Offseason In Review: Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays are next in our Offseason In Review series.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses


Free agency hit the Rays especially hard this offseason.  Their expected losses were known well in advance, but it's still a daunting list.  The Rays saw almost their entire bullpen sign elsewhere, watched Crawford ink a megadeal with a division rival, and traded a few regulars for good measure.  The fascinating part is that Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman still put together a team that will compete in baseball's toughest division.

Just to underscore the Rays' losses: 11 members of the 2010 team signed Major League contracts elsewhere this winter, most of them as free agents.  Teams committed $238.05MM to the group over 24 contract years.  The eleven departed players will earn about $67MM in 2011, roughly $25MM more than the Rays' entire payroll.  On the plus side, the losses of Crawford, Soriano, Balfour, Benoit, Choate, Hawpe, and Qualls will result in ten extra draft picks within the top 75 in June.  You have to wonder if Hawpe and Qualls denied their arbitration offers due to handshake agreements beforehand, which MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith alluded to in January.


Despite ranking sixth in the AL in on-base percentage and eighth in slugging, the Rays' 2010 offense placed third at 4.95 runs per game due to exceptional hitting with runners in scoring position.  2011 brings offensive changes at first base, shortstop, left field, and designated hitter.  Of the four positions, only left fielder Crawford actually produced at the plate last year.  I think the dropoff from Crawford to Damon will be outweighed by improvements at the other three spots.  The Rays' timely hitting of 2010 will be tough to replicate, but the Damon/Manny tandem brings a pair of strong OBPs to the offense at the least.  Certainly there is a defensive loss in left field, but going from Bartlett to Brignac at shortstop is an improvement.

One could argue that Jeremy Hellickson is actually an upgrade over Garza in the rotation despite the former's inexperience in the Majors.  I imagine the Rays would have preferred to maintain the depth, but felt the need to reallocate Garza's money.  Friedman still made a big score in plucking five players out of the Cubs' farm system in the trade.

Even if the Rays had committed the $62.6MM required to retain Soriano, Benoit, Balfour, and Wheeler, the group obviously would not have been good for another 227 innings of 2.10 ball in 2011.  Can Friedman's new ragtag bunch manage an ERA under 4.00 this year?  It's anybody's guess, but Benoit, Balfour, and Howell were not considered relief aces when they first came to Tampa Bay.  And as manager Joe Maddon explained recently, no one was penciling the 2010 crew in as the league's best pen a year ago.  The 2011 bullpen is packed with sleepers.  As I mentioned in the Twins offseason in review, if you have to skimp on one area, let it be the bullpen.  

Given the impossible position Friedman was in, I liked the Rays' offseason.  The Rays did a lot with the $12.5MM spent on big league free agents and assembled an interesting group of minor league deals.  Even with an $80MM payroll the Rays probably would not have won the Crawford bidding, though they might still have Garza as well as more certainty in the pen.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.

68 Responses to Offseason In Review: Tampa Bay Rays Leave a Reply

  1. timmytwoshoezzz 4 years ago

    Rays are such a well run organization. Shame they have no fans.

    • notsureifsrs 4 years ago

      it’s hard to compare big markets to small, but i can’t come up with any organization i’d say is definitely run better

      • Sky14 4 years ago

        Twins aren’t bad, they moved from a contraction team to one of the biggest spenders in a decade and most of it is toward home grown talent

        • The Twins and Braves both strike me as teams that are like the Rays, just with more money to spend. They all have a constant stream of young talent on the way.

  2. melkor77 4 years ago

    I think if they can get off to a fast start (which they’ll need to do to keep manny interested), they could be quite good… and at least it is really easy to concentrate in all that silence at home games

    • Chuck345 4 years ago

      Well when the few fans do show up, you hear the most annoying sound in their constant cowbell ringing. And not the pleasant type that Christopher Walken required for his fever.

      • ltdibo020 4 years ago

        Chuck…absolutely spot on…living in Florida I could easily go to games but those annoying cowbells keep me away…especially if your sitting next to one of these dudes…I asked them what the significance was of the “beloved cowbell” and he didn’t know….Figures….Maybe f they did away with these they would get a few more fans…I would come back to the park if they did that…I wouldn’t mind watching some al east action.

        • I’ve been to probably a hundred Rays games in my life, and not once have I ever got an explanation for the cowbell. Except for one time when they were giving them out.

  3. Rabbitov 4 years ago

    After this years draft the Rays may have the best farm system in major league baseball history.

    • rockfordone 4 years ago

      yes -a powerhouse after this draft – let Trump buy them then move them for the third NY team

      • Rabbitov 4 years ago

        The horror.

