The Tampa Bay Rays struggled in 2016. They didn’t spend money on salaries, and it showed. They finished with a bottom-of-the-league record of 68-94, good for last in the AL East. The Rays still may be a ways out from being contenders. They have a slightly above average minor league system, but nothing that can help them make a dramatic turnaround.
This team will need to hit the market when they want to go for it all. However, that may not be something they try soon. The Rays offseason needs are many and significant, and with the current market they would be better off sitting this one out, making minor acquisitions, and hitting it hard in the 2017 offseason.
Tampa Bay Rays 2016 Offseason Needs
Trade Evan Longoria
Longoria just played his 30-year-old season. It was a good one; he finished 19th in the MVP voting. The Rays don’t have much talent they can afford to trade in order to get better in the future. Longoria is their best piece to do that. This offseason’s market is rather weak, so more than likely trades will be made. The Rays should jump into this.
Longoria hit .273 with 36 home runs and 98 RBI. This was his best season since 2010, when he was a 24-year-old. Whether he is revamping his career or just hit a year-long hot streak, Longoria’s value may not get any higher. The Rays can afford to bring in players that won’t make an immediate impact. Longoria is a right-now player and teams right on the cusp may see good value in him. Teams like the New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, or even the San Francisco Giants could show some interest in a veteran third baseman with Longoria’s ability.
Trade or Sign Young Hitters
The Rays already have an extremely valuable young ace in Chris Archer, even though he had a bad down year in 2016. Expecting that this was just an off year for the 28-year-old, Archer is a pitcher that the Rays can build a rotation around. They have already begun that building with 26-year-old Jake Odorizzi, 27-year-old Drew Smyly, and Alex Cobb, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery. Their starting rotation could be sneaky good in the coming years.
With a good rotation already in the making, the Rays will need to build an offense around their starters. They shuffled players in and out a lot in 2016. Only five guys played in 120 games or more, while 10 others played in at least 60 games.
The Rays outfield trio of Steven Souza, Kevin Kiermaier, and Corey Dickerson hit just .247, .246, and .245 respectively. While these three are highly touted youngsters, they will need to have better years ahead if this team wants to win. Other than Kiermaier, Longoria, second baseman Logan Forsythe, and 33-year-old utility player Steve Pearce, nobody had a WAR above two. If the Rays want to be contenders, that just can’t continue.