Additions: Pat Burrell, Lance Cormier, Jason Isringhausen, Joe Nelson, Brian Shouse, Matt Joyce, Gabe Kapler, Aneury Rodriguez, Adam Kennedy
Subtractions: Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel, Jonny Gomes, Cliff Floyd, Trever Miller, Eric Hinske, Rocco Baldelli, Al Reyes
The Rays rose up last year to win the AL pennant. The offseason went according to plan – sign a righthanded slugger, tweak the bullpen, and get value for excess starting pitchers. Let's take a closer look.
Last year the Rays ranked 9th in the AL with 4.78 runs scored per game. This year's lineup subtracts Hinske and adds Kapler, while also slotting Burrell into the middle of the order. Burrell's two-year, $16MM deal was widely applauded when he signed on January 5th. The new lineup projects to score 5.23 runs per game, according to CHONE projections and the Baseball Musings lineup analysis tool. That seems optimistic, but the Rays should score more runs this year.
The Rays' '08 rotation ranked 2nd in the AL last year with a 3.95 ERA in 973.3 innings. The '09 rotation subtracts Jackson in favor of a probable Jeff Niemann/David Price fifth starter combo. It should be stellar once again, projecting at 3.98 or so. And unlike most teams, the Rays have the depth to cover injuries. Highly regarded prospect Wade Davis awaits his turn.
Andrew Friedman did not rest on his laurels in regard to the bullpen, which was good for a 3.55 ERA in 484.3 innings last year. He traded Hammel to the Rockies and let Miller go while importing Nelson, Shouse, Cormier, and Isringhausen. They may not be able to match last year's ERA, but still project well at 3.72.
According to The Fielding Bible II, the Rays' defense ranked 4th in the AL last year. There's no reason to expect any less in 2009.
Can the Rays win 97 games again? The projections suggest they can, though as I said 847 runs scored seems optimistic. Still, if the Rays are behind the Yankees and Red Sox, it's not by much. It's a shame that one of these three teams won't make the playoffs.
Bottom line: Friedman stretched a limited budget to bring in Burrell, and made other bargain signings as well. He moved surplus pitching for value and still has plenty to spare. The Rays look very strong once again.