Tonight marks the beginning of the downward slope of the 2018 season for the Tampa Bay Rays. So far, so good. It is anybody’s guess what might happen over the next couple of months.
As we sit today, the Tampa Bay Rays are 49-47. The two games that they sit above .500 have to be a surprise to many. The way manager Kevin Cash has pieced together his lineup and, more importantly, his pitching staff, has been impressive. If the Rays continue on this winning pace and finish, say 83-79, Cash would have to be a contender for Manager of the Year.
As we head into tonight’s three game series with the Miami Marlins, here are my three guesses for what the second half will look like for the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays’ unconventional use of “Openers” will continue all season.
People all around baseball have to be wondering whether the Rays will keep using relievers to open games. Can they continue? Out of necessity, I say they will. For one thing, I think the Rays have a plethora of pitchers that they are going to want to take a look at. Of course, they have already used 28 pitchers in the first half, if you count the three position players.
But, they will use several more who have not yet made an appearance. I will bet that, at the very least, we will see prospects Ian Gibaut and Colin Poche make their big league debuts later this season. Andrew Moore, who was acquired in the Alex Colome trade, could be another name seen soon.
The Rays will be busy between now and the two trade deadlines.
First up is July 31. The Rays have eleven days to deal before the waiver process kicks in. It looks like Wilson Ramos, the leading candidate to go, will not be able to due to his hamstring issue. But, Nathan Eovaldi is drawing a lot of interest and seems a likely target for contending teams. The Los Angeles Dodgers obtaining Manny Machado and the Cleveland Indians grabbing Brad Hand have other teams ready to deal.
After Eovaldi, the big name of interest, of course, will be Chris Archer. While he hasn’t pitched to his potential so far this season, Archer should still command a good return for the Rays. His team-friendly contract should be an attraction to many teams. If the Rays could get one or two really good starts from him over the next ten days, we should see a pretty fair return coming back in the exchange.
After that, there are any number of players that could go. As long as his name is not Blake Snell, Jake Bauers or Willy Adames. Some veterans, like Sergio Romo and Carlos Gomez, may generate a few calls. Adeiny Hechavarria is certainly available. Teams will kick the tires on Matt Duffy. All in all, the Rays should be busy between now and August 31. The real heat ramps up this month.
The Rays will finish the season 78-84.
Just my guess. I would love to see the Tampa Bay Rays continue at their current pace. I’m just not sure it will be sustainable. If anything, they should be younger over the next 66 games. Willy Adames needs to return and play everyday at shortstop. I would argue that some of his hitting issues are attributed to him bouncing between second and short. We need to see him with consistent playing time at one position before we become concerned with his hitting.
As mentioned before, the Rays will trade a couple of key components to their first half lineup. That will spark a slight downturn as well. Yet, in the end, I still feel Tampa Bay Rays fans should be ecstatic with a record like 78-84. It will probably be good enough for third in the American League East.