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Tampa Bay Rays: Need a Team, Not a Collection Of Players

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Apr 5, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) looks on at the end of the seventh inning against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) looks on at the end of the seventh inning against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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For some forty years I was a New York Yankee fan. Not because of all their stars but because I could identify with the whole team. Here’s my take on what the Tampa Bay Rays could do to create a lasting team.

For some forty years before I adopted the Tampa Bay Rays (Devil) as my team, I was a New York Yankee fan. Not because of all their stars but because I could identify with the whole team. Each year I knew, plus or minus a few players, who would be on the field on April 1st. I knew each one of the players and what to expect from them. It was my team and not just a collection of players.

Fast forward to the 2017 Tampa Bay Rays and you have just the opposite. Each off season brings another cattle call for players to fill positions. Along with those moves come the annual sell off of players who have been deemed too expensive to keep around. I find friends asking, “Tell me about the Rays. Do they have any good players this year?” For those reasons, it deserves a look into what the Rays might do to create a lasting team.

The catcher should be the base of the team but with the Tampa Bay Rays it’s always a problem. Derek Norris and Jesus Sucre are this year’s catchers and they are both under-performing offensively and defensively. This is their first year with the team and one or both won’t be around next year. Wilson Ramos, if healthy, will be the 2018 catcher but he will be gone the next year. Sadly, nobody knows who will be the 2019 catcher.

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The infield also has issues. Logan Morrison is the first baseman. This is his second year with the team and he is here because he is inexpensive and every once in awhile he gets hot at the plate.

He will not be around in 2018 and hopefully his place with be taken by #5 prospect Casey Gillaspie. Evan Longoria is at the other corner and is the team’s signature player. Longoria is slowing down a little but he is still an All-Star player and is under contract for the next six years. I don’t see him going anywhere.

The double play combination is currently Brad Miller at second base and Tim Beckham at shortstop. Miller is in his second year with the team and has already played three positions. He can hit but is a liability in the field. Look for the Tampa Bay Rays to trade him in the offseason.

Beckham was not seen as the opening day shortstop but was thrust into that role when Matt Duffy was still not ready to play. He’s more of a second baseman/utility player. The Rays do have some long term possibilities in the middle infield and look for the 2018 double play duo to be some combination of Beckham, Duffy, rookie Daniel Robertson or #1 prospect Willy Adames.

The outfield is a little better situation. Kevin Kiermaier has been with the team four years and recently extended his contract for another six. Steven Souza Jr. has been with the team for three years and is under team control for another three years.

Both are having solid years and look to be a part of future Rays teams. The left fielder was to free agent Colby Rasmus but he can’t get healthy. He is signed for one year and will be gone next year. Fortunately, the Rays have #3 prospect Jake Bauers and rookie Mallex Smith waiting is the wings and should be ready in 2018.

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On the pitching side, the starters look good for the future with Chris Archer signed to a long term contract and Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell and Matt Andreise still under team control. Alex Cobb will probably be traded before the end of the year but Durham has a host of talented starters to take his place.

The bullpen is just the opposite with only Alex Colome and rookie Austin Pruitt assured of a job past this year. Again, the pitching depth at Durham should help solve this issue in the future.

In the end, it is my guess that only 18 of the 33 (eight on the disabled list) players currently on the 25-man roster will be back next year.

It is the perfect time to load the roster with top prospects such as first baseman Casey Gillaspie, shortstop Willy Adames, outfielder Jake Bauers and pitchers, Jake Faria, Jose DeLeon and Jaime Schultz. They will join infielder Daniel Robertson, outfielder Mallex Smith and pitchers Austin Pruitt and Chih-Wei Hu.

Adding those rookies to a solid pitching staff, a top closer and a half dozen talented position players currently on the 25-man roster and you have the makings of a team that would be fun to watch year after year.

Next: Nationals Still Interested in Alex Colome

It just takes a little patience and an increased salary base as they mature. Even if they don’t win it all, they would be more fun to watch than aging players picked off baseball’s scrape heap.

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