development and retooling of the Rays. I really have regard for Andrew and the job that he did. Just like the Rays have bettered themselves since 2008 — it wasn’t one player, it wasn’t one pitcher. It was the same thing in the organization. It was a cumulative task of incredible scouting, incredible coaching in the minor leagues, great development, great coaching on the field level and then this great little nucleus of the operation that is the Rays thing. So boom, you lose Joe, you lose Andrew, Silverman steps in, and the moves that he has made, I believe, were moves that were going to be made. And the return is the key. On face value, on paper, I’m pleased with the returns.

FSF: Of all the personnel moves made in the offseason so far, which one do you like the most?

DESTRADE: After the fact, with what we’re hoping will be a true minor surgery to Jake McGee, I would have to say it’s the fortification of the bullpen with (Kevin) Jepsen, with (Ernesto) Frieri, who was only one year removed from being a stud. Maybe the National League frustrated him. … I think the additions to fortify the bullpen (are important) in order to wait on Jake getting back hopefully sometime in May or early June, and then we don’t miss a beat. Remember, if you look at last year, a lot of the shortcomings were due to a surprisingly slow, slow start to the full staff of pitchers. Not just starters, but full staff, bullpen and everybody. Then they all got it in gear by May. So if we don’t miss a beat with that, that’s an extra eight or 10 wins. … Offensively, I’m eager to see how hungry and how good Souza is. This is his break.

FSF: There’s much speculation about Ben Zobrist’s future. He’s scheduled to become a free agent after next season. What are your thoughts on a potential trade?

DESTRADE: Unfortunately, I almost feel like it does make sense to trade Ben. I just want to hit myself over the head with a bat for saying that, but I only say it because he’s so good. He’s so versatile and good that what do you get by keeping him all season long? The only thing you get is the potential to go into the playoffs and possibly win a championship. That’s huge, but then you’re going to lose him after that. … Yeah, he’s 33. But he’s a young 33. He hasn’t really been severely injured in his career. He’s healthy. He’s in great shape. This guy will sign a $12 million a year, three-year (deal) or a four-year, $16 million (deal). The Rays aren’t going to pay that. So it almost makes sense to go ahead and trade him now and try to do something really dramatic. What’s dramatic? Fill that DH power, five-hole, four-hole hitter in your lineup.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.