The Tampa Bay Rays shocked the baseball world in 2018. The Rays were expected to lose upwards of 100 games, begin a lengthy rebuilding process, and try to secure funding for a new stadium in Tampa.
The Rays checked the box on all three counts as the baseball world looked on in amazement.
After gutting the roster in the off-season with the trades of Longoria, Souza, and Ordorizzi, the reshaping of the roster continued throughout the 2018 season as Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, and Adeiny Hechavarria were all sent packing.
One by one the Rays called up prospect after prospect. Jake Bauers, Willy Adames, Brandon Lowe and all were expected to contribute immediately. No pressure Right?
All the Rays did with the youngest roster in MLB was win 90 games, the most wins of any non playoff team. In some years 90 wins would have gotten you at least a wildcard game. But not this year, as the Red Sox and the Yankees each won over 100 games in the AL East. In the AL West, the Astros won 103 games while the A’s the Wildcard team won 97 games.
The Rays also dug themselves a deep hole to begin the season as they started with a 4-13 record.
The Rays also never had a solid starting rotation all season. Blake Snell was the lone constant in the rotation as he went 22-5 with a 1.89 ERA and should win the AL Cy Young award. The Rays other most consistent starter was Tyler Glasnow acquired in the Chris Archer trade at mid-season. Glasnow was inconsistent but he has all the makings to be a solid no. 2 starter on this team in 2019.
The Rays also shook up the baseball world by trying out a new pitching philosophy called the “opener”. A relief pitcher would start a game and pitch one inning, sometimes two before turning it over to a long reliever who would then take the Rays into the 4th or 5th inning.
This strategy worked well for the Rays, as they had the best ERA in the AL after adopting this strategy in May. Kevin Cash has indicated that the Rays will continue to use this strategy in 2019.
The roster is now set up to be a contender for a playoff spot next season. The young kids that were called up got much needed experience at the MLB level and performed better than anyone thought.
The Rays will be more strategic in their efforts to upgrade the roster this off-season. CJ Cron and Sergio Romo will not be back next season, and with the Rays payroll at right around $30 million, they is plenty of salary cap space to bring in the right guys to help this team immediately.
The future is bright in Tampa Bay for Rays fans. The nucleus of a solid team is beginning to take shape. The Rays continue to have one of the best farm systems in MLB. So the pipeline to the major leagues should be well stocked for years to come.
Now about that new stadium?