(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth of 30 at-bats for the upcoming 2018 major league baseball season. On deck Sunday, the San Francisco Giants).
When Evan Longoria signed a 10-year, $100 million contract extension through 2022, he figured to be a lifer at third base for Tampa Bay. But a Ray of light came from San Francisco and Evan wisely agreed to part ways rather than trade blows with Boston and the Yankees in the AL East.
Eva Longoria we’re sure turned down bad roles as well.
The two are not related but they are glamorous. Evan was the face of the Tampa Bay franchise ever since he broke into the majors in 2008 when named to the All Star team and went on to win Rookie of the Year. He has won three Gold Gloves at third base and owns many of the franchise's records, including most career home runs, doubles, and RBIs.
So the Rays got four players for Longoria – Christian Arroyo, Denard Span, Matt Krook, and Stephen Woods. There will be a test at the end of the year to see if you remember these guys.
To make matters worse, the Rays kicked off spring training by trading pitcher Jake Odorizzi and designating Corey Dickerson for assignment, moves met with fast and furious criticism across the baseball landscape. Then they dealt away talented OF Stephen Souza Jr. to Arizona for prospects. Further proof that the Rays seem to be more interested in lowering payroll than rising in the division.
After finishing 80-82 in 2017, the Rays have had four consecutive losing seasons since making the playoffs four times in six seasons from 2008 to 2013.
Aside from young starters Blake Snell and Jake Faria, they have some high-ceiling prospects in shortstop Willy Adames, pitcher/first baseman Brendan McKay and outfielder Jesus Sanchez.
The Rays still have stud CF Kevin Kiermaier and ace pitcher Chris Archer, but you wonder how long they will be around. Archer is actually coming off a poor 10-12 season but he did strike out 249 batters, has a career 3.63 ERA and he’s only 29.
Clearly this is a team rebuilding so being perceived by Vegas as a 77.5-win team seems overly optimistic. Tampa Bay won 68 games sandwiched around 80-82 seasons. We can definitely see a return to 68 wins in 2018.
Encore: The Rays could go 0-9 to start the season with 7 of the 9 against the Red Sox and the remaining two vs the Yankees. It can’t get much worse for Manager Kevin Cash, who may not survive his third year on the job.
2017 record: 80-82
2016 record: 68-94
2015 record: 80-82
World Series win odds: 200-1
Odds to win AL East: 50-1
2018 season win total: 77.5