      • not_brooks 4 years ago

        That would actually be great for baseball. Too bad it’ll never happen…

        • Guest 4 years ago

          Pretty sure ten or so cities deserve a team before NY gets another one.

          • not_brooks 4 years ago

            Really? Name them.

            Sure, there are a bunch of possibilities (Portland, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Las Vegas), but they all have their issues. There isn’t a single slam dunk out there.

            And besides, this isn’t about what city deserves a team. This is about taking a step towards fixing financial disparity. Adding a fourth team to the New York/New England market would be infinitely better (and easier to pass) than a salary cap.

          • Portland has the Sea Dogs.

          • But Portland Maine would be a great place to go. There’s no other MLB team in Maine and it contrasts to the Red Sox and Yankees (another New England team). Plus, it isn’t so close to either Boston or New York. Maine could possibly be a place of publicity for baseball. I’d be all for having a team in Maine and moving the Sea Dogs to Vermont or somewhere else in NE… Maine could use it’s own MLB team.

          • I think I’d rather one of the Carolinas have a team before Maine.

          • That works too. Fine with me.

          • MaineSox 4 years ago

            What wrong with Maine??

          • The lack of centrality? The fact that all of New England already has the Red Sox and 90% of them are too close-minded to change teams.

            That one of the Carolinas is more deserving.

          • MaineSox 4 years ago

            It was really just a joke because of my username “Maine”Sox. I personally would love an MLB team in Maine, and I think people in Maine might be more receptive to it than you would think, but I realize that it isn’t feasible and there are other places that would be a much better fit.

          • Slopeboy 4 years ago

            A MLB team in Portland ME, that would be great for the fans in Spring and Fall. They coulld ski to and from the games and not worry about automobile traffic jams.

          • Rabbitov 4 years ago

            I understand your point but does this really make sense in wake of the fact the Mets are having so much financial difficulty?

          • sadp 4 years ago

            Well, they could always move the Dodgers back to Brooklyn.

          • Guest 4 years ago

            Contract the Mets first.

    • notsureifsrs 4 years ago

      “After this years draft the Rays may have the best farm system in major league baseball history.”

      and they know how to use it

  4. ltdibo020 4 years ago

    we will see though if that equates to a great team at the major league level….lots of teams have great drafts…but you have to get great players and not mediocre ones…seriously look at their team and who is “great” that they drafted. They have been drafting high for a while. Draft choices….10% make it to the majors and out of that 1 or 2 % are great….could happen…and you need 2 o 3 great or real good players…not one… Also, you don’t think the Rays would do good in NY??? I think they would do real good…all the old NY Giants fans and Brooklyn Dodgers fans….I don’t know…I think they would get more than 22,000 a game….IMO

    • popular_mechanics_for_pitchers 4 years ago

      Price is great

      • ltdibo020 4 years ago

        I agree Price is great and if they get 2 or 3 more with these draft picks…look out…Hellickson could be awesome also…most teams can say they got a ,even with lower draft picks though….Even the Yanks and Red Sox drafting low do real well…I think as fans we tend to overrate some of these high draft picks….tons of failures in the bunch…a sixth round pick could easily be a star…I’m not saying the Rays have done bad drafting….but you need 3 or 4 to come along at the same time…i think thats the key..

        • popular_mechanics_for_pitchers 4 years ago

          I agree Hellickson has a great chance to succeed but the Rays have done a great job at drafting. Even if they aren’t superstars they drafted W. Davis, niemann, brignac, jaso, upton and Hellickson. These are not mediocore players they have helped Tampa do very well in the AL east over the past few years. So what if they don’t want to pay someone like Crawford that much money.

          • ltdibo020 4 years ago

            Popular I agree but maybe I would say a good job…don’t forget it was 10 years or so of not mcuh of anything…then they started drafting better and probably developing better…they were pretty dreadful there for awhile….same as the nats who I follow closely…however the nats are going to be dangerous here real soon because that owner is freakin loaded…..but they drafted poorly also…funny how both teams have nice 3rd baseman…love the Zim…live right near the florida training site here…good talkin to ya

        • MaineSox 4 years ago

          Longoria is great and Crawford was drafted by them and, even if he did just leave, he was great for them for a long time.

          • ltdibo020 4 years ago

            2b…ss…1b…rf…cf…c…dh….7 positions to fill…lost LF…..I don’t know man…they have some everyday positions to fill….with good solid longterm players…not average. Could happen…I like Longoria a lot…imagine if they kept josh hamilton for CF….I love their pitching..starters anyway

          • MaineSox 4 years ago

            You said “seriously look at their team and who is “great” that they drafted”, I was just adding a couple of names to the list of players that they have drafted who are great.

