The baseball rumor mill is on overload and a great deal of it surrounds Tampa Bay Rays’ ace David Price and second baseman Ben Zobrist. Everyone has their opinion about where they might go. It has become a hobby to postulate. A potential monkey wrench has emerged, however. The Team That Couldn’t, for most of the first half of the season, is suddenly the team that can. The fact of the matter is, though it will by no means be easy, the Rays can still win the American League East.
How is that possible? Simple, the other teams in their division have glaring weaknesses. For one, Boston and New York are really not that good. The Yankees’ free agent signings in the offseason have not all come through like they hoped they would. Masahiro Tanaka has been excellent and is as advertized. Jacoby Ellsbury has been pretty good, even though the Yankees will live to regret the contract they gave him. Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, however, have under-performed. The Yankees need their bats and, so far, they have not been there on a consistent basis. Furthermore, how long can they lean on Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts, both role players thrust into every day positions? With CC Sabathia most likely out for the season and Michael Pineda also on the shelf, the Yankees will be scrambling to stay in the race. Whereas the Rays pitching is improving down the line, the Yankees are scrambling for answers.
Boston has struggled to find consistency for a period of time. Sure, David Ortiz just keeps on keeping on. Mike Napoli has ten home runs, but has missed time with an injury and only has 32 RBIs. Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Xander Bogaerts have struggled a bit, and the spark plug, Shane Victorino, has been injured for the greater part of the season. On the pitching side, Jon Lester and John Lackey have been good. However, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront have not, and Clay Buchholz has been a headache to the Red Sox that not even extra strength pain reliever could relieve.
Toronto and Baltimore have been, for the most part, the class of the division. However, in the past month, Toronto is 10-17. Baltimore is 16-12, as are the Rays. Both Baltimore and Toronto have their weaknesses. As well, 35 of Tampa Bay’s last 73 games are against division foes. Moreover, they have 20 games against teams with sub-.500 records.
The Rays are finally playing like the team we expected them to be. They are poised to make a charge at the division title. That said, the likelihood that Price will be traded at the deadline is becoming less and less likely. There is no exact science to these guessing games. As is, the only reason to trade Price would be to replenish their system with young arms, but, if the Rays are not getting the type of quality arms the seek back in return, it is not in their best interest to trade Price just because pundits say the Rays have to. If they are to make a charge at a World Series title this year, it will be with David Price at the helm.