A Late Addition to the Winners of the 2017 Offseason!

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Updated: February 4, 2017

Last week, we covered the winners of the 2017 offseason so far. Today, we have a late addition to that list: The Tampa Bay Rays! This article may not be about our Halos, but the Rays have had a noteworthy offseason, particularly for a team that operates on such a tightrope as they do. It’s difficult to put together a solid offseason on a shoestring budget, while also balancing which young players you’ll be able to hang onto and which ones you should cash in on, now. The Rays have been operating from a position of strength, and finally dealt from that strength to bulk up their farm system a little more. They also had depth in their infield, and used that to add another young stud to their rotation, and made a few high value signings in free agency for cheap. Let’s examine these moves and how the Rays continue to hang in there despite their challenges.

Rays trade P Drew Smyly to the Seattle Mariners for OF Mallex Smith, SS Carlos Vargas, and P Ryan Yarbrough – The Rays have been connected to trade rumors for one of their young pitchers for a couple years now, and finally pulled the trigger to add some young speed and depth to their outfield and a strong prospect in Yarbrough. The Rays will have one of the best defensive outfields in the league with Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr., and Smith.

Rays Trade Second Baseman Logan Forsythe to the Los Angeles Dodgers for P Jose De Leon – The Rays then turned around and traded from another area of depth, their infield, and acquired another good, young pitcher with even higher upside and more years of control. With Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, Matt Duffy, Evan Longoria, and utility infielder Tim Beckham, the Rays could afford to deal from this strength and acquire a high-end pitching prospect, something every team needs more of regardless of how much they may already have.

Rays sign C Wilson Ramos, OF Colby Rasmus, and First Baseman/Designated Hitter Logan Morrison to a Combined $20 million – There is so much value in these signings, and for a team on a budget like the Rays these are the kinds of moves you’re forced to make. Fortunately for the Rays the market for hitters dried up this year, which plays right into their need to stay cheap. Ramos was one of the best catchers in baseball last year before suffering a serious knee injury, so the Rays were able to nab him for only two years and $12.5 million, and he’s expected to return fairly early in the season. Ramos is the only one of the three signings to get a second year, and if he’s able to bounce back from his injury he’ll more than deserve it. Rasmus was one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, and was on fire out of the gates before slowing down considerably, and by the end of the year he hardly played. Rasmus still hit fifteen home runs, though, and can bring you pop and great defense for only $5 million, which is a steal. Morrison was the opposite of Rasmus, struggling for most of the season, then turned it on around the All-Star break before suffering a season-ending injury. Morrison will only get $2.5 million, and will bring lefty pop and a keen batting eye to the team, as well as further deepening their infield to help cover for the trade of Forsythe. These are the kinds of deals the Rays need to hit home runs on, but they’ve put themselves in a great position for this season.

The Bottom Line – The Rays will never be able to make the big splash; they’ll always have to operate on the fringes, pouncing on that late-January, desperate market to find values and sleepers. Sometimes, those moves work out better than the massive, marquee free agent deals. Sometimes, they make no impact. This is the life of a small market team, and although you’d be hard-pressed to put the Rays ahead of either the Boston Red Sox or the Toronto Blue Jays, the Rays have at least put themselves in the Wild Card discussion, which is no easy feat for a team that’s forced to operate within their limitations. Consider them one of the biggest winners of the offseason.

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