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Tampa Bay Rays: Important Off-Season Looming

Isaac Paredes runs the bases for the Tampa Bay Rays on the road against the Cleveland Guardians.

One team who has some very important decisions to make looming in the 2023 offseason is the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Tampa Bay Rays are coming off of a rather successful season in 2023, but they face an uncertain winter. Even though the win increased by 13 games, Tampa saw its season come to an end in the Wild Card Round.

Yes, winning 99 games is nice. But, at the same time, there’s frustration building that the team can’t get past the first playoff round.

And, for the most part, the 2022 roster was mostly intact again this year. So, that will leave some important questions to address for the upcoming offseason.

After a rather quiet deadline, Tampa stuck to its guns and rode them to the postseason. They made a savvy trade for SP Aaron Civale, but that was the only addition to a patchwork rotation.

But what is the next step for the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2023 offseason? Let’s see what could be stewing in the Rays tank…

First Things First, What Are Some of the Big Questions?

One big question upcoming for Tampa this offseason is the situation of young SS Wander Franco. At this point, it is still a known uncertainty as to how long he will be out. He ended the season on the MLB administrative leave list, and there is concern that he may not be able to play again. The Rays are already preparing for that scenario, evidenced by all the young middle infielders on the 40-man roster.

Offense: Taking Steps Forward, But Who Stays and Who Goes?

Getting now to the statistics for the season, the Rays are one of the elite offenses in today’s MLB. As a team, they tout the second-highest batting average (.260), on-base percentage (.331), slugging (.445), total bases (2452), and runs (860) amongst American League squads.

Two of the corner pieces of that offense are emerging into stars in their own right.

One of the big boppers in Tampa’s electric O is 1B Yandy Diaz. 2023 was a banner year for the 32-year-old. Diaz finished with a career-best .330 batting average (173 hits in 600 at-bats), .522 slugging percentage, .932 OPS, 22 home runs and 78 RBIs. The stats proved to be good enough to earn Diaz his first career All-Star nod. Yandy appears to be finding his form and his career is taking off with the Rays.

Another guy who is a key cog in the Rays offense is 3B Isaac Paredes. The 24-year-old Mexico native is taking home a career-best slash line (.250/.352/.488/.840), Tampa’s lead in home runs (31), RBIs (98), and a healthy 24 doubles. Paredes is another guy who is turning himself into a star into Tampa.

Margot Trade Bait?

The Rays are looking at potentially having their highest payroll tally in franchise history for 2024. With a projection of over $120 million, Tampa could look to dump some salary. One guy who is being thrown into trade rumors is OF Manuel Margot. Margot, who will make $10 million next season, is coming off a statistically down year. He only had a .264/.310/.376 slash line with four home runs and 38 RBIs.

The question is, will he be worth the money if he can’t produce on a consistent basis? That’s one thing to watch as the offseason continues to develop. The Rays would not get much back for Margot, but a trade would free up playing time for others in addition to saving money.

Rays Staff Proves to Be Elite Once Again

For a group that appears to be mostly unsung heroes, the Rays have a pretty good staff. Looking at the stats, Tampa had the fewest hits allowed amongst American League squads with just 1258. They also carry top-five finishes in the AL with ERA (3.86, third best), strikeouts (1507, third most), fewest walks (439, second lowest), fewest runs, and earned runs (665 and 618 respectively, both third best).

Eflin Emerges as Unexpected Ace

One guy who took a major step forward in the 2023 season was right-hander SP Zach Eflin. The eighth-year pro put together a banner season for his first campaign in Tampa. Eflin finishes with a career-high 16 wins, a personal-best 3.50 ERA, 186 strikeouts, and a very impressive 1.024 WHIP. He still has two more years on his current contract, so this season will build some serious momentum for Eflin.

McClanahan A Notable Absence

However, the Tampa rotation will be a question mark looking forward to next year. One reason why is they won’t have their star lefty, SP Shane McClanahan. The left hander will miss what will be his age-27 season in 2024 as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. Injuries were also a problem amongst the entire rotation for the Rays in 2023.

Final Thoughts: What Do The Rays Need To Do In The Offseason?

The one big thing that the Tampa Bay Rays will need to address is their arms. Without McClanahan, they will need someone to be an anchor in their rotation. There are more than a few intriguing options in free agency. But the goal for Tampa is to build on the 99-win season momentum. If they can find a healthy starter, and maybe grab some insurance for the bullpen, the Rays look to be a serious noisemaking team again come 2024.


Nate Powalie is a contributor for Back Sports Page. A 2022 graduate of Ashland University (Ashland, Ohio), Nate has five years of sports writing experience and has gotten the chance to call sporting events for radio and live stream. Nate also works as a cashier and can be found on Twitter (@PNate22) and Facebook (Nate Powalie).

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