Tampa Bay Rays Last Season Performance
The Tampa Rays enjoyed an excellent 2021 season. The Rays finished the year with the best record in the American League and the third-best record in all of baseball.
They stuck by the same recipe which has provided them with much success during the regular season over the past few years. Kevin Cash and the coaching staff have continuously trusted in analytics and it has worked. Tampa Bay’s roster featured little in the way of starpower and yet they consistently won games.
Despite finishing the regular season with a 100-62 record and clinching home-field advantage in the American League Divisional Round, the Rays were ultimately upset by the Wild Card winning Boston Red Sox in four games.
The Rays, who lost the World Series in 2020, are hungry for a championship. The regular-season success was sufficient a couple of years ago, but it simply is not enough anymore. They have proven that they can contend in the AL East, but they have yet to win when it matters most.
Tampa Bay’s roster construction is different from many other teams but it works.
The Rays did not have one single .300 hitter in 2021 and they did not care. Tampa Bay values players who get on base and do the little things well.
However, Randy Arozarena did lead the team in batting average with a .274 mark. Additionally, the outfielder hit 20 home runs and stole 20 bases.
Infielder Brandon Lowe was productive with 39 home runs and 99 RBI’s.
The Rays added some thump to the middle of their lineup by acquiring Nelson Cruz from the Twins during the middle of 2021. Cruz hit 13 home runs in Tampa and finished with 32 total homers for the season.
The pitching staff was able to overcome an early-season injury to ace Tyler Glasnow. Starting pitchers such as Rich Hill, Shane McClanahan, and Luis Patino helped to make up for the absence of Glasnow. McClanahan stood out from the rest with a sparkling 3.43 ERA and 141 strikeouts over 25 starts.
The young lefty projects as a key piece of the rotation moving forward.
But the Rays bullpen is what led them to the AL’s best record. They finished with the third-best bullpen ERA in baseball and led the AL with a mark of 3.24. Bullpens truly are the mark of a good team, as the Giants and Dodgers finished with both the best two records in all of baseball and both featured the top two bullpen ERAs in baseball as well.
But the Tampa Bay relief corps broke down in the postseason. They posted a disappointing 6.51 ERA during the division series against Boston.
The Rays will look to replicate their regular-season success while changing their postseason fortunes in 2022.
Tampa Bay Rays Off-Season Changes
The Rays are always an interesting team to keep tabs on during the offseason. While most contending teams prefer to keep their talented players, Tampa Bay’s low payroll often forces them into dealing away good players for younger and cheaper talent.
They sent utility man Mike Brosseau to the Brewers in exchange for a minor league pitcher back in November. But that has been the only real noteworthy trade so far during the offseason for Tampa Bay.
They excised their team option on 2021 all-star catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino posted an underwhelming slash line of .216/.301/.559, but the catcher did smash 33 home runs and played a quality brand of defense as well.
The Rays were also able to lock up their young star shortstop Wander Franco to an 11-year extension. This is a fairly out-of-pocket move for Tampa Bay which tends to not commit to players for the long term. However, they seem to believe in Franco’s ability and they will continue to build around him for the foreseeable future.
Tampa Bay signed the first baseman Ji-Man Choi to a contract in late November and therefore avoided arbitration.
Tampa Bay Rays Key Additions
The Rays’ main free-agent signing came right before the lockout in December. Tampa Bay signed veteran starting pitcher and former two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to a one-year contract. The 35-year-old posted a 3.83 ERA in limited action for the Yankees in 2021.
The addition of Kluber helps sure up the pitching staff and provides a veteran presence for a fairly youthful starting rotation.
Tampa Bay signed relief pitcher Brooks Raley to a two-year deal. Raley pitched in 58 games for the Astros a season ago and was the owner of a 4.78 ERA. However, Raley did post an ERA under four in 2020.
The other main signings the Rays have made during the offseason include the Zunino contract and the Franco extension. But they have not brought in much other outside talents.
Tampa Bay Rays Key Subtractions
The Rays core is expected to remain mostly intact heading into the 2022 campaign. But there were a few players who hit the open market during the offseason who the Rays will miss this year.
A number of pitchers kicked off the offseason by declaring free agency. The pitchers who hit the open market in early November included; Michael Wacha, Tommy Hunter, David Robertson, Chaz Roe, Collin McHugh, and Chris Archer.
