Tampa Bay Rays (96-66)
Despite the fact that they’re perpetually dealing with an undersized payroll and an indifferent fanbase, the Tampa Bay Rays just keep finding a way to put together a competitive ball club.
At times it seems like that front office can do no wrong, and 2019 was another example. Trade away Chris Archer? No problem, Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow both look like future All-Stars, and it happened right away. Need a catcher? Pick up Travis d’Arnaud and watch him finally blossom into the type of big leaguer the Blue Jays and Mets thought he would be. Even their smaller financial splurge of signing Charlie Morton worked out beautifully.
The Rays have continued their recent trend of building around cost-controlled players, and their current roster is no exception. They’re also in possession of one of the best farm systems in baseball, so they’re not going to go anywhere any time soon. Well, except maybe away from Tampa, but that’s a topic for another day.
All that said, if there’s one thing we know about the Rays it’s that they’ve always been limited when it comes to resources. They have an exceptional coaching staff, and one of the better scouting and development systems around, but they really have to rely on those variables in order to make things work. There’s going to come a time, for example, that Blake Snell will be too expensive for them, and they’ll have to move on. That’s just the way they operate.
Because they’ve had so many trades work out so successfully they’ve managed to make things work, but I feel like the resource-rich Blue Jays should be able to surpass them in a season or two. They have their own enviable core starting to come into place in a hurry, and when they are ready to supplement the roster then the payroll should be there, which is something Tampa’s front office doesn’t enjoy very often. That’s an advantage that SHOULD eventually make a difference, and hopefully that’ll be the case in another year or two from now.