|2008 Tampa Bay Rays Preview||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on February 10, 2008
Rank: Dead last in the AL East - 30.0 games back
Home Park: Tropicana Field
Rays of Light:
C- Mike DiFelice - Free Agent*
SS - Jason Bartlett - Trade with Twins
3B - Willy Aybar - Trade with Braves
IF - Andy Cannizaro - Free Agent*
OF - Cliff Floyd - Free Agent
OF - John Rodriguez - Free Agent*
SP - Matt Garza - Trade with Twins
RP - Eduardo Morlan - Trade with Twins
RP - Scott Munter - Free Agent*
RP - Troy Percival - Free Agent
Gone with the Wind:
C – Raul Casanova - Free Agent to Mets*
2B - Tomas Perez - Free Agent to Astros*
IF - Brendan Harris - Traded to Twins
IF - Chase Fontaine - Traded to Braves
SS - Jorge Velandia - Free Agent to Pirates*
OF - Elijah Dukes - Traded to Nationals
OF - Chris Snelling - Traded to Phillies
OF - Delmon Young - Traded to Twins
RP - Shawn Camp - Free Agent to Blue Jays*
RP - Casey Fossum - Free Agent to Pirates*
RP - Tim Lahey - claimed in Rule V draft then traded to Cubs.
RP - Jeff Ridgway - Traded to Braves
RP - Josh Wilson - claimed on waivers by Pirates
RP - Brian Stokes - Traded to Mets
1B - Carlos Pena
OF - Jonny Gomes
RP - Grant Balfour
RP - Gary Glover
RP - Dan Wheeler
SP - Scott Kazmir
Likely Gone but still unsigned:
UT - Greg Norton
RP - Jay Witasick
* signed minor league deal
They’ve got new owners, new uniforms, a new name (having dropped the Devil part of Devil Rays and reinvented themselves, seemingly as a ray of sunshine), and a new attitude. Maybe for the first time there is something else new in Tampa - hope. Well actually there is hope and a vision for the future which says the new ownership won’t accept being the laughingstock of the American League.
The Rays have gone out and signed some decent free agents this season including the ancient Cliff Floyd, and the once “retired” Troy Percival. They’ve also been wheeling and dealing like crazy shipping players to the Braves, Mets, Twins, Nationals, Phillies and Cubs and receiving young talent and Major League ready talent as well.
That doesn’t mean the Rays are going to set the AL afire this year but the future looks bright but the light is at the end of a tunnel which will take couple more years to reach.
It’s a fair bet that the new Rays are going to be a better team than they were last year and that is almost across the board. But for fans its the hitting which might well be high point of this team. The Rays offense looks ready to score a lot more runs than the 782 they drove in last year, especially if Akinori Iwamura improves and turns into a better leadoff hitter.
Even with the addition of Matt Garza the pitching has a long way to go before it reaches respectable levels. So the Rays brought in a new closer, which should allow Al Reyes to fall into a setup role and which offers the team a bit more stability especially since with Dan Wheeler still aboard the team has a solid staff for the 7th-8th and 9th innings. This rotation, at least in the one to three spots should be much steadier than they were last year. And Matt Garza’s arm, providing somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 innings should make a huge difference for a team.
LF - Carl Crawford
2B - Akinori Iwamura
CF - B.J. Upton
1B - Carlos Pena
RF - Rocco Baldelli
DH - Jonny Gomes
SS - Jason Barylett
C - Dioner Navarro
3B - Evan Longoria
SP1 – Scott Kazmir
SP2 – James Shields
SP3 –Matt Garza
SP4 – Edwin Jackson/Jason Hammell
SP5 – Jeff Niemann/Andy Sonnanstine
CL – Troy Percival
Set up (and closer backup) - Al Reyes
Set up - Dan Wheeler
Keys to Success:
The Rays could compete with the big boys in terms of runs scored but its the starting pitching who’ll have to step forward for the team to climb out of the cellar. That means either that some of the Rays talented youngsters will have to evolve fast and take the four or five spots in the rotation from incumbents Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine, and be better than them to boot. However that might not be the wisest thing and the Rays may not rush the youngsters into the Majors but allow them to get a little more seasoning.
The Rays are a team which is involving and have already raised their payroll by 68% for this year and seem to have a grand plan to evolve into a much more competitive team. Even without that the Rays should be a much better team and finishing above the Orioles, and maybe even taking a run at the Blue Jays (if they struggle) could easily be in the cards.