All of these pitchers are useful veterans who should land contracts whether it be with Tampa Bay or elsewhere. But given the Rays’ history, it would not be surprising to see them let these players walk instead of attempting to re-sign them.
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz also became a free agent during the offseason. Cruz continued to mash at age 41 last season between Minnesota and Tampa Bay. Although he does not fit the typical mold of what the Rays look for in a player, the team surely did not mind the power that Cruz offered from the right side of the plate.
It will be interesting to see if the Rays try to re-sign him once the lockout comes to an end. It seems unlikely, but Cruz may have played well enough to pique their interest. They need to at least consider bringing him back into the fold.
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Tampa Bay Rays Head Coach Analysis
Manager Kevin Cash rebounded from the Blake Snell 2020 World Series fiasco by leading his team to the best record in the American League last year. And these kinds of results have become somewhat of a trend for Cash in Tampa Bay, as he owns a 554-478 (.537 winning percentage) over the course of his seven years with the Rays.
He has also won the AL Manager of the Year Award in back-to-back seasons, winning in both 2020 and 2021.
Cash trust purely in analytics. He is about the furthest thing from an old-school manager as it gets.
This philosophy has proven to work over the span of a 162 game slate. But it has also been criticized during the playoffs. Sometimes, managers need to trust what they are seeing on the field and make a common sense decision in big games.
But Cash manages games in a similar manner in the postseason. And we have seen some questionable decisions from the Rays head coach in the playoffs.
Nonetheless, Cash’s job with the Rays appears to be safe as we head into 2022.
Tampa Bay Rays Injured Players at the Beginning of the Season
The most notable name who might be out for the entire season is RHP and Rays ace Tyler Glasnow. Glasnow was in the midst of a terrific 2021 campaign before he began dealing with pain in his right elbow. It was later deemed that he would require Tommy John surgery immediately ending his season.
Although Tampa Bay has the depth to work around the Glasnow injury, losing your best pitcher is never a good thing.
RHP Yonny Chirinos is also dealing with an elbow injury and he is expected to be out until at least May or June. Chirinos is a capable pitcher who is a valuable asset to any pitching staff.
Two-way player Brendan McKay underwent surgery during the offseason. But the Rays are hopeful that he will be ready in time for the beginning of the regular season. Tampa Bay may opt to send McKay to the minors to open the season so he can receive extra rehab work, but all signs are pointing to a full recovery by April.
RHP Nick Anderson underwent elbow surgery and is expected to miss the first portion of the upcoming season. Anderson was arguably Tampa Bay’s best reliever in 2020, but he dealt with injuries for the majority of the 2021 campaign and it appears as if it may be a similar story in 2022.
Other players who are probable for the start of the season include; Kevin Kiermaier, Colin Poche, and Sean Gilmartin.
Tampa Bay Rays Prediction for 2022 Season
Can the injury riddled Rays post another incredibly high win total in 2022? Are they destined for another impressive season?
Yes. The Rays know how to win during the regular season. They find ways to score runs in unorthodox ways while leaning on the bullpen to shut the door late in games.
Tampa Bay does not always play the most exciting version of baseball, but they don’t care about that. They have a front office that is constantly crunching numbers and looking for any kind of statistics that may provide them with an advantage.
However, the Rays will face some fierce competition in teams like the Blue Jays and Yankees in 2022. Their ceiling is the first place in the AL East and their floor is third place in the division.
Although the injuries do scare me off a bit from choosing the Rays to capture the division, they were successful last season despite injuries to both Glasnow and Anderson. With a very similar roster for 2022, there is no reason why Tampa Bay can’t win the division once again.
I believe the Rays will narrowly edge out the Blue Jays and Yankees for the division lead at the end of the season. But the AL East may very well end up being the most exciting division in the MLB for your MLB Odds.
Tampa Bay Rays Final Thoughts
The Rays could display some unexpected aggression on the free agent market once the MLB lockout comes to an end. The franchise has been so close to earning their first championship but the pieces have failed to come together. So it would be understandable that Tampa Bay makes an effort to go all in for 2022.
A player like Kris Bryant or Freddie Freeman could be a good fit in Tampa Bay. The low-budget Rays could energize their fanbase with an out of character move by bringing in an outside superstar.
But either way, we will likely see the Rays in the playoffs once again this season so be sure to keep an eye on our MLB Lines for the season.