By Brian Holt, Senior Writer for 4thandHome.com
Coming off a division-winning season, you would think the prospects would be sunny for the Rays.
However, losing Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Matt Garza, Grant Balfour, Carlos Pena, Randy Choate, Joaquin Benoit and Jason Bartlett probably changes the thinking just a smidgen.
Joe Maddon still believes Tampa’s goal is to defend last year’s division title. I think that’s an admirable goal, but has about as good a chance of happening as I do of whooping Chuck Liddell in a street fight.
While picking up big names in Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez gives the look of a team trying to compete, realistically, these are two players who are way past their respective primes.
Damon, last season, in over 500 at-bats, hit .271 with eight HRs, 51 RBI and 81 runs scored. Manny adds to that with 285 at-bats last season producing a respectable .298 average, but only nine HRs , 42 RBI and 38 runs scored.
You could be optimistic about Manny lasting a full season, but to put it into perspective, Crawford alone last year accounted for a .307 average with 19 HRs, 90 RBI and 110 runs scored.
Basically their offensive stats combined.
Notable Losses Include: Half their team as noted above.
Notable Pick Ups: Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and not enough else.
The Rays have done a good job the last few years with a tight payroll compared to the players in their division. This one definitely looks to be a rebuilding year, though, and they will be in a fight with Toronto to see who takes the last spot in the division this season.