Robbie has been reporting the latest big move of the Rays, the signing of Carlos Pena. It would appear that with this signing the Rays would be ready if the season started today. The biggest question is will this team be able to make a run at the World Series?
There is a chance that the Rays could do something big like trade BJ Upton, as Robbie mentioned earlier today, but I just don’t see that happening. Let’s assume that the Rays don’t do anything else, besides maybe minor league deals, until the season. Will they be able to make it to the playoffs? If they do, can they win it all?
There is no doubt that the American League will be very tough to get through. It has yet to be determined whether there will be one or two Wild Card spots, but either way there are a lot of teams that could play up to the playoff caliber. You have the Angels and Rangers neck and neck in the west. You have the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, and Blue Jays in the East. That’s six teams for four spots. Some team from the Central could also surprise us, but as of now I don’t see them getting more than one team in.
Now that the Rays have gotten the two big bats Andrew Friedman wanted to get in Luke Scott and Carlos Pena, the offense is now a respectable threat. They have a power middle of the order that was missing all of last season and cost them close games. Robbie took a look at the projected Rays lineup in his last post. If you ask me, a three through six of Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist, and Luke Scott, is powerful enough to compete. Then you have Matt Joyce behind them, who we found out last season is good enough to hit 20-25 homers.
Not only do the Rays have good power, but they also have good speed at the top of the order. Desmond Jennings and BJ Upton have enough speed to steal 30 bases each, which can be great when entering the power part of the order. The Rays now have a well rounded offense that was missing last season.
The Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays all have great offenses. The Yankees are aging, but they still have elite guys like Robinson Cano, Mark Texiera and Curtis Granderson. The Red Sox are right there, with Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Ortiz. The Blue Jays come in third, but they still have Jose Batista and Brett Lawrie, both great hitters.
As of right now, I see the Rays making the playoffs by winning the AL East. I know it is ambitious, but there is nobody who can compete with the Rays starting five. The Yankees are getting there, but the Red Sox and Blue Jays are limping in comparison to those two teams. I could easily see the AL East coming down to the starting rotations. All four of the teams have good enough offenses to make it. If you go on the team that has the best rotation, the Rays will win the AL East and have a very good chance of advancing through the playoffs.
All offseason I have been saying that the Rays will end up with Carlos Pena. He is just a perfect fit for the Rays needs. His average might be frustrating, but his 30-40 homer potential is good enough to live with it. Now that the Rays have signed Carlos Pena, they could have their key piece in a run deep into the playoffs. All the Rays were missing last season was a great cleanup hitter. Now they have it, and the offense could be dangerous.