Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason plans of every MLB team before the Dec. 3-6 winter meetings. Our series continues with the Tampa Bay Rays.
2007 record: 66-96.
Finish: Fifth place in the American League East
2007 Opening-day payroll: $24 million
In a world of Yankees and Red Sox in your division and $6 billion revenues and record-breaking attendance in your game, $24 million will get you a couple decent players and enough left over for a weekend at the Vinoy (spa privileges not included).
But, it won't generally get you pitching. So go the Rays, who have spent much of this decade with an ERA above 5 (an AL-worst 5.53 – 6.16 by their bullpen – in 2007), and all of their 10-year lifespan as big-league doormats. Good for them, they packaged part of their future – 22-year-old Delmon Young – for a new future in 24-year-old right-hander Matt Garza, a reasonable step toward keeping their offense in games.
There are rumblings the Rays' payroll could go as high as $34 million in 2008, though much of that increase will merely cover the existing roster. That doesn't amount to much, still, but they have added a starter and a shortstop (Jason Bartlett) and now need the bullpen upgrades required to advance on .500 for the first time in their history.
They picked up the 2008 option on closer Al Reyes, which takes care of the ninth inning, but generally still leaves the sixth through the eighth. They've had some internal talks about Troy Percival and other veteran relievers to try to get to Reyes, and need Dan Wheeler to perform better than he did in the setup role.
The Rays and GM Andrew Friedman now have a decent starting rotation and rising or established offensive pieces. They also have more tradable parts that ought to be spent on pitching.
As constructed, they have Carl Crawford in left, B.J. Upton in center and a Jonny Gomes/Rocco Baldelli situation in right, though it’s likely Friedman will secure a new piece in right. That still leaves Elijah Dukes and Justin Ruggiano, which is too many guys for too few spots.
The Washington Nationals are thought to have interest in Dukes, though the return might not be more than a pedestrian middle reliever, of which the Rays have plenty.
The starting pitching could grow into something. Scott Kazmir and James Shields were a reasonable one-two, Garza becomes three, and Andy Sonnanstine and Edwin Jackson had their moments. Left-hander David Price is expected to come fast and scouts love 22-year-old Wade Davis, a 6-foot-5 right-hander who reached double-A last season.
In the grand plan, the Rays would inch toward mediocrity in the next year or two, start showing up in the AL East after that, and open a new ballpark in 2012. Until then, Tampa, enjoy the new uniforms.
NEXT: Texas Rangers analysis