Tampa Bay’s rotation took a serious hit this week when the team shipped left-hander Blake Snell to San Diego, and general manager Erik Neander admitted Tuesday (via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) that the Rays “are not as good a team without him.” Despite that, Neander insisted to Topkin and other reporters that the Rays, who won the American League in 2020, still plan to compete for a championship.
“Our goal is to win a World Series,” Neander said. “Want to make that that very, very clear. … It’s our philosophy, it’s our belief that the best way for us to achieve that goal is to construct playoff-caliber teams year in, year out. For every team that we put out there to have a shot. To avoid the valleys. To not take any years off.”
The Rays seem to be of the belief that the return they received for Snell will help them continue to push for a title for the long haul. On paper, they did get an impressive package for Snell, acquiring three prospects – Luis Patino, Cole Wilcox and Blake Hunt – as well as catcher Francisco Mejia. As Neander suggested, however, it’s tough to see them as a better team right now in the wake of the trade. Even before losing Snell, the Rays said goodbye to right-hander Charlie Morton in free agency. Their only notable free-agent addition of the offseason has been righty Michael Wacha, who had immense difficulty keeping runs off the board with the Cardinals and Mets from 2019-20.
It’s anyone’s guess how the Rays will fill out their 2021 rotation after Wacha, Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough, but they are “in aggressive pursuit of another starter,” Topkin writes. Getting rid of Snell’s three-year, $39MM contract gives the team some money to spend on a short-term deal in free agency if it’s willing, notes Topkin, who adds that the Rays should have a payroll in the $60MM range. The Rays also boast the game’s No. 1 farm system, so they could try to trade for starting help.
While the Rays don’t look as strong as they did a couple months ago, Neander said, “We have a lot of confidence in the group that we have here and we’ve got a lot of time left to continue to build this club out and to get this puzzle where we want it.” Although their budget is at the bottom of the league, Neander & Co. have found a way to keep the Rays afloat on a regular basis. However, Neander acknowledged that there’s “a lot of work to do” with Snell out of the mix.