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Tampa Bay Rays: 2017 Year in Review Part 2 Post All-Star

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TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 15: Tampa Bay Rays 1B/DH Lucas Duda (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 15: Tampa Bay Rays 1B/DH Lucas Duda (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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The Tampa Bay Rays became buyers at the trade deadline with the Wild Card in reach. However, it was just a bit too late to overcome the inconsistencies of the early season bullpen struggles and the second-half offensive cave in.

This is the second part of the Rays 2017 Year in Review, it includes all of the Tampa Bay Rays transactions that transpired through the trade deadline and conclusion of the season.

On July 18, at 51-44 the Rays were two games back of the division lead, seven games above .500 and tied for the second Wild Card berth with a post-season return in their sight. Through 90 games (Pre All-Star), the offense had 293 extra-base hits, which included 133 home runs, 20 triples, 140 doubles and 413 RBIs while scoring 430 runs.

Overall, the offense slashed .257/.329/.445, led by Corey Dickerson’s 17 round trippers, 42 RBIs and his .312 average, Logan Morrison’s 24 home runs and 57 RBIs plus a surprise showing from Steven Souza Jr. with 17 home runs, 56 RBIs and a .271 average.

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However, the Rays first half offense that more or less carried them into contention slowly departed and coupled with a makeshift bullpen, the Rays began their descent from contention. By July 27, the Rays were three games out of the division lead, three games above .500 and no longer holding a Wild Card berth.

Despite the descent, the Rays front office along still felt confident that the post-season was still within their reach and went into high gear becoming buyers instead of selling at the trade deadline.

Having already acquired Adeiny Hechavarria in June to shore up the middle infield at short, they addressed the anemic bullpen, with the additions of Sergio Romo, acquired via a trade with the Dodgers, Dan Jennings via trade with the White Sox and Steve Cishek arriving from Seattle for Erasmo Ramirez.

In 26 appearances with the Rays, Cishek pitched to a 1.09 ERA with scoreless appearances coming in 25 of the 26. Jennings would finish the season pitching 13 consecutive scoreless appearances pitching to a 1.15 ERA in 22 games with the Rays. Moreover, Romo would pitch to a 1.47 ERA (30.2-IP) in 25 appearances going 2-0 compared to his record with the Dodgers (1-1, 6.12 ERA, 25-IP, 30 appearances). The three combined to go 4-1 with a 1.83 ERA (73.2-IP, 15 ER).

In addition to the addressing the bullpen, the Rays would acquire first baseman Lucas Duda from the Mets for pitcher Drew Smith. Duda would provide the team with another power bat and as well give the Rays a platoon option with Morrison at first, though primarily used as a DH.

Having addressed their needs going into July 31, many thought the buying was over – which it was. However, with just minutes remaining on deadline day, the Rays traded Tim Beckham to the Orioles for minor league pitcher Tobias Myers.

Although Beckham was having a career season offensively at the time of the trade and he had done an acceptable job handling shortstop. However, once Hechavarria arrived and took over at shortstop Beckham’s playing time gradually diminished.

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As the front office made their acquisitions, the Rays relief pitching improved almost immediately – however, the offense struggles at the plate continued mightily and so did the opportunity to return to the post-season. The offense went into a severe tailspin and was unable to rebound despite the bullpen, offensive and defensive additions.

The bullpen went through a resurgence following the All-Star break pitching to a 2.77 ERA, second best in the majors – after pitching to a 4.41 ERA before the break.

Duda provided the team with some key hits, including 13 home runs and 27 RBIs in 52 games.  Moreover, there was the defensive prowess of Adeiny Hechavarria and Kevin Kiermaier.

Hechavarria provided the Rays with a .987 fielding percentage (four errors in 298 chances) and finishing the season on a 51-game error-less streak in 179 chances and Kiermaier returned after missing 61-games on an offensive tear to hit .306/.352/.517 (45-for-147) with five doubles, eight home runs and 19 RBI in 36 games.

The majority of the transactions were costly though in terms of finances with the addition of Hechavarria, Duda and Cishek (Seattle kicked in a bit of cash). Romo and Jennings came financially sound, but Jennings cost the Rays Casey Gillaspie, their 2016 Minor League Player of the Year.

Between Gillaspie’s struggles at the plate (at Durham), that he is limited to playing only first base plus the progression of others in the Rays system who are more versatile such as Jake Bauers and Brendan McKay, Gillaspie became the odd-man out.

In addition to trading Beckham and Gillaspie, the Rays during this time released pitchers Danny Farquhar, Jumbo Diaz and infielder Rickie Weeks, DFAd outfielder Shane Peterson and pitcher Diego Moreno to make the needed openings on the 40-man roster to accommodate the new additions.

Overall, from an offensive standpoint, despite hitting a new franchise high 236 home runs, which was sixth in the majors and having career years from Steven Souza Jr., Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison. There was non-roster invitee Jesus Sucre who cracked the Opening Day roster and went on to establish career highs in home runs and RBIs.

On the mound, Alex Cobb came back strong in his first full season following Tommy John surgery in 2015. He established career highs in innings pitched with 179.1, 12 wins and 29 starts.

Rookie Jake Faria began his MLB career throwing seven consecutive quality starts was a bright addition to the bullpen, reliever Tommy Hunter became one of the most reliable arms out of the bullpen pitching to a career low 2.61 ERA in 61 appearances.

Although the year was a disappointment in terms of not making the post-season, they did have their first winning season at home going 42-39. It was the first time doing so since 2013 when they made their last post-season appearance.

Health wise, 23 different players spent time on the disabled list with the Rays using a new club record 53 players. A total of 13 rookies were used, 11 were pitchers and nine made their major league debuts.

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Their 80 wins were a 12-win improvement from 2016, which was their second best in club history – the first being their 31-game improvement coming in their magical year of 2008. All this despite leading the AL in strikeouts

From Jan 1 through the end of the regular season, the Rays completed 14 trades involving 40-man roster players, already their most in any calendar year (10 in 2007).

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: 2017 Year in Review Part 1 the Off-Season

With all the transactions, it provided the Rays the opportunity to take a deep look into the future of the organization, especially at the major league level. The future begins in 29 days when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

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