CHICAGO, October 8, 2013 — The Rays went 90-72 in 2012, finishing third in the AL East and barely missing out on a wild card. This year the Rays improved to 92-71, thanks to game 163 versus the Rangers, and claimed the second AL Wild Card. They won the AL Wild Card game, but lost 3-1 to the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Now it is time to say better luck next year to the Tampa Bay Rays.
What Went Right: Evan Longoria was once again the centerpiece of the offense. Longoria posted a .266/.340/.490 slash line with a 131 OPS+ and produced 6.0 WAR. Longoria is still under contract for another decade, so he will likely continue to be that centerpiece regardless of the other moves the Rays make around him.
Wil Myers was acquired prior to the season in the James Shields trade with Kansas City and he likely will form the middle of the order with Longoria. The Rays did not call up Myers until June 18, but he posted a .295/.353/.482 line with a 133 OPS+. Myers is one of the leading contenders for AL Rookie of the Year and is a candidate to receive an extension from the Rays.
Another key cog at the top of the Rays lineup is Ben Zobrist, who provided a .275/.355/.404 line with a 117 OPS+. Zobrist also continues to provide versatility that helps Manager Joe Maddon employ various lineups to take advantage of splits.
The Rays starting staff again was stellar, posting a 3.83 ERA, good for third in the AL. David Price is the biggest name on the staff and posted another great year, logging 177.2 innings with an ERA+ of 112. Price can become a free agent in two years and in order to maximize his value they may consider trading him in the offseason. Given the return they extracted for Shields the Rays could get a great deal more for Price.
Alex Cobb probably had the best year of anyone on the Rays staff with an ERA+ of 138 over his 143.1 innings pitched. With the additional young pitching depth on the Rays staff in the form of Matt Moore and Chris Archer the blow the team would feel from trading a pitcher of Price’s caliber may be softened.
What Went Wrong: As the season wound down, the Rays found themselves in a fight for the final AL Wild Card spot and ended up having to play the Rangers in a playoff game just to get into the Wild Card game. This seemingly could have been avoided by calling up Myers earlier than June 18. An additional month or two of Myers could have provided the Rays with the ability to have a better regular season record, thereby avoiding the play in game and allowing their pitchers another day of rest.
It is entirely possible that the Rays will trade David Price this offseason to maximize his value. Price has been great for the Rays and is arguably one of the top five starters in baseball, but if he is traded they have not capitalized on having one of baseball’s true aces on their staff. Although the Rays reached the World Series his rookie year they ended up losing to the Phillies and true aces are not easy to obtain, especially for a small market team like the Rays.
Jeremy Hellickson had his worst MLB season by far this year with an ERA+ of 74 in 174 innings. Hellickson’s strike out rate, 18.3%, and walk rate, 6.3%, were in line with his career averages, but his line drive allowed jumped to 23%, the highest of his career.
Similar to leaving Myers in the minor leagues the Rays stuck with Roberto Hernandez in their rotation. Hernandez made 24 starts, but the Rays likely would have maximized the team’s winning percentage by giving those starts to Chris Archer and Alex Cobb instead.
Finally, the Rays bullpen struggled this year posting a 3.59, 18th in MLB, as opposed to the 2.88 ERA their bullpen provided in 2012. The Rays believe that a bullpen can largely be constructed on an annual basis so many of the relievers from this years team may not return.
What to Look for in 2014: The Rays front office is one of the most respected in the game and this could be a challenging offseason. The decision of if/when to move Price will loom large, although Tampa fans should be somewhat comforted by the fact that the same people in charge obtained Myers for Shields. The team will also likely enter 2014 with a largely revamped bullpen.
Free Agents/Options: Ben Zobrist (Team Option), Yuniel Escobar (Team Option), Roberto Hernandez, Luke Scott, Fernando Rodney, Kelly Johnson, James Loney, Jose Molina, Kyle Farnsworth, Jamey Wright, Jesse Crain, David DeJesus, Delmon Young,
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