The Rays are having a quiet offseason, making a few small moves so far. They have openly shopped last winter’s main acquisition, Pat Burrell, but have yet to find a taker (though according to this, they came close). So far, the acquisitions of closer Rafael Soriano and catcher Kelly Shoppach have been their biggest moves.
It’s normal for worst-to-first teams (like the Rays in 2008) to fall back to earth a bit the following year (like the Rays in 2009). The Rays still have plenty of talented young players — and the AL East still has plenty of tough teams. The Yankees and Red Sox are both reloading for 2010, the Jays have a new GM who seems to be finally getting the team back on track, and the O’s have a boatload of almost-ready prospects waiting in the wings.
The Rays have a great young infield — Longoria/Bartlett/Zobrist/Pena — except for catcher, where they’ll be hoping for a rebound season from either Dioner Novarro or Shoppach. Plus, Ben Zobrist will have to show that last year’s breakout was no fluke.
In the outfield, the Rays are hoping that a healthy BJ Upton can bounce back from last year’s abysmal .686 OPS. But that’s not a huge leap of faith, given that Upton clearly has the tools, has elite speed, showed power in the past, and is only 25.
Tampa could use an upgrade in right field. Matt Joyce is seemingly primed for a promotion, though he didn’t do much with his cup of coffee last season. But he should get every chance to win the job in spring training, or at least join a platoon.
Tampa’s rotation isn’t as good as New York’s or Boston’s, at least on paper. But it’s a young rotation that should improve this season as the team’s pitchers get a year older and wiser. Price could break through. So could Wade Davis.
Tampa’s big weakness last season was the bullpen, something they clearly focused on fixing this winter. With a tight budget, they don’t have a lot of room to spend, but with all their young talent, they don’t need to. I hate to say it, but what the Rays really need is for the aging Red Sox and Yankees to suffer a few key injuries.