Mar 28, 2024 - Sports

As new season begins, Rays again aim to win big with less

First baseman Yandy Diaz runs the bases during a Rays spring training game.

Coming off an AL batting title, Yandy Díaz again once more Tampa Bay's offense. Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Rays have reached Opening Day with no major offseason additions, journeymen in the pitching rotation, the team's highest-paid player off the roster — and World Series ambitions.

Why it matters: This is Rays baseball: Doing more with less. While other teams splash money around, Tampa Bay develops in-house talent, finds hidden gems and, usually, wins.

Catch up quick: The Rays went 99-63 last season, the fourth best record in Major League Baseball and good enough for 2nd place in the AL East and a Wild Card playoff berth.

State of play: The Rays had one of the best offenses in baseball last year and should again, anchored by left fielder Randy Arozarena and first baseman Yandy Díaz.

  • Díaz, who hit for a team-record .330 average, was the first Rays player to lead the AL in batting for a season.

Stunning stat: The 2023 Rays were second in the AL in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored and stolen bases, per CBS Sports.

Moving on: The Rays' loudest offseason move was trading pitcher Tyler Glasnow and his $25-million salary to the Dodgers.

  • In typical Rays fashion, the return was a pair of high-upside contributors: pitcher Ryan Pepiot, who's expected to join the rotation immediately, and outfielder Jonny DeLuca.
  • DeLuca will start the year on the injured list after he was hit by a pitch during spring training and broke his hand.

Glaring absence: Star shortstop Wander Franco has been on leave since August when he was accused of having sex with a 14-year-old girl and paying for her silence. He was arrested in the Dominican Republic on New Year's Day.

  • He and his attorney have said little in response to the allegations, though Franco told reporters in January that ​​"everything is in God's hands."

What they're saying: ESPN's panel of experts forecast the Rays to miss the playoffs, while MLB.com Rays writer Adam Berry predicts they make the postseason and win a series.

  • His reason for hope: the team's "seemingly unfailing ability to figure it out no matter what comes their way."
  • "That machine is still humming, as there is still plenty of talent in their clubhouse, savvy on their coaching staff and ingenuity in their front office."
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