X-New York Yankees 94-68
The New York Yankees are hopeful that the 2017 Major League Baseball season will be a stepping stone to bigger and better things. It’s hard to believe but last year was the first time since 2012 that the Yankees won a playoff series as they advanced to the American League Championship Series. The Yankees fell one victory short of reaching the World Series, and in a move that was fresh out of the heyday of the team’s former owner George Steinbrenner, Joe Girardi was let go as the club’s manager. In ten seasons as the Yankees manager, Girardi’s record was 910-710 which included winning a World Series Title. Girardi never had a losing season with the Yankees, while had to deal with an aging team, as well as a front office not willing to spend any additional money at times. And even with all of that the Yankees decided to let Girardi go as they are once again trending upwards.
Aaron Boone was named as Girardi’s replacement to lead the Yankees as he will be tasked with taking the Yanks to the next level. Boone doesn’t have any previous managerial experience, nor that off an assistant coach, but the Yankees brass is hopeful that he will be able to get the message across to the team.
Last year saw the return of the Bronx Bombers with outfielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez leading the way. The Yankees led the American League in home runs with 241 as Judge and Sanchez did their best impersonation of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Last season Judge became the first Yankee since Derek Jets in 1996 to be named as the A.L. Rookie of the Year and he had a campaign for the ages. Judge blasted 52 home runs while driving in 114 runs as he made life tough for opposing pitchers. Sanchez who finished second in the A.L. Rookie of the Year voting in 2016 was no slouch last year either as he went yard 33 times to give the Yankees a solid one-two combo in the middle of their lineup.
But it would not be the Yankees if they merely rested on their laurels as they’ve gone out this off-season and made a deep lineup even deeper. The Miami Marlins have a new ownership group in place which subsequently includes Jeter. This group decided that it was time for the Marlins to have another one of their vintage fire sales as the team’s talent pool was purged which was highlighted by the franchise agreeing to trade outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees.
Stanton comes to New York as the reigning National League MVP as he and Judge are big enough to play defensive end for the New York Giants. Stanton joins the Yankees fresh off of his best season in Major League Baseball. En route to being named as the N.L. MVP, Stanton led MLB in home runs with 59 and runs batted in with 132. Stanton is one of the best sluggers in the game as he, along with Sanchez and Judge give the Yankees their new version of “Murderer’s Row”. But even with all of that power, these sluggers still have some question marks around them.
Last year marked just the second time in Stanton’s career that he appeared in at 150 games as he has been prone to the injury bug throughout his career. Stanton also struck out 163 times last year, while Sanchez and Judge combined to whiff 330 times. And as a team the Yankees struck out 1,386 times which was sixth in the American League. But if this trio is able to hit at least 120 home runs as most people expect, all of the other things will be forgotten.
This trio will get a ton of attention for the Yankees, but there are other solid bats that opposing pitchers will have to contend with. Shortstop Didi Gregorius is no longer an offensive liability as he crushed 25 homers last season which was helped by the short porch at Yankee Stadium going down the right field line. Throughout outfielder Brett Gardner’s time with the Yanks, he has been that quintessential scrappy player that’ll do whatever it takes to win. Gardner’s playing time will be reduced this year due to the acquisition of Stanton, but he still has a solid arm in the outfield, along with a knack for getting on base.
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has been nothing short of a free agent bust for New York. Ellsbury joined the Yankees in 2014 fresh off of signing a seven-year deal for $153 million, but his time in the Bronx has been mired by injuries and inconsistencies. The Yankees tried to trade Ellsbury and the rest of his contract that is north of $63 million this off-season, but they were unable to find any takers. To me Ellsbury should be the odd man out in the Yankees outfield as the Yankees are going to have to come to grips with the fact that they whiffed on this deal.
The Yankees will once again have one of the top offenses in the American League, but they need to get enough out of their starting pitching to provide balance. Last year New York was third in the A.L. in team earned run average (3.72), and fourth in quality starts (75) which is a big reason why Larry Rothschild was retained as the team’s pitching coach.
