Mariners v Rays: Why the Rays are a threat
Despite some serious concerns about the direction Tampa Bay is going, there is still a lot to be excited about going into this season. First off, I commend them for not pulling an Oakland Athletics style teardown. Despite the difficulty of their division, the Rays held pat for the most part. They did trade 1st baseman Ji-Man Choi to Pittsburgh, and they signed pitcher Zach Eflin to a 3 year $40 million dollar deal to bolster their rotation.
The Eflin deal was one of the largest free agent contracts in team history and continues to build a nice depth around this team that should easily keep them around a .500 record. While Tampa should be a solid team, the Rays will only go as far as their stars can take them.
Yandy Diaz and Randy Arozarena are underrated stars in the lineup, but they need another elite bat to give them a real shot to jump a team like the Mariners. Shortstop Wander Franco can be that guy. Franco only played 83 games after a fractured hamate bone in his right wrist. When healthy, Franco looked like the young franchise shortstop he has been paid to be. The Rays need him healthy to be great.
Much like the lineup, the pitching of Tampa Bay leans heavily on decent depth around superstar talent. Their playoff and championship hopes start with star pitcher Shane McClanahan. The all-star finished 6th in the Cy Young voting and is primed for a massive 3rd year in the league. If they can get some form of a healthy Tyler Glasnow, they have two all-star caliber pitchers to go with the wacky rotation and bullpen that Tampa Bay is known for.