(Photo Credit: Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times)
(Photo Credit: Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Times)

Introducing our newest writer, Adam Hayes. Adam also heads up “USS Sports Machine,” a blog that covers sports in general. We’re excited to add him in the fold, and here’s to many more pieces like the one below.

Competing in the American League East Division is tough no matter what city you’re from. This statement pales in comparison to the 2016 Tampa Bay Rays’ season. The Rays finished dead last in the division with a 68-94 record. Although a record 3 teams reached the postseason from this division, the Rays finished their season 16 games behind the Yankees, a team that wasn’t included in this post-season grouping. The team doesn’t want to jump to the assumptions that they will now face a rebuild after a third-straight losing season. The team is focusing on retooling and adding depth to the positions that already feature talented arms, prospects or positional standouts.

Steadying the rotation

One area that the team can lean on is their rotation. There are some many arms in their system and on their big-league roster that hold individual potential and intrigue. The model for consistency has been something that was lacking last season and the team doesn’t want to face that again this season. The 5 guys that look like the favorites to lead the rotation at this point are: Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly. Looking down at the farm system one will find talents like Matt Andriese, Taylor Guerrieri and Brent Honeywell. The team is very consistent when it comes to developing their talents before calling them up, especially their pool of arms. Snell is the youngest in the rotation at age 24 and Cobb is the oldest at 29.

Snell and Archer mark two names that would be hard to pry away from the Rays, but nothing is out of the question. The way the Red Sox are moving the entirety of their farm system for big arms marks a potential trade situation that would benefit both parties. The Rays don’t have a problem moving their arms either, as long as they receive enough in return. None of these guys really are hurting the team’s cap space and none are too demanding either. Smyly looks like an attractive option to other teams and it could pave the way for the acquisition of an everyday guy and give a younger guy their shot in the bigs.

Position problems

Moving away from pitching leaves the team in a bind at positional play. There is one big problem the team faces with their positional players: they like all their starters. Evan Longoria at third, Matt Duffy at short, Logan Forsythe playing second, Brad Miller at first and one Nick Franklin to fill-in as a backup; this fits the team’s vision. The outfield remains rather consistent in the names that are featured including: Kevin Kiermaier, Steve Souza, Mikie Mahtook and Corey Dickerson. If you take the combined average of these positional players, you are left will a relatively young group. In fact, the Rays roster, as a whole, ranks near the top as one of the league’s youngest on average. This is where the team needs to capitalize. They need to search through the free agent pool and find guys that have been featured members on their teams for many years.

Two names that are brought to the discussion table are Ryan Howard and Pedro Alvarez. Howard had a dismal in Philadelphia last year and that team wants nothing to do with him now. How about swinging in and picking up a former home run leader for a low price? Seems like a good move for a squad that lacks veteran leadership. Alvarez is another attractive option based off his model of consistent play and leadership capabilities. Wilson Ramos was brought in as a serviceable catcher with a mind for the game most of these player’s lack. Look for the team to go older when it comes to free agent signings and if they are to part with their arms, look for additional developmental talents in return or plug-and- play positional players.


— The Rays announced eighteen invites to Spring Training for players not currently on the 40-man roster:

LHPs Dana Eveland and Justin Marks; RHPs Diego Moreno, Neil Wagner, Jeff Ames, and Andrew Kittredge; catchers Michael McKenry, Nick Ciuffo, and Jonah Heim; infielders Casey Gillaspie, Dalton Kelly, Jake Bauers, Ryan Brett, Jake Hager, Patrick Leonard; and outfielders Shane Peterson, Johnny Field, and Dayron Varona

Only 52 days and counting until pitchers and catchers report to camp.

— JT Morgan gave a few more specifics about the aforementioned 18 players over at DRaysBay.

— The Houston Astros announced that Root Sports SW has hired Todd Kalas to be their head play-by-play announcer.

Kalas had been with Tampa Bay for 18 seasons serving as a pre and post game host, while also hosting in-game interviews, taking over in the booth when needed, perusing the confines of any given stadium, and partying with pretty much everyone.

Kalas was born in Houston and practically grew up in the booth while his father, Harry Kalas, called games for the Astros.

We too wish Kalas nothing but the best of luck!

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