The Tampa Bay Rays had one of the most successful seasons in franchise history. They defeated the New York Yankees in the ALDS in five games. Then, they would go on to defeat the Astros in seven to win the pennant.
What makes these victories so significant is the large gap of money committed to payroll between Tampa and their opponents. The Yankees had a payroll of over $110 million in 2020. The Astros had $81 million in 2020. The Rays on the other hand only had a payroll of a little over $28 million.
To put these numbers into perspective, the Yankees are paying Gerrit Cole double the entirety of the Rays’ payroll. Yes, one player alone makes double the money of the payroll for a Major League franchise. But despite spending less money, the Rays were able to defeat the Evil Empire and ride that momentum towards a pennant.
Will the Rays be able to translate this type of success to a full season? Can the Rays stay competitive in a very competitive AL East? Will they be able to get outs despite losing Blake Snell and Charlie Morton?
The Rays’ lineup is baseball’s most overlooked heading into 2021. Randy Arozarena is back after having one of the most dominant postseason runs in recent memory.
Austin Meadows should have a bounce-back year after struggling in 2020, having only a .205 batting average, four home runs, and thirteen RBIs. Meadows’ 2020 season shouldn’t be of concern for the Rays since the majority of baseball’s star players struggled mightily during the pandemic shortened season. Look for Meadows to be an underrated star in 2021.
The Rays also have players such as Kevin Kiermaier, Ji-Man Choi, and Brandon Lowe, who won’t look flashy on paper but are very productive and reliable major league talents.
With the best manager in baseball, this Rays’ lineup will be dangerous and potent throughout the year. They will succeed against the best pitching in baseball once again.
The pitching is going to be manager Kevin Cash’s biggest test in 2021. The Rays lost their two best starters in Blake Snell and Charlie Morton. Their replacements are a bit underwhelming, to say the least.
Tampa welcomed back Chris Archer, signed soon-to-be 41-year-old Rich Hill, and veteran Michael Wacha. Archer missed the 2020 season as a whole; however, he wasn’t much good when he was on the mound for the Pirates in 2019. He went 3-9 with a 5.19 ERA. Yikes.
If Archer were to revive his career, going to Tampa Bay under Kevin Cash is his best option.
As for Hill and Wacha, both are veterans that have seen success at the major league level but are big question marks heading into the season. While Hill had a solid season on the mound, Wacha struggled with the New York Mets having a 6.62 ERA in 2020.
If Kevin Cash can manage through a sub-par rotation and still win baseball games, he will be the manager of the year. But until the season begins, that remains to be seen.
The Rays’ bullpen remains to be one of the best in baseball and it just got a bit better. They traded for right-hander Chris Mazza who was solid for both the Mets and Red Sox last season. Other than the addition of Mazza, Tampa’s bullpen is the same as last year and that is a good thing. The bullpen will continue its dominance into 2021.
The Tampa Bay Rays have the best manager in baseball, an underrated lineup, a subpar pitching staff, and one of the best bullpens. So where does that leave them in a competitive AL East division?
I predict that the Rays will finish second in their division with 86 wins, snagging a wild card spot in the American League, but not by much.