Tampa Bay Rays: New Faces for 2017

Sep 23, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos (40) reacts after hitting a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos (40) reacts after hitting a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Off-season acquisitions by the Tampa Bay Rays added speed, power and as well strengthened the bullpen. Here’s a look at the new players…

The Tampa Bay Rays made a good amount of offseason trades and acquisitions with the help of new GM Erik Neander.  While the Rays didn’t make any huge big name free agent signings, which they are not known for, they were able to keep their entire starting pitching line up and a bulk of the core players in place and add additional players around them to help bolster the lineup and depth.

One of the biggest additions is catcher Wilson Ramos.  He was brought over from the Washington Nationals.  Ramos is recovering from surgery to repair his ACL and meniscus so he will not be able to play for the Rays until July.  However, that is something the Rays will wait for because he is one of the best catchers in the MLB.  In 2016, he hit .307 and had 22 home runs and was named an All-Star and won the Silver Slugger award.

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For years, the Rays have been looking for a reliable catcher who was also a good hitter.  Ramos fills both of those voids, and at a reasonable salary of 2 years for $12.5 million Tampa has there catcher in place for at least the next two seasons.

Another player signed in the offseason is starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. He is also injured; he had Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire 2017 season.  The Rays have a 2018 club option though if Eovaldi is fully recovered from the surgery.  This move is smart because it adds another strong starting pitcher for the future, and at only 27-years-old he has a lot of years ahead of him.

While his ERA has never been stellar, he was able to get a record of 14-3 for the Yankees in 2015.  With a salary of $2 million a year, it is a risk the Rays were willing to take with his potential upside and future trade value.

Starting pitcher Jose De Leon was brought in via trade and is looked upon to be a future pitcher for the organization.  He will most likely remain in the minor this season, unless a starter is traded which for the Rays seems to happen every year.  He is 24 years old and received four starts for the Dodgers last season as a rookie.  His first two starts he looked promising and pitched for more than half of the game and was able to get a win in each of those starts.

Impressively his first start he was able to strike out nine batters.  However his final two starts he struggled and only made it through a few innings and his ERA jumped to 6.35.  Jose De Leon is one of the Rays top prospects and with more experience should live up to his potential.  Rays fans will be able to see him in action soon since he is pitching in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico.

Tampa Bay also needed bullpen help.  They brought in veteran relief pitcher Shawn Tolleson from the Texas Rangers to help.  Tolleson struggled last season, but the two seasons before that he was able to maintain an ERA under 3.00.  Rays are taking a small risk on him hoping that he can pitch like he did a couple seasons ago.

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This offseason Tampa was looking to add some outfield depth and some speed to go along with star center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.  The outfielders that they added were Colby Rasmus, and Mallex Smith.  Out of the two Colby Rasmus should become an everyday starter.  He came over from the Houston Astros and has the defense and a reliable bat to stay in the lineup.

Mallex Smith is a young player with a lot of upside. He played for the Atlanta Braves last season and saw time in less than half of their games.  In the games he played in, he produced good numbers for a rookie.  He was able to steal 16 bases and had a batting average of .238.  At only 23 years of age, he will bring the speed the Rays are looking for and could turn out to be a future star. The 2017 outfield for the Rays should produce more than last years and should be a strong part of the team for both offense and defense.

The Rays are known for taking veteran players with the hopes that they can still produce.  In the past, they have sign players on the back end of their careers such as Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.  While Ramirez didn’t pan out and only played in five games for the Rays, other veterans have helped out the team significantly.

This season they signed veteran outfielder and second baseman Rickie Weeks.  He is past his prime but did play in the all-star game in 2011.  Weeks put up average numbers for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season and if he makes the roster, the Rays hope he can do that and more this season.  At 34 years old, that might be too much to ask, but the team only signed him to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.

While there was no $100 million dollar contracts signed, it was still a very productive offseason for first year GM Erik Neander.  The Rays were able to retain their key players and fill the positions and depth needed, along with build for their future.

Next: Kiermaier Focused on Taking the Next Step

It should be a fun season to watch this year in Tampa and to follow all of the new players with the team.