Since joining the league in 1998, the Tampa Bay Rays have been crowned division titles only twice. Constantly owning one of the lowest payrolls in MLB and sharing a division with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have contributed to this drought. However, with a strong young core, and what might be the best pitching rotation in baseball, the Rays, if healthy, are positioned perfectly to win their first AL East title since 2010.
Notable Offseason Acquisitions
This offseason, Tampa Bay signed OF Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to a 2 year/$12 million contract. The Japanese 28-year-old looks to add some power to the middle of the Rays lineup. Since his breakout season in 2016, “Yoshi” has hit 139 home runs in the Japan Central League and is averaged around an .380 on-base percentage.
Yoshi Tsutsugo home run! pic.twitter.com/FA8JY1Ahgi
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) February 24, 2020
The Rays also acquired OF Hunter Renfroe, 1B/OF Jose Martinez, and OF Manuel Margot via trades. Renfroe and Margot both had great years at the plate versus lefties in 2019, and with a multitude of guys who can play the outfield, these two will certainly bring both production at the box and above average defense to the rotation of outfielders. Renfroe will likely be the starting left-fielder, and Margot is expected to platoon in center with Kevin Kiermaier. Jose Martinez, a career .298 hitter, is expected to see a lot of time at DH.
Best pitching rotation in baseball?
Tampa Bay will be heading into the 2020 season with a loaded starting pitching rotation. For the past couple of years, the Rays have experienced a lack of starting options, which is why they developed the “opener” role. This allowed their pitchers to grow and this season, they should see the results. Leading the pack is their ace Blake Snell, who won the Cy Young Award back in 2018. Snell dealt with some injuries last year, but the Rays hope the crafty lefty can get back to his old self in 2020.
Charlie Morton will be returning to the Rays rotation for the second year, after picking up 16 wins last season. At 36, Morton will be entering his 13th season as a starter in the league, bringing a much-needed veteran presence to the clubhouse. Tyler Glasnow, who came over from Pittsburgh in 2018, has looked excellent all spring. He hasn’t allowed any runs over 2.2 IP and his fastball has topped out at 99 MPH. Morton and Glasnow will likely be #2 and #3 in the rotation.
Beyond that, the Rays will look to guys such as Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough to step up and prove themselves as steady starters. Both of these guys have the ability to pitch deep into games and avoid overworking their bullpen, who took a hit by losing Emilio Pagan.
Can the Rays stay healthy through 2020?
As of right now, the Rays have the leg-up in the East when it comes to health. New York already expects Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and James Paxton to miss time, and Boston is doubtful that Chris Sale will be able to be their Opening Day starter due to his lingering elbow issues. Tampa Bay has not experienced any injuries or health issues during Spring Training thus far. Ultimately, if the Rays can stay healthy and not lose any key pieces, their chances of winning the AL East look good.