The Yankees are hopeful that last year was the turning point for starting pitcher Luis Severino as he was tied for the club lead in wins with 14. Severino is developing into an awesome power pitcher, and if he is able to build off of what he did in 2017, he will once again be in the discussion to win the American League Cy Young Award. Starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka went 13-12 for the Yankees last season, but he also had an earned run average of 4.74 as he was consistently bailed out by the team’s offense and stellar bullpen. The Yankees acquired starting pitcher Sonny Gray from the Oakland Athletics last season, and in 11 starts with New York, he was 4-7 with an earned run average of 3.72. Before being traded to the Yankees, Gray was recovering from and injury, and he never appeared to be fully comfortable in pinstripes. Hopefully Gray’s second year in New York will see him have more of a presence on the mound as the Yankees will surely need it.
Then there is the case of starting pitcher CC Sabathia who has indeed reinvented himself. Sabathia has gone from being a thrower to a pitcher which has allowed him to have longevity. Sabathia has 17 years of experience in regards to pitching in Major League Baseball and over that time he has seen a ton. Earlier in Sabathia’s career, he was a dominant ace who could take the ball every fifth day and shutdown a team with his overpowering fastball. But now at the age of 37, Sabathia is no longer that guy as it is more about location. Sabathia was able to win 14 games for the Yankees last season while just having 148.2 innings worth of work to his credit. It will be important for Boone and Rothschild to keep Sabathia’s innings down to keep him effective and fresh, while handing off to a bullpen that is one of the best in the business.
With the Yankees, Boone inherits a bullpen that will make any manager and starting pitching staff alike smile as they know how to shorten the game. With relief pitchers Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and David Robertson leading the way, the Yankees won’t give up a ton of runs late in games. Chapman, Betances, and Robertson all have the ability to save games, but it’ll be Chapman and his electric fastball that will get the nod for the ninth inning. Robertson will get the eighth inning, while Betances and his 6’8″ frame will have the seventh. The Yanks also have several more quality relievers in Adam Warren and Chasen Shreve and this team knows how to shorten the game.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has given Boone a solid team to work with, but it’ll be on him as he can no longer blame Girardi. After last season the expectations are once again high for the Yankees; it’s just a matter of whether or not that they will be able to live up to them.
Y-Boston Red Sox 89-73
It’s hard to believe, but the 2017 Major League Baseball season marked the first time since 2009 that the Boston Red Sox were able to make the postseason in consecutive seasons, and it also marked the first time in franchise history that they won the American League East in back-to-back years. But all was not well for the Red Sox as following their second consecutive elimination in the American League Divisional Series, manager John Farrell was relieved of his duties. In nearly five years as the manager of the Red Sox, Farrell posted a regular season record of 432-378 while leading Boston to the World Series Championship in 2013. But going 1-6 in the last two trips to the postseason was not going to cut it for Farrell in Boston.
The Red Sox decided to replace Farrell with Joey Cora as the team’s manager. Cora joins the Red Sox without any prior managerial experience, but he played in the Majors for 14 years which included winning the World Series with Boston in 2007. Cora was an assistant coach with the Houston Astros last season when they won the World Series and the Red Sox are hopeful that he can bring some of that October magic to their club.
The Red Sox have a talented lineup, but they were never able to fill the void following the retirement of designated hitter David Ortiz in 2016, and they also missed out on being able to acquire outfielder Giancarlo Stanton over the winter as he joined the rival New York Yankees. And after Boston missed out on acquiring Stanton, it appeared that they would head into another season without that prototypical “big bopper” in the middle of their lineup.
But that changed at the start of spring training when the Red Sox were able to sign free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez. After Martinez failed to make an impact in three years with the Astros, he would become a household name with the Detroit Tigers. In three-plus seasons with the Tigers, Martinez blasted 99 homers. Last season the Tigers traded Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks and he became a key cog in helping them reach the postseason last fall. In all Martinez was able to belt 45 home runs last season, while driving in 104 runs, and batting .303. Martinez picked the perfect time to have his career year, and although that he had to wait until spring training, he got the big payday that he was seeking. It took $110 million over the next five years for Martinez to join the Red Sox, but he could be the missing ingredient for this lineup. Aside from Martinez having a career year prior to hitting free agency, he is a bona fide power threat. However Martinez has never been able to string consistent big years together, and if he’s unable to produce this season for the Red Sox, the Fenway faithful will turn on him quicker than you can say Yawkey Way.
