Opinion

AL East Report: Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays have had a bad run of it lately and 2018 does not look any different

Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (July 8, 2017 – Source: Brian Blanco/Getty Images North America)

The Tampa Bay Rays do not really have a long history. It is not a secret at all. Like many expansion teams, the Tampa Bay Rays have not quite found the formula for success. Their best years were between 2008 and 2013, and even then they only made it past the division round in 2008 when they went to the World Series and lost.

For comparison, the Arizona Diamondbacks became a team in the same year as the Rays. The Diamondbacks have made the playoffs six times in their tenure and even won a World Series. They have not quite spent the same amount of miserable time out there as the Tampa Bay Rays have. Outside of the four years the Rays made the playoffs, it has been a litany of odd team roster decisions, never keeping the players that reach free agency and a lot of struggles with money.

Seemingly nothing has changed this year either.

Notable Acquistions:

Denard SpanTrade with San Francisco Giants

Carlos Gomez – Free Agent Signing (1 year, $4 million)

CJ Cron – Trade with Los Angeles Angels

Notable Departures:

Evan Longoria – Trade with San Francisco Giants

Logan Morrison – Signed with Minnesota Twins (1 year, $6.5 million)

Corey Dickerson – DFA/Trade with Pittsburgh Pirates

Jake Odorizzi – Trade with Minnesota Twins

Alex Cobb – Signed with Baltimore Orioles (4 years, $57 million)

Stephen Souza Jr. – Trade with Arizona Diamondbacks

I do not quite think the acquisitions outweigh the departures here. The Tampa Bay Rays have been fairly active in this past offseason, but they lost more than they gained as far as talent goes and most of what they were doing was money dumping.

The biggest money dump of them all was Corey Dickerson being designated for assignment. He is a free agent after the 2019 season and received roughly $6 million for this upcoming season. The left-handed hitter was a strong asset for them, slashing a robust .282/.325/.490 line with an OPS of .815. Additionally, he hit 27 home runs and 33 doubles. It is a notable loss that they might not get equal production from someone else, especially with all of their other heavy hitters being sent away.

They did a lot of retooling, and the one thing they did accomplish was saving money. According to Sportrac.com, their payroll this year is going to be $77.6 million dollars which includes all active, disabled list, retained salaries, deferred salaries and buried salaries in the minors. Last year their same payroll figure was $91 million. This speaks to a larger issue in the MLB, but this is not the time to get into that.

The glass is not half full for the Tampa Bay Rays heading into the 2018 season. They do not have enough starters ready to go that they are going to be using a “bullpen day” as their 5th starter. We will have a chance to see the bullpen day in action against the Red Sox in the 3rd game of the season. We will see how this plays out, but usually experiments like this in the starting rotation don’t last long, and with some of the free agent arms that are still around (R.A Dickey, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, and John Lackey) I am surprised that they haven’t tried to scoop one up on the cheap.

I guess the biggest reason is that costs money, and these are the Tampa Bay Rays that can’t sign their own players to big contracts and traded the face of the franchise away because of financial limitations.

They are entering a full rebuild mode and are looking to sell off all of their veterans who might be getting more expensive. Their best starter is Chris Archer, and he has always been a strikeout machine with a K/9 of 9.7 and struck out 249 batters in 2017. He does have an ERA of 4.07 and that hasn’t been trending the right way. He is going to lead a pitching staff of four. Look for Archer to be traded at the deadline if he is pitching well, since the Rays are probably not contending in 2018.

They do have some talent that is not on the big league club, and that gives the Rays a kind of brighter future. They have seven of the top 100 prospects on MLB.com and 3 in the top 30. If the Rays enter full rebuild mode, they can really clean up with some of their veteran role players in Brad Miller, Carlos Gomez, Denard Span and even Adeiny Hechavarria. They have some trade chips and I fully expect them to sell off at the deadline and be nowhere near contention.

The 2018 season does not look good for the Tampa Bay Rays, and if nothing changes, it is going to continue to be that way going into future seasons.

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