2008 was a spectacular year for the Tampa Bay Rays. They went from having the worst record in the MLB a year before, to going to the World Series in ’08. They weren’t satisfied with their team even after this, so they went out and made two key additions to their lineup. After deciding to move David Price into the rotation, they deemed Edwin Jackson as expendable. E-Jax was swapped to the Tigers for outfielder Matt Joyce. Joyce will be the primary right fielder for the team and adds some nice pop to the lineup. After that, they went out and signing Pat Burrell to a 2 year deal. He will be the Designated Hitter for the team, and adds a big bat from the right side of the plate — something the Rays were looking for.
The 97 win Rays have gotten better. Burrell and Joyce will improve the lineup, and Price will offer at least the same production that Jackson would. He has a lot of upside, and could be this year’s version of Tim Lincecum. The bullpen is the one area that might not be as good as the year before. They struggled through the playoffs, and many of the relievers could come back down to Earth in ’09. However, with their fantastic farm system, they could easily make a bullpen acquisition mid-season.
The race for the AL East is going to be the most fun thing to watch in baseball next year. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Rays, Yankees, or Red Sox win this division. You could pick a name out of a hat and I would believe you. I slightly favor the Yanks for the division, and the Rays for the Wild Card. I think that the acquisition of Burrell makes their lineup a very good one, and the pitching staff could be even better than last year depending on how good Price is. He is the difference maker. If he comes out and has a Lincecum type year, the Rays will be in the playoffs with a dynamic 1-2-3 punch and a great chance of returning to the World Series. If not, then the Rays might not even make the playoffs. It’s all up to him.
This is going to be a very fun team to watch no matter what happens. I can’t wait for April!