Friday, March 15, 2013

The Rest of the East: Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays seemingly are in the postseason hunt year after year despite their lack of offense. Joe Maddon, who I believe is the best manager in baseball, lets his team have fun which is the ultimate sign that the players have respect for their managers. He thinks up themed road trips where the players dress up in wacky clothing on their plane ride to a visiting city. Players seem to gravitate toward Maddon, who will be managing the Rays for at least three more years, since he was extended by ownership.
In 2012, the Rays were missing a key ingredient from their offense, Evan Longoria. Longoria suffered with a leg injury for most of the year an when he finally returned late in the season, he played most of his games at DH. Despite having BJ Upton in 2012, the Rays were a different team when their third baseman was healthy. The Rays had a 46-26 record with Longoria in the lineup and a losing record without Longo in the lineup. That is the true definition of a game changer. Longoria's presence in the lineup was enough for the Rays to have that much more confidence in any given game. Longoria did not play up to his capabilities in the 2012, after appearing in a career low 74 games. The Rays made it a priority to extend Longoria, making his contract the largest ever in the short history of the Devil Rays/Rays. Longoria will remain the linchpin in the Rays lineup until 2022 with a club option for 2023, which would be ten years down the line. It's different talking about Longoria's ten year deal than it was talking about A-Rod's because Longoria's deal will take him through his age 36 season, whereas Alex Rodriguez is signed until nursing home age.

The Rays traded James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kanses City Royals but in return received a stud prospect in Wil Myers. The outfielder is in camp, fighting for an outfield job which he has a decent chance of getting because of the hole made when Upton signed with the Braves early in free agency. Despite getting rid of their number two starter, the Rays always seem to unleash unreal talent in starting pitching and I'm not worried about their rotation at all. Having Cy Young winner David Price as your number one starter should make you feel confident.

The Rays will lack the offensive drive this season, with a slow off-season. Their starting lineup features two stars at most, who can prove to be a threat. However, their starting pitching and bullpen, anchored by Fernando Rodney, will be weapons for Tampa. The Rays have work to do offensively, but I can still see them winning 89-91 games with what they have.

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