The future of the Rays looks as bright as it was when the Rays burst onto the scene in 2008.
With James Shields gone, Ben Zobrist is the only player on the Rays' roster who played for the Devil Rays. The major turnover of the roster is expected for a small market, low payroll team, but the continued success is most certainly not. I imagine most Rays fans, back in 2008-2010, would never have imagined that a team without Crawford, Shields, Kazmir, Pena, Upton, etc... could continue achieving success. Yet somehow the Rays are still a very competitive team. Assuming the Jays complete the trade with the Mets for Dickey, the Rays appear to have the at least the fourth best roster in the American League (behind the Rangers, Angels, and Jays).
Around midway through this past season, with the Rays floundering and the roster assorted with a collection of misfits, I, along with many fans, began to question the future of the club. The farm system was merely okay, and the major league team's talent did not inspire great confidence.
Fast forward several months, and once there are plenty of reasons to be confident about the future of the franchise. So far this offseason, Friedman has made moves that can only strengthen our belief in the Rays' future and confirm that Friedman has a plan to maintain long term success with a low budget. Few small market teams in this era of inflated player salaries have managed to sustain a very positive outlook five years into their window of success, with no sign of a decline in the future.
Five years after their glorious 2008 playoff run, the Rays still have a talented and secure major league roster. Evan Longoria may very well be a Ray for life, and assuming injuries do not get the best of him, he gives the Rays an all-star caliber player for many years. The left handed pitcher with incredible potential, Matt Moore, is under team control through 2019. It will be a thing of beauty to see the two flame-throwing southpaws in him and Price man the top of the Rays rotation this year. Ben Zobrist, the unheralded hero of the team's recent success, is locked up for another three years. Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce, two players whose contributions are underrated by the national media and average fan, both have tantalizing upside at a relatively cheap price. Even a guy like Yunel Escobar figures to contribute to the Rays success over the next few years. Sure, the Rays still do not have a designated hitter or a quality first baseman, but they have a great core of major league players, both on the hitting and pitching ends. Even the strongest of teams cannot brag to have much more than that. Seeing the Yankees piecing together an questionable outfield and an aging infield only makes the Rays major league roster look stronger in comparison. If Myers comes through, it will only be better.
Bolstered by the James Shields trade and a high number of draft picks, a farm system that looked to be thinning out is once again one of the best in baseball. The Rays' pitching depth in the minor leagues, particularly in AAA, practically assures them that we will never witness a mediocre, washed up starter take the mound. The hitting talent may not be as close to the major leagues (though Myers, Lee, and Beckham beg to differ), but it is definitely there, led by prospects such as Josh Sale, Jake Hager, and Richie Shaffer.
I have recently spent time reading the comment section of Royals Review and observing the dismay at their team's questionable future. They wish they could truly be confident in the management and the direction of the team. They see the Rays' success and are baffled by how their own team cannot replicate it.
Right now, just as it was five years ago, is a good time to be a Rays' fan.The Rays may never spend money like the Dodgers and Yankees, and they do not play in the most optimal ballpark. But the Rays are a talented team with an astute upper management, a deep, rejuvenated minor league system, and a lovable, genius manager. Because of this, Rays fans have a reason to be excited about the club, both in 2013 and in the future.