This is part of a series of posts wherein we fustigate teams for their foolhardy offseason fumbles, or else fervently fawn over their felicitous free-agent finesse.
The Tampa Bay Rays had a rather quiet offseason. The big move was acquiring closer Rafael Soriano in a trade with the salary-dumping Braves.
Otherwise, the Rays just made two other, tiny moves, trading a minor leaguer to the Indians for backup catcher Kelly Shoppach to provide some competition and another option for incumbent Dioner Navarro, who slumped badly last season, and signing journeyman 1B Dan Johnson to play a role off the bench.
But sometimes less is more, and that is certainly the case with the Rays this offseason. Other than finding a closer, which they successfully did, there were really no other moves to make, as the Rays are completely stacked up and down the roster for 2010 with hot young stars.
There is nothing the Rays could have done this offseason which would have made them a lock for the playoffs, since they play in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox, but by largely standing pat, they have insured that they will be in position to make a run should one of the big boys falter this year.
The fact is that the Rays still have a very good team, and blowing up this roster would not have made any sense. Their pythagorean record last year was 86-76, which is very, very good considering the division they play in, and all it would take for the Rays to get back up over 90 wins is for a few players to have break-out seasons, which is very conceivable given how much young talent the Rays will be running out there this year.
In other words, the Rays will have just as good a chance of making the playoffs in 2010 as they have ever had, so Rays fans should not worry too much about this year and just see how things turn out. If Rays fans really want to worry about something, they should worry about 2011, when much of the team will become free agents.
In fact the Rays only have four players signed to any kind of contract after this season, and they are likely to dramatically slash payroll in 2011, having gotten almost no attendence bump from their 2008 World Series run despite raising payroll by $20 million in 2009 and then by another $6 million this year. If I were a Rays fan, I’d be trying to figure out some way to rally my fellow fans to get out to the Trop this year in large numbers, because it would be hard to blame the team for cutting payroll in 2011 if the fans continue to be AWOL despite the genuinely exciting product on the field.
Acquisitions: CL Rafael Soriano, C Kelly Shoppach, 1B Dan Johnson
Losses: 2B Akinori Iwamura, OF Gabe Gross, RP Jason Isringhausen, RP Troy Percival, RP Russ Springer, RP Joe Nelson, RP Brian Shouse, RP Chad Bradford
Projected Lineup, Rotation, and Closer
C – Dioner Navarro
1B – Carlos Pena
2B – Ben Zobrist
3B – Evan Longoria
SS – Jason Bartlett
LF – Carl Crawford
CF – BJ Upton
RF – Gabe Kapler/Matt Joyce
DH – Pat Burrell
SP1 – James Shields
SP2 – Matt Garza
SP3 – Jeff Neimann
SP4 – David Price
SP5 – Wade Davis
CL – Rafael Soriano