  5. I think people are giving the Rays too much credit this year. I don’t think they’ll finish over .500 after losing like half their roster. They are set up for the future with all of those draft picks though

    • Guest 4 years ago

      Bullpens are volatile and Carl Crawford will hurt, but I think they most likely win 90 games falling short of a playoff berth.

      • OrangeCards 4 years ago

        As the article mentions, they lost 227 innings of 2.10 from that bullpen … That is going to be nearly impossible to replace or replicate.

    • notsureifsrs 4 years ago

      the lost crawford and pena and gained manny and damon. defensively, they’re much worse. offensively, they’re more than fine. if you think their starting pitching is in trouble, you aren’t too familiar with it

      • Johnny Damon and the corpse of Manny Ramirez won’t come anywhere close to replicating Carl Crawford. And thats one one area they have a significant drop off. SS, 1b, entire bullpen, and yes their starting pitching isn’t as good as last year. I expect about 75-80 wins

        • The bullpen wont be as good as last year, but 1b/SS should be better..Pena was awful offensively and Bartlett hit .254 with a .324 OBP..Brignac should be able to match those numbers easily. The corpse of Manny is still better than anything they had at DH last year. The Rays should go as far as the rebuilt BP takes them…time will tell…

        • notsureifsrs 4 years ago

          player A .307/.356/.495 wOBA .378

          player B .298/.409/.460 wOBA .382

          player C .196/.325/.407 wOBA .326

          player D .271/.355/.401 wOBA .340

          – that’s crawford, ramirez, pena, and damon. they have lost defense and some stolen base speed. they have no lost any offense here at all; they have in fact probably gained some

          – this is what they got from jason bartlett last year: .254/.324/.350 wOBA .302 UZR -10.4

          awful. reid breignac will have no problem providing that

          – what is worse about their starting pitching than last year? hellickson can’t put up a FIP of 4.42, as garza did last year? even he somehow did marginally worse, you’re talking about a difference of less than 1 win. in reality, he will probably add a win

          as usual, most unfamiliar fans severely underrate the rays. if healthy they will contend all year

          • Guest 4 years ago

            90 wins is the floor unless the roster gets demolished by injuries. They have the pieces to move for a elite player, and I am sure the management will okay any money thats needed.

          • ellisburks 4 years ago

            As always, statistics show us the way.

        • Starting pitching not as good as last year?

  6. PairFace 4 years ago

    The Rays’ losses in Free Agency are an example of the fundamental problem with MLB. The Rays build the club the right way – from the farm up, and then are unable to retain their talent, because the big boys take them away.

    Everyone is raving about the Royals current farm system. But if things stay the same, will it matter for them or their fans? As soon as those prospects develop, they will be plucked by the big-payroll clubs.

    I’m a Phils’ fan, and my team is (finally) on the good side of the payroll equation. But it wasn’t all that long ago when they weren’t. It sucked watching good players go elsewhere, while the Phils’ Ownership tried to sell Travis Lee and David Bell to the fanbase.

    • notsureifsrs 4 years ago

      not sure what you’re talking about. the rays are contenders this season, have been for the previous two, and will have the best farm in baseball by year’s end

      there are problems you could point out with the system, but the rays actually disprove the claim that its impossible for small market teams to succeed. they are in very good shape

      • PairFace 4 years ago

        Sure, they’ll be fringe contenders. But how much better would they be with Crawford and Soriano in the fold??? It’s not like the Rays wanted them to leave…they just couldn’t afford to keep them.

        What happens when the farm dries up???

        • ellisburks 4 years ago

          The farm won’t dry up as this year shows. When they lose a free agent they get the picks for them and replenish the farm system. And they aren’t fringe contenders. As evidenced by notsureifsrs their offence shouldn’t see a huge dip if there is a dip at all and their starting pitching and defence is much better than the Yankees. I think they will be second in the AL East this year and strong wild card contenders.

          • PairFace 4 years ago

            OK, so competing for the WC, to me, is a “fringe” contender. The Rays’ best player is now playing for top competitor in the AL East.

            The Rays’ offense may indeed stay in range with last year’s. But how much better did Boston’s offense get adding Crawford and Gonzalez??? This is my point in a nutshell. The rich teams go out and buy weapons, while the poor teams that manage to contend, try to hold their ground.

    • MaineSox 4 years ago

      If fans had come out to watch the Rays after they really started winning (’08) they may have been able to keep Crawford. I don’t think it is a problem with baseball when that happens, I think it is a problem with the fans and location of the team. Move the Rays to a city where the fans will support them when they are winning and I think you solve the problem.

