Despite their minuscule payroll, the Rays were competitive in one of the toughest divisions in the sport for the better part of this century. Key players like Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, and David Price got the franchise on the map as they led the Rays to their first and only World Series appearance in 2008 among other iconic moments.
However the team the Rays put on the field last season can make a case to be the best baseball team Tampa Bay has ever had. We had consistent bats in Tommy Pham and Brandon Lowe. We had solid power in Avisail Garcia and Austin Meadows. We had stellar defense in Kevin Kiermaier and Willy Adames. We had lights-out pitching in Charlie Morton and Diego Castillo. And of course, we can’t forget about the unlikely hero himself, Travis D’Arnaud. This squad was arguably the most all-around team in the MLB last year which allowed them to attend the postseason for the first time since 2013. They were defeated in 5 games by a controversial Astros team in the ALDS. Each game the Rays lost in the series was played in Houston which brings up the argument that Tampa could’ve participated in the ALCS if it wasn’t for Houston’s ”extra camera crew”. Now the Rays’ roster looks a little different as we approach this delayed 2020 season. We lost some key pieces such as Tommy Pham, Avisail Garcia, and Travis D’Arnaud, but I believe our additions will at least match the productivity we got from those players. Some of these additions include Hunter Renfroe, Jose Martinez, Yoshi Tsutsugo, and Manuel Margot. Renfroe is an A+ defender adding to an already stacked outfield. He also has unbelievable power that will really show in the hitter-friendly Tropicana Field. Martinez is another big bat we acquired from St. Louis. He had a solid season for the Cardinals last year as he sported a .340 OBP in 128 games. He will be a solid option at DH this season. Yoshi Tsutsugo is an interesting player the Rays picked up from Japan. He showed light-tower power in his native country and his ceiling is very high to produce in the Major Leagues. We got a small sample of his play during the shortened Spring Training where he struggled for the most part, but I think he’ll be a key contributor to the team this season. Margot is another outfielder we got from the Padres in a trade that saw us lose Emilio Pagan. He was the everyday center fielder for San Diego last season showing off his defensive abilities day in and day out. He also hit .304 with 20 stolen bases in 151 games last season.
With a healthy Tyler Glasnow in the starting rotation, the pitching staff will be even more dominant than last year which is very scary for opposing AL teams. Now I will return to my original question – ”Why can the Rays be the best team in baseball”? Well they have the pitching, hitting, and defense to compete with the best. Also, if the Astros didn’t cheat their way to a World Series, then the Rays could’ve very well been in Houston’s place. On top of all that, the front office’s moves this offseason probably made the team better, so watch out MLB there’s a dark horse in Tampa and they’re hungry.