Martinez has the potential to remedy Boston’s power issues, but this team also struggled to hit for average as key players who were expected to have a bigger impact in 2017 failed to live up to those expectations. In 2016, outfielder Mookie Betts finished second in the American League MVP voting as he batted .318 with 31 homers, and 113 runs batted in, while he also stole 26 bases. But after it appeared that Betts had turned the corner, he was never able to rekindle that magic as he struggled all season long. Betts was only able to hit .264. Betts was still able to put up solid power hitters, but the dip in his average hindered the Red Sox lineup.
Like Betts, shortstop Xander Bogaerts was huge for the Sox in 2016 when he hit .294, while blasting 21 long balls and driving in 89 runs. But Bogaerts was never healthy last season and it showed up in his play as he only hit .272 with 10 homers and 62 runs batted in.
When outfielder Andrew Benintendi made his debut with the Red Sox in 2016, he had a big impact as in just 34 games, he hit .295, while also flashing the leather in the outfield. Last season Benintendi was able to belt 20 homers as he finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, but like Betts, his averaged dipped as he was only able to hit .271. And once you add outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to the equation, the Red Sox need their “Killer B’s” to bounce back and have a huge impact once more.
The Red Sox led the American League in on-base percentage in 2016 at .348, but they were fifth last season at .329. And in order for Martinez to have the impact at the plate that he’s expected to have, speedsters such as Bogaerts and Betts will need to consistently get on base ahead of him.
The Sox were third in the American League last season in stolen bases with 106, and this should once again be a part of their repertoire on offense. Cora brought in Tom Goodwin to be the Red Sox first base/outfield coach. Goodwin spent the last six years on the New York Mets coaching staff, and during his playing career he was known as a burner on the base paths as stole 50 or more bases in a season on four separate occasions as his knowledge on the bases should rub off on this club.
At 34-years of age, designated hitter Hanley Ramirez is no longer the hitter that once was, but the Red Sox need him to provide some protection in the lineup behind Martinez. Ramirez has always been prone to the strikeout throughout his career, but if he can find a way to remain healthy, along with hitting in the .275 range, while also being able to go yard 25 times, it’ll be a huge plus for Boston.
In 2017, the Red Sox led the American League in quality starts with 88, while their team earned run average of 3.70 was second. But even with the Red Sox staff ran out of gas coming down the stretch which carried over into the playoffs. In his first season with the Sox, starting pitcher Chris Sale was as good as advertised and then some. Sale went 17-8 with an earned run average of 2.90, while he struck out 308 batters. Sale will be 29-years of age at the start of the season, and as he is in the prime of his career, it once again signals bad news for batters in the A.L. At 6’6″, Sale is long and lengthy, and his arm angle along with the power that he can generate from him pitches is able to keep batters guessing.
Starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz came out of nowhere to win 17 games last season for Boston, but it’s hard to believe that he will be able replicate that success. However the starting pitcher to keep and on will be David Price. Prior to the 2016 Major League Baseball season, the Red Sox and Price agreed on a seven-year deal for $217 million. In 2016, Price went 17-9 for the Red Sox, but that was in spite of the fact that he led the American League in hits allowed with 227. Price followed this up by spending the majority of 2017 on the disabled list with elbow issues. And as Price is now 32-years of age with a ton of mileage on his once golden left arm, he can no longer be counted on to be front line starter.
It’s been either penthouse or outhouse for Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello during his Major League Baseball career. In 2016, Porcello went 22-4 en route to winning the American League Cy Young Award. However last season saw Porcello lead the A.L. in losses with 17, while he posted an earned run average of 4.65 along with giving up 38 homers. Porcello has been durable throughout his career, but he is a pitcher that has benefited from having a solid defense behind. And if the Red Sox are not good on defense this year behind Porcello, he could once again get shell shocked on the mound.
The Sox continue to have a solid bullpen with quality setup relief pitchers in Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly. But the key to the Red Sox pen will once again be relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel is a six-time All-Star who in two seasons with the Sox has recorded 66 saves. Kimbrel struck out 126 batters last season, while he posted an earned run average of 1.43. However as good as Kimbrel is, the Red Sox don’t want to overuse him as the Major League Baseball season is not a marathon, but a sprint.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has given Cora a solid team to work with in his first year at the helm in Boston as the Red Sox are not only hopeful to make the postseason for a third consecutive year, but to also do some damage in October.
