ST. PETERSBURG -
The clubhouse was filled with boxes Thursday morning, the lockers empty of nearly all evidence that a major league baseball club lived there this summer. The 2012 Tampa Bay Rays are history.
It will be 178 days until the next group of players arrive at Tropicana Field for Opening Day.
For sure, the 2013 Rays will be a different group than the team that won 90 games but came up short in the quest for a spot in the postseason.
"We are a turnover team. We do change things on an annual basis," manager Joe Maddon said. "Welcome to the Rays."
How much turnover? How much money will be cut from a payroll that reached into the high $60 millions this past season?
Will there be a blockbuster trade of a pitcher? A dip into the high end of the free-agent pool?
Hard to say, according to executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.
Thursday was a time for Friedman and his staff to, as Friedman said, "catch our breath," meet with Maddon and begin the reconstruction of the roster.
"What that means," Friedman said, "we don't know right now."
Poor defense during the first half of the season and inconsistent hitting throughout wasted a record-setting performance by a pitching staff that led the major leagues in ERA (3.19) and opponent's average (.228) and set an American League record with 1,383 strikeouts.
With James Shields due $10.5 million next season and 20-game-winner David Price ($4.35 million in 2012) headed back to arbitration, the question is: Can Friedman afford to keep this staff together?
"It's a hard question to answer," Friedman said. "Can we do it? Of course we can. There's a lot of different things that will factor into it."
One of those factors will be the possibility of improving the offense and/or upgrading several needs by trading a starting pitcher.
As always, the Rays are looking to upgrade at designated hitter, first base and catcher, as well as add depth to the infield, outfield and bullpen.
The departure of free agent center fielder B.J. Upton will leave a hole in the outfield.
First baseman Carlos Peña and DH Luke Scott almost certainly won't be back next season. The Rays might have to pick up Jose Molina's option because their catching is so thin.
Leaving Ben Zobrist at shortstop on a full-time basis sets up certain needs in the infield, while returning Zobrist to his super utility role means the Rays are again searching for a shortstop.
The offense will be addressed, but Friedman said he's not going to empty the depth of the pitching staff.
"We ended up needing all our pitching (depth) this season," he said.
Also, Friedman added, having third baseman Evan Longoria miss 85 games with a hamstring injury played a big role in the offensive woes.
"It's something we're going to have to spend a lot of time thinking about and discussing and analyze, because you don't want to make a knee-jerk reaction when there's noise," Friedman said. "It's about stripping out the noise."
It certainly didn't help that lack of production during the first half from Scott, Peña, Upton, Desmond Jennings and the second-half slump by Matt Joyce were magnified during Longoria's absence. But Friedman said there is nothing he can do in the way of finding Longoria injury insurance.
"I don't think we're going to do anything this offseason that's going to withstand losing Evan for 85 games," he said. "I don't think that's something we're going to be able to accomplish."
When asked if the lack of revenue caused by not reaching the postseason coupled with the lowest attendance in baseball will affect how much money Friedman has to spend on the 2013 team, he said, "Of course. It definitely hinders it. To what extent, I don't know."
When asked if he knew what the payroll for next season will be, Friedman answered, "Don't know. It's not worth speculating on right now."
What is known is the 2013 Rays will look similar to the 2012 club in that pitching and defense will rule the day.
"I would take us scoring 400 runs next year if I knew we were going to allow 100, and so the interplay between them is everything," Friedman said. "We'd love to have an elite pitching staff and an elite offense. Difficult to do, and so it's just figuring out that relationship between the two and maximize the runs we can score, the runs we allow conversely. There's a lot of work we need to do on this."
RAYS PLAYER STATUSES
CLUB OPTIONS FOR 2013
RHP James Shields: $9 million; $1.5 million club option
RHP Fernando Rodney: $2.5 million; $250,000 club option
DH Luke Scott: $6 million; $1 million club option
C Jose Molina: $1.8 million; $300,000 club option