And now, for the American League East.
On future talent, the Rays are the only organization that the Rangers envy, as they boast the same ridiculous depth of position player talent and then add in a better crop of young arms. It’s easy to get lost in the never ending sea of talent in Tampa Bay, as they have stars-in-the-making everywhere you look. And they’re not sitting around waiting for these kids to develop before making a run; this team is really good right now.
They had seven players post +3 WAR or better seasons last year, and that doesn’t include Carlos Pena or B.J. Upton. Evan Longoria is the most valuable commodity in the game, a franchise player being paid like a middle reliever. They are getting so much value from cost controlled players that they could afford to spend 23 percent of the budget on Pat Burrell and Rafael Soriano.
In any other division, they’d be monstrous favorites. But they don’t play in any other division, they play in the AL Beast. So, to make the playoffs, they have to climb over one of the only two teams who rank ahead of them on this series. When your parents told you that life was not always fair, this is what they meant.
But just because the task is a challenge, don’t write off the Rays. They aren’t that far behind the Big Two in terms of true talent, and with two playoff spots up for grabs between the three teams, there is a good chance you’ll be seeing Tampa Bay in October. The simulations run by the guys over at RLYW had the Rays making the playoffs 46 percent of the time.
This is a roster that can win this year, even with the extra hurdle of having to beat out Boston or New York. While they’ll have to make some changes at years end, likely replacing the likes of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, they have another wave of premium young talent coming, and they shouldn’t see too steep of a drop-off. Their payroll limitations will always be a hindrance, but the management staff is adept at finding value.
It’s a good team with a great young core and a top notch front office that is setup well for the present and future. They have a couple of behemoths to topple, yes, but they have have the ability to do so.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.