The David Price signing means absolutely nothing for the Tampa Bay Rays.
This is the deal we've got in the American League East. The team didn't learn anything they didn't already know about the upcoming 2016 season, and their playoff odds didn't change significantly. It's just business as usual in the American League East.
We know who the Red Sox are, and we know who the Yankees are. They're teams playing a different game than the Rays. When they have a hole, they go out and fix it. That doesn't always work, as shown by Boston's last-place finish in 2015, but every Rays fan knew that the Sox would give it another go in 2016, and that they'd acquire quality players to go with the core they already have. The only thing we didn't know was the names.
The Rays can't work that way. For the Rays, mistakes hurt. Winning teams are created over time, by steadily acquiring value and hoping that it hits. Star players make a decision to minimize their financial risk (by taking a long term contract early in their career), or they are traded for the next batch.
So the David Price signing doesn't mean anything, and everything that was true yesterday morning remains true today. For the Rays to compete for the division:
- Alex Cobb needs to return to health and find his form. It's easy to forget that going into the 2015 off-season, it was Cobb who was figured as the team (and league) ace, not Chris Archer. Now Archer has earned that label, but that doesn't take anything away from what Cobb can be if he's right.
- Matt Moore needs to continue his late-season surge following a healthy off-season. There are question marks, but toward the end of the season he started to sit batters down like the top prospect he once was, as if Tommy John was a foot note on his bio page, not the conclusion.
- Drew Smyly opted against surgery on his shoulder, and at the end of the year that seemed like the right decision, but now his arm needs to hold up over a season's worth of work. Are you seeing a pattern here? There are question marks all over the place, but this Rays rotation still has the potential to be the best in the American League.
- Evan Longoria needs to age well. It would be nice to get some of the old power back, but I might settle for some of the old walks.
- Steven Souza Jr. needs to learn to recognize the fastball over the outer third, and the breaking ball below the plate. There's an impact outfielder in there struggling to come out from behind some adjustment issues with major league pitchers.
- Kevin Kiermaier needs to scale back his strike zone on the edges (I think). He's a great athlete and with that comes the potential to be a decent bat. If he can figure out the approach that suits him, he's an all-star easily. With a career year at the plate, he could be an MVP. He already made the ballot results in 2015.
- Desmond Jennings needs to stay healthy. I know that sounds far-fetched, but there's a pretty nifty baseball player on top of those ceramic knees.
- Richie Shaffer needs to develop into a major league hitter, and tap into that impact-level power with quality defense at first base. The transition needs to happen seemlessly, but he could be a wildly successful call up for the Rays.
- The long offensive nightmare at catcher needs to end.
- Logan Forsythe needs to show that his breakout season was real.
- Tim Beckham needs to continue to mash lefties while cleaning up his hands.
- Nick Franklin and/or Brad Miller need to mash righties while cleaning up their hands.
- Brad Boxberger needs to find his command in all situations.
- Alex Colome needs to continue his transition into an elite relief pitcher.
There. It's really quite simple.
The Red Sox are going to do what they do, buying the best players available, and the Rays are going to do what they do, slowly building from within and hoping enough of their small gambles pay off. If enough do, the Rays have the talent to take the division anyway. If not, it'll be another year of not quite running with the big dogs.
We already knew that the Red Sox were a big dog. Now we just know the color of the spots.