Toronto Blue Jays 85-77
After two consecutive playoff appearances, the Toronto Blue Jays took a huge step back in 2017 as they were only able to win 76 games. The Blue Jays finished in fourth place in the American League East as the team was caught up in the cross hairs of a transition within the front office. In August 2015, Mark Shapiro was named as the Blue Jays president and CEO as he now had more power than general manager Alex Anthopoulos. Shapiro’s hiring marked the beginning of the end for Anthopoulos with the Blue Jays as he felt disrespected after he was the one that had built Toronto into a contender. And with Anthopoulos gone, the guys that he had brought in who made the Jays a contender were now expendable as they didn’t have the same rapport with Shapiro. An example of this was longtime designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion leaving the Blue Jays as a free agent last year to sign with the Cleveland Indians. Encarnacion left Toronto with 239 career home runs which is the third most in the history of the franchise, and his impact was never replaced in the lineup as he always had a knack to get the big hit. Aside from not having Encarnacion, Toronto also didn’t have the services of third baseman Josh Donaldson for 49 games which changed the facade of their lineup. But even with a healthy Donaldson expected to be available for Toronto in 2018, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons still has a tough task ahead of him as this is still a franchise that is in transition which will make it difficult for them to be in playoff contention.
We know what Donaldson can do when he is healthy as he is one of the best sluggers in the game. However it is not solely about Donaldson being healthy as he needs a good lineup around him. But the Jays do have some boppers in their lineup if everyone is able to remain healthy. First baseman Justin Smoak is coming off of his best season as a professional as he batted .270 with 38 home runs and 90 runs batted in. Smoak has always been a solid power threat throughout his career, but he finally became an everyday player last year. Smoak is not a player that can be counted on to hit for average, but he will play the role of a classic slugger in the middle of Toronto’s lineup this season.
2017 was designated hitter Kendrys Morales’ first season with the Jays and he did a solid job in replacing Encarnacion. Morales will be 35-years of age this June, but he is still a player that has the potential to hit at least 25 homers this season. Injuries have gotten the best of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and his decline has been a rapid one. It was just a few years ago that Tulowitzki was in the conversation to be the National League MVP when he was a member of the Colorado Rockies. But in parts of three seasons with the Jays, Tulowitzki continues to be oft-injured, while his skills at the plate and in the field will make him a huge liability in 2018 for Toronto. And to makes matters worse, bone spurs in Tulowitzki’s right heel have put his availability to begin the regular season in doubt.
This off-season the Blue Jays acquired outfielder Randal Grichuk from the St. Louis Cardinals. Grichuk has the ability to be another 20-homer producer in Toronto’s lineup, but one must always be weary of players in which the Cardinals have given up on. Grichuk did hit 22 homers for the Cards last season, but he only batted .238 with an on-base percentage of .285 which included a demotion to the minors. However a change of scenery could be just what the doctor order for Grichuk.
There is plenty of potential on the Blue Jays pitching staff, but it is just a matter of everyone being able to remain healthy. Last year Marcus Stroman and Marco Estrada were the only starting pitchers for Toronto that were able to make at least 30 starts. At 5’8″, 180 lbs. soaking wet, Stroman is slight in stature, but he pitches with plenty of heart, while he is beginning to come into his own on the mound. Stroman was able to shed more than a point off of of his earned run average in 2017 from the previous year. Stroman must continue to work on his emotions, but there is no reason to believe that he cannot win at least 15 games this year, along with being an All-Star.
After starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez went 15-2 with an earned run average of 3.00 in 2016, he was expected to be the ace of Toronto’s pitching staff in 2017. However a lingering blister limited Sanchez to just eight starts last year which hindered Toronto’s playoffs chances. But Sanchez is now healthy and the Jays need him to regain his 2016 form in order to help Stroman lead this starting rotation. Sanchez has never thrown 200 innings in a season and maybe this will be the year where he can break through.
J.A. Happ is another of those Blue Jays starting pitchers who needs to bounce back. Happ went 20-4 for Toronto in 2016, but he was only able to go 10-11 last year. Happ is not a power pitcher as he benefits from Toronto’s ability to score along with having a strong defense behind him. And if Happ cannot get that support behind him, he will still be serviceable, but he will not be a 15-game winner.
In three seasons with the Jays, relief pitcher Roberto Osuna has saved 95 games and in the process has become one of the most reliable closers in baseball. Osuna has an overpowering fastball that he is not afraid of using it as when he is on top of his game, he can make the best sluggers in the game look foolish.
