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ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays know it takes a deep, flexible team to be successful, and they proved it by using 61 players during their 100-win American League East championship campaign. Now, they must reload and reconstruct another roster that can contend in the AL East next season.

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Here’s the outlook for most of the players who spent significant time with the Rays in 2021 — or played a meaningful role in limited time — and what next year could have in store for them.

Note that this list does not include players who missed most/all of this year due to injuries (like Chaz Roe, Jalen Beeks, Oliver Drake, Colin Poche and Yonny Chirinos) or potential contributors who only briefly appeared with the club (like prospects Vidal Bruján, Josh Lowe and Brent Honeywell Jr.).

Catchers

Mike Zunino (club option for 2022)
The Rays are expected to pick up Zunino’s option, which increased to $7 million based on the All-Star’s playing time. Considering his reliable presence behind the plate and his 33-homer outburst, he’s likely to reestablish himself as Tampa Bay’s primary catcher.

Francisco Mejía (first-year arbitration eligible)
The switch-hitter slashed .260/.322/.416 with 35 RBIs in 84 games. He has some room to grow defensively, but he was hardly the liability some worried about when the Padres moved him around the diamond. Mejía, projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $1.5 million, looks like the perfect partner for Zunino again.

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Mejía’s go-ahead 3-run home run
Aug 26, 2021 · 0:55
Mejía’s go-ahead 3-run home run
Infielders

1B Ji-Man Choi (second-year arbitration eligible)
Choi played quality defense, worked tough at-bats and provided some pop, with a 116 OPS+ and 11 homers, although he dealt with a few lower-body injuries that limited his playing time. Choi still has a role as the strong side of a first-base platoon, but with his salary climbing and an increasingly crowded infield, it’s fair to wonder if the Rays might soon move on.

1B/3B Yandy Díaz (first-year arbitration eligible)
Díaz led the team in walks, didn’t strike out much, found some power in the second half, drove in 64 runs and played solid corner-infield defense. He’ll get a raise in arbitration, but he’s still a valuable part of the infield given his defensive versatility, right-handed bat and plate discipline.

2B Brandon Lowe (signed through 2024, club options through ’26)
The second baseman was again the Rays’ most valuable player in the regular season, slashing .247/.340/.523 with 39 homers, 99 RBIs and a team-leading 4.8 bWAR. With young middle infielders like Wander Franco, Taylor Walls and Vidal Bruján arriving, might the Rays consider moving him around the infield and outfield more often?

SS Wander Franco (pre-arbitration)
The 20-year-old lived up to the hype, coming as advertised at the plate and improving at shortstop as the second half went on. He finished fifth on the team with 3.5 bWAR in only 70 games and might already be “the most impactful player on any team in baseball,” manager Kevin Cash said. He could very well be one of the game’s brightest stars by this time next year.

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Wander Franco’s four-hit day
Sep 7, 2021 · 1:14
Wander Franco’s four-hit day
3B/SS/2B Joey Wendle (second-year arbitration eligible)
Wendle was one of the Rays’ most valuable players and a deserving first-time All-Star due to his strong start at the plate and his consistently excellent defense at multiple positions. He’ll earn another raise next season and should continue to play an important role given his ability to man shortstop, second and third base.

1B/OF Jordan Luplow (first-year arbitration eligible)
Luplow will be ready for Spring Training after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle. The Rays will count on the first baseman/outfielder to hit against left-handed pitchers. It’s a role previously held by versatile infielder Mike Brosseau, who struggled early and never recovered as he appeared in only two games after July 7.

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