The Tampa Bay Rays are expected to finish last in the AL East this season. They have a few good players on the roster. However, Tampa Bay is a very small market and does not have a large budget to spend on players. The 2017 season will decide how the next couple of years will turnout for the Rays.
Tampa Bay Rays 2017 Season Preview
The Pitching Staff
Tampa Bay’s best position group is the pitching staff. Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb, and Blake Snell will lead the charge. The major problem is that the first three weeks of the off-season were littered with trade rumors. Multiple teams are interested in Archer, and plenty of other teams want Cobb and Odorizzi.
Archer is only 28-years old and has a team friendly contract with team options for 2020 and 2021. 2016 was arguably his worst year, but he did play in an extremely difficult pitching division last season. The front office has a huge price tag on Archer that would be similar to the return that the Chicago White Sox received for Chris Sale. Teams around the league just do not want to pay that now. Odorizzi and Cobb will cost significantly less than Archer. Odorizzi is only 26-years old and does not become a free agent until 2020 while Cobb is 29-years old but becomes a free agent next season. Teams want Odorizzi more, but his cost is higher than Cobb’s. The 2017 season will ride on how many pitchers the front office decides to trade away.
Evan Longoria covers third base for the Rays. Longoria is 31-years old and is still owed $99 million. This is an astronomical contract for the club. Because of the money Longoria is owed, he too is on the trade block. Last year he hit 36 homeruns and drove in 98 RBI, but that production is expected to decrease as he gets older. It is going to be hard to find a trade partner for the number of prospects the Rays want in return. A better option will be to lower the asking price and still get rid of Longoria’s contract. Doing so will help the club out immensely in bolstering the roster at multiple positions while still receiving prospects for Longoria.
The Minor Leagues
The Tampa Bay Rays have a solid minor league farm system with four players in the top 100 prospects according to MLB.com. Two of those prospects are pitchers along with a shortstop and an outfielder. How these prospects fare alongside those not listed in the top 100 will go a long way in determining who the Rays trade away and acquire during the season. Jose De Leon is ready to pitch in the majors now. His availability allows the Rays to go ahead and trade a starter whenever they deem a good value has been offered. A good farm system is key for the Rays for the foreseeable future.
Overall, the Tampa Bay Rays will compete in 2017 but will likely finish last in the AL East. The frequency of trades will shed some light on how the front office is thinking long term. 2017 will be an interesting year for Tampa Bay as they hope to build for the future once again.