After having what looked like it could have been a dream season, the Tampa Bay Rays found themselves defeated by the Boston Red Sox earlier this month in the ALDS. The Rays got really hot and made a great final push to reach the postseason, but it was unfortunately not enough to propel them to the World Series.
This is really not anything to be ashamed of, because it is an accomplishment to have even made the postseason. Plus, the Rays were in one of the toughest divisions in baseball and had to deal with the best team in the American League as their first playoff opponent. With all that in mind, the Rays are now forced to go back to the drawing board to try to find a formula to make next season a championship season.
Some fortunate news for the Rays is that it appears their entire starting rotation will be back next season. This was arguably Tampa’s strongest asset last season, and they are certainly happy to have their starters returning. The only possibility for change would be if the Rays decided to move their ace, David Price, to avoid arbitration.
If the Rays were to try and trade the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner, there is no question that they could certainly get a lot in return. It may be wise for the Rays to try to get some of a team’s top prospects in exchange for Price, because having as tight of a budget as they do, the Rays can always use strong minor league players.
Although the starting rotation appears to be staying put, there are certainly some questions as to who will be part of the Rays’ lineup next season. Catcher Jose Molina and first basemen James Loney, who both played big roles in Tampa’s offense last season, are eligible free agents and may not return next season.
There are also some questions in the outfield, as Desmond Jennings in center field is the only certainty so far. Matt Joyce is arbitration-eligible, Kelly Johnson is a free agent, and the Rays have a club option on David DeJesus that they must decide upon.
The Rays are also going to have to consider who would be best fit to close out their games in the 2014 season. The role of the closer is one that a lot of teams struggle to fill, but is easily one of the most important spots on the roster. Fernando Rodney will be a free agent this offseason, and it is unclear whether the team will re-sign him. If it does not work out, the Rays will have to decide whether to find a new closer elsewhere, or promote somebody from within.
The Rays certainly have some question marks going into the offseason, but it appears as though the majority of their squad will be back for 2014. If the Rays want 2014 to be their year, GM Andrew Friedman needs to really establish the Rays as force to be reckoned with in an extremely competitive AL East.
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