So far this off-season the Rays have added four players who have the potential to make a big league impact this off-season and at the same time subtracted four who made impacts on last year's team. With nearly a fifth of the team changing over within the past month it creates some questions on whether the team is upgrading or downgrading in certain aspects. Usually high turnover rates either indicate a team is stocking for a run, selling for a rebuilding period, trading strength for weakness, or simply making change for the sake of it. Depending on your point of the view the Rays are seemingly making a run - for what spot in the division who knows at this point - and trading strength for weakness in order to get there.
Are the moves going to pay off on the field next year, and can the Rays possibly compete for third? That's a question I try to answer after the jump.
First let's examine the VORP of each of the four players added and subtracted this off-season, note that while Raul Casanova was dropped for Birkins, I consider it a trade off for Switzer, it's highly questionable that Casanova would've gotten any playing time with the Rays this year, meanwhile some considered Switzer a leading candidate for the LOOGY spot.
That's the basic "added" versus "subtracted" method of comparing what a team has gained to what it lost. We're assuming that each of the players acquired will take the vacated position of the departed, that's obviously not the case - unless Matt Garza is the answer in right field of course. Let's look at how the eight players affected the Rays' depth chart; please note that the depth chart includes the players regularly used at the end of the season, so you're not going to see Stokes in the 8th for instance.
Every category is affected, including a heavy change in the bullpen and a rather minor one for outfielders and designated hitters. With all of those changes we need to take a look at the cases in which players are being replaced or pushed back and see just how much it helps - or hurts - the Rays.
Let's begin with the rotation; the moves are simple, adding in Garza, pushing back Jackson and Sonnanstine with the potential for a plethora of players to take those final two rotation spots. I've done it before, but let's compare Garza's stats to Jackson's:
Now let's use PRAA (Pitching Runs Above Average) to determine if we upgraded our rotation or not:
Some like to think that having a set role helps to define a relief pitcher, let's take a look at Wheeler, Reyes, and Percival's OPS+ by each of the final innings.
Let's execute that same exercise with the bullpen that we did with the rotation; looking at them as a whole against last year's.
Lineup time, this time we'll go with BRAA + FRAA (Batting Runs Above Average, Fielding Runs Above Average) to see if we've improved.
With all that in mind the Rays gained 74 runs above average, roughly 7.4 wins, putting them around 73 assuming everything stays the same about last year, don't you have the feeling that we'll see a lot of fluctuation with the younger players?