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Tampa Bay Rays

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Projected Team

  • DH Corey Dickerson
  • CF Kevin Kiermaier
  • 3B Evan Longoria
  • 2B Brad Miller
  • SS Matt Duffy (DL)
  • 1B Logan Morrison
  • RF Steven Souza
  • LF Colby Rasmus (DL)
  • C Wilson Ramos (DL)
  • RHP Chris Archer
  • RHP Jake Odorizzi
  • RHP Alex Cobb
  • LHP Blake Snell
  • RHP Matt Andriese
Kevin Cash

The Yankees have the youth and the Orioles have the dingers, but I’m putting the Rays third place because I can’t quit on their rotation. Even without Drew Smyly and Matt Moore, this feels like a rotation that should succeed, if only because the poindexters in the front office went back to the dry-erase board and reimagined the organizational strategy in a post-rabbit-ball league. They won’t be caught off guard with a dinger-happy environment this time.

Will they have the offense, though? No, probably not. Losing Logan Forsythe will hurt them less than it might have hurt other lineups, just because of the positional flexibility they’ve accumulated, but they’re not a better offensive team than last year, when they might have been average. They have a couple of options:

  • Be better. Instead of Kevin Kiermaier being the Brandon Crawford of the outfield, maybe he could be vintage Torii Hunter. Maybe Corey Dickerson can split the difference between Coors and Tropicana. Maybe Steven Souza can half-justify the cost of acquiring him, which was essentially Trea Turner and Joe Ross. Which still keeps me up at night.
  • Be lucky. The Rays will have enough pitching to succeed with a few breaks, and the difference between 84 wins and 90 wins is a one-run game here and a one-run game here. All the nerds will scream about expected wins and Pythagorean records, and the Rays will laugh and refuse to give the wins back, even when threatened with a nerd audit.
  • Lope around, directionless, caught between fiscal reality and reasonable expectations, a team that continually proves that being smart just isn’t enough, as the rest of baseball whispers “I don’t care.”

But what are the chances of that last one happening? Ha ha, you have some imagination on you.

— Grant Brisbee

Key Addition

The Rays lost 94 games last year, and their response to that was a major overhaul to propel them back into contention. jk, they signed Wilson Ramos on the cheap after his stock fell following a late-season knee injury. Ramos is real good, so that's an improvement, but that is almost it as far as additions that are going to help them right away go.

All additions: Wilson Ramos, Mallex Smith, Colby Rasmus, Jose De Leon

Key Departure

Drew Smyly had a rough 2016 after consecutive productive years as a starter. Rather than be stuck with a rotation full of guys looking for a rebound this summer, the Rays sent Smyly to the Mariners in a deal that netted them prospects and Mallex Smith. Logan Forsythe is the more significant loss in terms of 2016 production that needs to be replaced, but he did bring back prospect Jose De Leon.

All departures: Drew Smyly, Logan Forsythe, scores of players you've never heard of

Best Case

There is a path for the Rays to contend in 2017, and it's similar to the one they failed to achieve last season. The rotation still has Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Alex Cobb, and if they can return to the forms that made the group exciting not all that long ago, then it won't matter that the rest of the AL East has a chance at a powerful lineup.

Worst Case

More likely, though, is that a team trading Logan Forsythe away that only added the still-recovering Wilson Ramos, one that mostly added on the margins and for the future, one relying on multiple pitchers to rebound from a disastrous 2016, one stuck in a division with four potential contenders in it, is in trouble.