      • rrivera117 4 years ago

        Yeah like closer to tampa. I go to about 15-20 games per year and it really sucks making the trip to the stadium. Most people woudnt give up a comfy chair at home and free food to watch the baseball in Tampa. Although I feel a new stadium that’s closer to tampa would help the cause.

      • Oh stop with all the “if the fans came out” nonsense…

        • MaineSox 4 years ago

          If they were selling out games would they have had more revenue? If they had had more revenue would they have had more money to try to re-sign Crawford? I know there are other things that impact revenue besides ticket sales but low ticket sales couldn’t have helped, and raising ticket sales wouldn’t hurt. Please, explain to me how that is nonsense.

          • It doesn’t mean they have no fans though. Just because fans don’t go to the game, doesn’t mean they have any fans. Nobody even cared about the attendance of the Rays fans until ESPN emphasized it…

          • MaineSox 4 years ago

            Having fans is nice and all but if they don’t come out and spend money it doesn’t help the team re-sign players.

        • notsureifsrs 4 years ago

          if the fans come out, he will

      • PairFace 4 years ago

        The Cubs are in a big market, and they’ve sold out for years. Explain…

        • MaineSox 4 years ago

          Explain what? They had the 3rd highest payroll in baseball last year according to Cotts, how they spend the money is a separate issue.

          • PairFace 4 years ago

            You equated attendance to winning. Attendance is not the most important factor in whether a team wins, nor is it the largest revenue streams for most MLB teams.

            The Braves won a slew of consecutive division titles with a crappy, disinterested fanbase. But Turner got creative, and built the Braves into a revenue monster through TBS. If the Rays are to compete without a fanbase, they’ll have to get just as creative.

            BTW, I am with you in the respect that MLB made a mistake by gambling on Florida. Both Tampa and Miami are proving to be terrible baseball towns.

          • MaineSox 4 years ago

            No I didn’t, I said that if the fans had come out to the games they may have had the money to keep some of their free agents. Specifically “If fans had come out to watch the Rays after they really started winning (’08) they may have been able to keep Crawford.”

    • RedSoxDynasty 4 years ago

      Is it harder for teams like the Rays compared to the big boys, to contend every year, yes! But they have the right person, Friedman, to do it! Every team could do this if they hired the right GM and drafted the right players. The losing teams usually have a terrible fanbase and no direction! All the money in the world won’t matter if it’s spent improperly!

    • Jake8 4 years ago

      As you can see the Yankees or the Red Sox can develop CRAP , that is why they are so good . And in the next 4-5 years the Yankees are gunna stink !!

  7. damnitsderek 4 years ago

    I really like those minor league deals to Cruz, Inglett, and Wade. Tampa Bay might be taking a lesson from Florida in picking up useful pieces of the minor league scrap heap.

  8. mister_rob 4 years ago

    I think everyone is underselling Matt Garza quite a bit here. The guy has posted 4 straight sub4 era’s in the ALEast. How many AL pitchers can say they have pitched 4 straight sub4 years the last 4 years? Grienke didnt. Beckett didnt. Lackey didnt. Pavano didnt. Liriano didnt. etc
    Yet people think Hellickson is a given to come in and do it over 200 innings

    Rays = 81 wins. No team considering Kyle Farnsworth for closer will win 90 games

    • Longo103 4 years ago

      Yeah thanks to the rays defense..his FIP(4.32 along the lines) says differently though

      with Chicagos defense i think his true era will show

  9. Sky14 4 years ago

    Rays lost alot of bullpen work Crawford, Garza and Pena so I like everyone cannot see them possibly doing as well as last year, especially because I’m skeptical of Jennings…That being said I think they did well for themselves with Ramirez, Howell, and even Juan Cruz, very smart shopping in a year alot of teams gave bloated lengthy contracts, and all on one year deals, I think they will be a team in transition but atleast they live within their means and didn’t panic(see: Wells, Vernon and Werth, Jayson)

  10. Leonard Washington 4 years ago

    I think the Rays could be contenders but they would need more than health. They would need someone like Jake Mcgee to step in and provide some relief, and Manny to have a healthy season. Other than that the pitching looks great Shields was unlucky and should be fine, and Price, Wade, and Hellickson should all get better.

  11. RedSoxDynasty 4 years ago

    The Rays will always be dangerous with Friedman in charge! As for wins 85 seems about right! For example the Red Sox look like a 100 plus win team but the East is so loaded that every team will probably win 5 games less than they would in any other division so 95 will probably take the East! Can’t wait!

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