The Blue Jays will be an up and down team this season. But if Toronto is able to hang around in the playoff picture, it would not surprise me to see them go all-in at the trade deadline in order to make a push for the postseason.
Baltimore Orioles 83-79
The last six years have seen the Baltimore Orioles alternate their success. Each of the last three even numbered years have seen the Orioles make the playoffs, while the odd numbered seasons have been a tad different. And as recent history would point to the O’s being able to once again qualify for the postseason, things will not be that cut and dry this time around.
Manny Machado has been the Orioles starting third baseman for the past six years. And after Baltimore made Machado the third overall pick of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft, he has been able to live up to the hype. Machado is a three-time All-Star and he also finished fifth in the American League MVP voting last season. Machado provides the O’s with a solid glove at third base, while he is one the best power hitters at the hot corner that is currently in Major League Baseball.
However Machado’s contract is up at the conclusion of the 2018 Major League Baseball season and all signs point to him playing with another team next year as he is expected to sign a mega deal on the free-agent market. But the Orioles have really botched the Machado situation as they aren’t expected to be able to keep Machado in Baltimore, they’ve missed the opportunity to trade him and get some value in return.
The time to trade Machado was last year as no team is going to take on a rental. And to make matters worse is that the O’s want the world in return for Machado on the trade market, while they won’t even allow a potential trade partner to have a window in order to negotiate a potential long-term deal with the third baseman/shortstop. Short term the Orioles should benefit from Machado having a big time campaign this season, but the long term aspect is a different animal since he’ll more than likely walk in free agency without Baltimore getting anything in return.
Machado was plagued by a slow start in 2017 as after the first two months to the season he was only batting .191 with 10 homers and 25 runs batted in. But as the season progressed Machado’s productivity improved as he finished with 33 home runs and 95 runs batted in. Machado only batted .259 last season and I expect him to be more locked in at the plate this season as this is his walk year. And as I anticipate Machado having a big campaign, he will be in the mix to be the American League’s MVP.
Aside from Machado having a big campaign, the Orioles lineup as a whole should be one of the best in the American League for 2018. Last season Baltimore belted 232 home runs which was fifth in the A.L. as Orioles manager Buck Showalter has channeled his inner Earl Weaver which means living and dying by the three-rum home run.
The Orioles have some big boppers in their lineup that’ll prove that the New York Yankees won’t be the only team in the American League East is boasting a slew of power hitters. First baseman/designated hitter Chris Davis needs to remain healthy this year in order to have a bigger impact for the O’s. On two separate occasions Davis has led Major League Baseball in home runs, and at the age of 32 this year, he has the ability to re-emerge as one of the game best sluggers. Davis is not a player that will hit for average, while you can also pencil him in to strike out at least 175 times, but the positive is that he’ll be in the area of going yard 40 times this season.
An emerging player for the Orioles over the last few years has been second baseman Jonathan Schoop. Schoop became the everyday second baseman for the O’s in 2016 and he has rewarded Showalter for having faith in him. Schoop is coming off of his best season as he batted .293 to go along with 32 homers and 105 runs batted in en route to making his first All-Star Game appearance. Schoop is the real deal and like Machado, he will be in the MVP conversation this year.
Another one of those emerging players for Baltimore is utility man Joey Rickard. Rickard was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012, but Baltimore picked him up in the Rule 5 Draft in 2015. And after Rickard only appeared in five games for the O’s in 2015, he became a contributor last year. Rickard finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year after he batted .293 with 24 homers and 78 runs batted in. Rickard made it impossible for Showalter to take him out of the lineup and his versatility on defense will once help the Orioles. Rickard played both corner outfield positions for the Orioles last season as well as first base, while also moonlighting as a designated hitter at times. Rickard will once again make it tough for Showalter to keep him out of the lineup as he has a scrappy nature to his game being that he plays with a chip on his shoulder which coincides with how his manager wants this team to play baseball.
It’s hard to believe, but you can make the case that outfielder Adam Jones has become a forgotten man in the Orioles lineup. Jones is entering his 11th season with the O’s and he’s cracked the franchise’s top 20 in WAR. Jones has been “Steady Eddie” with his consistency at the plate along with his glove in center field. And aside from what Jones does on the field for Baltimore, he has become a leader on this team as well as in his community. You can pencil in Jones to once again hit in the area of .285 along with belting in 25 homers and driving in 85 runs. And like Machado, Jones is set to become a free agent which means that he should be locked in all season long.
