Mar 10, 2012; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) drives in a run during the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

One Year Makes All The Difference for the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East

In recapping offseason moves, analyst want to lump teams into two categories: the teams that gained and the teams that lost. The Toronto Blue Jays made the huge trades with the Marlins and Mets so clearly they gained. The Yankees have had all those injuries so they lost. The Red Sox gained slightly but it probably won’t be enough. The Orioles didn’t do much, but they were lucky last year so we’ll say they lost. And then there’s the Rays who are considered as being worst then last year thanks to the departures of James Shields and B.J. Upton. Is that really true for the Rays, though? Absolutely not.

The Rays made their usual low-risk, high-upside moves this offseason, adding Yunel Escobar, Roberto Hernandez, Jamey Wright, Kelly Johnson, and James Loney. But that’s far from all the Rays have added. Their young players, most importantly starters Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, and Alex Cobb, and outfielder Desmond Jennings and Matthew Joyce, have another year of development under their belt and are all threats to break through. In the minor leagues, top prospects Wil Myers and Chris Archer are waiting in the wings and only months away from joining the roster and becoming huge pieces of the Rays’ success. And then there’s the biggest addition of all, Evan Longoria finally healthy and ready to deliver the outstanding full season the Rays need from him for them to win the AL East. Last year the Rays made the more sparkly moves, bringing back Carlos Pena, adding Luke Scott, and bringing in Moore for his rookie season when everyone thought he would immediately take the major leagues by storm. This year, though, the Rays are truly ready. They’re as talented as ever and taking nothing for granted after watching how last year went wrong. Anything can happen in the AL East this year with no team head and shoulders above the rest and none clearly out of the picture either. But even as people think that the Rays got worse, this could very well be the year for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tags: Tampa Bay Rays

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