With a record of 68-94, the Tampa Bay Rays finished last in the AL East, 25 GB of the first place Boston Red Sox. They were the only team in the division that weren\’t in the playoff hunt. To fix that, GM Erik Neander needed to either start the big rebuild, or trade for stars in the offseason. Let\’s see what Neander did.
Key additions: Cs Wilson Ramos, Derek Norris, Jesus Sucre, OFs Colby Rasmus, Mallex Smith, Peter Bourjos, RPs Shawn Tolleson, Jumbo Diaz, SP Nathan Eovaldi.
Key subtractions: 2B Logan Forsythe, SP Drew Smyly, OFs Desmond Jennings, Mikie Mahtook, RP Enny Romero, Steven Geltz, Kevin Jepsen, C Bobby Wilson.
Biggest move: The Rays made one of the biggest trades in the offseason. They acquired a big SP prospect in Jose De Leon from the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2B Logan Forsythe. De Leon can be a star when he eventually makes the team, but not this year.
X-factor: With the Forsythe trade, the Rays needed to move 1B Brad Miller to 2B. Logan Morrison will be their 1B. \”LoMo\” is a career .230 hitter. They need him to produce in a starting role.
Biggest bounce back: Going in to the 2016 season, Shawn Tolleson had the closer job in Texas locked up after 35 saves in 2015. But he struggled mightily, with a 7.68 ERA. In the offseason, Tolleson signed with Tampa. As a set up man, they need him to pitch well.
Biggest breakout: In 2016, now 24 year old Blake Snell made his MLB debut, with a 3.54 ERA and 98 Ks in 89 innings. He will be their 4th starter in 2017. Expect big numbers for the top prospect.
Guaranteed star: Though he had a weaker 2016 than 2015, Chris Archer is a career 3.25 ERA guy and for the second year in a row, he posted over 230 Ks. he\’s a star, there\’s no doubt about it.
The Rays lineup should look like this.
1. CF: Kevin Kiermaier
2. SS: Matt Duffy
3. 2B: Brad Miller
4. 3B: Evan Longoria
5. LF: Corey Dickerson
6. DH: Steven Souza Jr.
7. RF: Colby Rasmus
8. C: Derek Norris
9. 1B: Logan Morrison
Their rotation will probably be this.
1. Chris Archer
2. Jake Odorizzi
3. Alex Cobb
4. Blake Snell
5. Matt Andriese
OF Mallex Smith, SSs Tim Beckham and Rickie Weeks and C Jesus Sucre will be on the bench.
Alex Colome will be their closer, with Brad Boxberger (currently injured) and Shawn Tolleson setting him up.
Finally, for my prediction, I think the Tampa Bay Rays will finish last in the AL East again, and eventually enter the tough years of the rebuild.