Scoring runs once again won’t be a problem for Baltimore as their pitching issues in 2017 will once again be a problem in 2018. Last year the O’s were 14th in the American League in team earned run average at 4.97, while their 61 quality starts were tied for last. Any chance that the Orioles would have of turning this around would begin with starting pitchers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman being able to have career years. Neither Bundy or Gausman have ever pitched at least 200 innings in a season which will be key. More than likely the Orioles will once again have to rely on their bullpen, but even that part of their team has holes in it. Relief pitcher Zach Britton will miss the beginning of the season as he is recovering from an Achilles injury as Brad Brach will charged with being the man for Baltimore in the ninth inning. However relief pitcher Mychal Givens is turning into a solid middle reliever for the O’s, but Showalter and pitching coach Roger McDowell will need to get more out of their starting rotation in order to avoid wearing them out as the season progresses.
The schedule makers were not kind to the Orioles as 14 of their first 17 games will be against teams that made the playoffs last season. A bad month of April wouldn’t knock the O’s out of playoff contention, but they need to hold their own. However Showalter is one of the best motivators in Major League Baseball and he should once again find a way to get the most out of this team.
Tampa Bay Rays 67-95
For the last ten years the Tampa Bay Rays have been a thorn in the side of all of the big boys of the American League East. Since 2008, the Rays have won the A.L. East twice to go along with one World Series appearance in four trips to the playoffs. But things have changed for the Rays since general manager Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon left in 2014. Since then Tampa Bay has not posted a winning season as they’ve been teetering with once again becoming second class citizens in the division. And as the Rays are set to embark on a new season of baseball, they will be fighting an uphill battle in order to contend in the A.L. East.
The last 10 years saw third baseman Evan Longoria become the best player in Rays franchise history. Longoria won the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award in 2008 as he became one of the premier third basemen in Major League Baseball. However the writing was on the wall that Longoria would not finish his career in Tampa Bay. The Rays are a small-market team that has struggled to keep their players and you knew at some point that Longoria would leave. That point came this past December when Longoria was traded to the San Francisco Giants in a five-player deal. In trading Longoria, the Rays have bid farewell to the franchise’s all-time leader in home runs (261), doubles (338), and total bases (2.630) as these were just a few of the categories that he led in. Longoria was not the only player that the Rays dealt this off-season as outfielder Steven Souza was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks as his departure along with that of Longoria will make it even tougher for Tampa Bay to compete. However Rays manager Kevin Cash he must find a way to keep things going in West Florida.
As the Rays have traded all of the quality hitters from last year’s team, their lineup will resemble that of a glorified minor-league team with veterans such as outfielders Denard Span and Carlos Gomez attempting to have one final hurrah in the sun.
Now that the Rays have traded Longoria, you have to wonder if starting pitcher Chris Archer’s time in Tampa might be winding down as well. After losing 19 games in 2016, Archer was able to have a decent 2017 as he went 10-12 with an earned run average of 4.07. Archer has been durable for the Rays as he has made at least 32 starts in each of the last four years. Archer is also signed through 2021 which could entice a team to engage in trade talks with the Rays this season.
Another player who could be showcasing his talents this year while wearing a Rays uniform is relief pitcher Alex Colome. Over the last two years Colome has saved 84 games for the Rays, but his earned run averaged jumped from 1.91 in 2016, to 3.24 last season. Colome’s strikeouts were down from 71 to 58, while his walks increased from 15 to 23. Colome must rediscover the control that made him virtually unhittable in 2016 in order to not only show another team what he can do, but to also allow the Rays to hang around in the always tough American League East.
But the biggest thing that could help the Rays in 2018 is having a healthy catcher behind the plate in Wilson Ramos. Ramos suffered a torn ACL in September 2016 when he was still a member of the Washington Nationals. The Rays still signed Ramos as a free agent last year even though that he was not going to be available at the start of the season. Ramos only appeared in 64 games last year for the Rays, but he still managed to hit 11 home runs. Ramos’ bat will be a healthy edition to Tampa’s lineup, but this team needs him behind the plate for at least 125 games for the sake of the pitching staff.
For Cash, it will be tough for his team to avoid a fifth consecutive losing season as the Rays first ten games of the new season will see them go against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox which could put them behind the eight ball in the American League East even before the season really begins.