Everything had to fall into place for the Rays to be able to sign a big bat for their open DH spot. The player would need to come on a short term deal and would have to have a reasonable annual salary. Those things happened because of the overflowing market for outfielders, and the Rays are very lucky to have ‘Pat the Bat’ under contract at a very under-market rate.
This signing pushes their payroll up to the 55-60 million dollar range. I’m guessing that they are done. No major holes need to be filled, no money left. The Rays will most likely head into 2009 with their current team.
Injecting Burrell into this lineup should make the Rays offense very solid next year. They have so many players likely to improve on what they did last year, and now they add ‘Pat the Bat’ to solidify things. Carl Crawford and BJ Upton should see their batting averages come back to life. Evan Longoria should improve all the parts of his game with the more experience he is getting. Burrell is obviously going to be better than what the Rays had at DH last year. Matt Joyce will be an improvement offensively and defensively in right field. I guess that you could see Dioner Navarro come back to earth, but when you look at the lineup as a whole, it is much improved. A lineup of Akinori Iwamura – Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria – Carlos Pena – Pat Burrell – BJ Upton – Dioner Navarro – Matt Joyce – Jason Bartlett is going to be very deadly for opposing pitchers to face. The defense, rotation, and bullpen should all remain the way they were last year, and the 97-win Tampa Bay Rays look primed to contend for a playoff spot once again.
A lot of teams passed on the chance to pick up a very good outfielder. The Angels, Reds, Braves, Phillies (before they signed Raul Ibanez), and other teams could’ve easily matched this offer. This is another reason why this is such a great signing by the Rays.
Things are going to be very tight in the AL East division. The Red Sox, Yankees, and of course Rays all stand a good shot at a playoff berth. First, I will analyze the starting rotations of these teams.
The Rays have the best rotation in my opinion. A rotation of Scott Kazmir – James Shields – Matt Garza – Andy Sonnanstine – David Price is very good, and very durable. The Yankees’ rotation might have more talent, but they also have a lot of injury-prone pitchers. (examples: AJ Burnett, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes) The Red Sox rotation also has their share of pitchers with an injury history (Josh Beckett, Disuke Matsuzaka, & Brad Penny). The Rays have the most durable rotation in the AL East.
I prefer Yankees and Red Sox lineups over the Rays, but not by much. If players like Upton and Crawford bounce back they’ll have a great hitting team. I guess that with those two players rebounding, and with Longoria advancing his batting skills with more experience, the Rays might have the best offense. I still lean toward the Yanks and BoSox, however, because those teams have more power.
The bullpens should all be near the same. The Rays might see some of the relievers come back to earth, but it should still be a solid group. It is pretty much a toss up between all 3 teams.
I know that defense doesn’t make a big impact on a teams’ win-loss record, but the Rays have the top one. Maybe it will tack on a couple wins over a team like the Yankees, who have a terrible defense.
The AL East race is shaping out to be the most competitive division in the MLB next year. I don’t know who I will pick, but I know things will be very close throughout.