The Tampa Bay Rays have only two players with a WAR higher than 2- Shane McClanahan and Yandy Diaz. A team with Tyler Glasnow, Kevin Kiermaier, Wander Franco, Manuel Margot, Randy Arozarena and now David Peralta just has one starter and one infielder above the 2.0 mark. The next closest are two relievers who neither got the vaccine nor agreed to wear a pride month patch, so that's not much better.
And yet not only are the Rays still major competitors in the AL East race, but they still could very well be a wild card contender.
Right now, as it stands, the first two wild card spots are covered pretty handsomely by the Blue Jays and Mariners. The third spot could go to a number of teams, including the Rays, Guardians, White Sox, Orioles, and sure fine let's say the Red Sox just for fun. Of those, I think the most complete postseason case goes to the Rays, because they're the only team that hasn't suffered a humiliating losing streak yet. I'm not saying there's no chance of there being one, I'm just saying that even with their injuries and low-budget team, they've avoided this.
However, since the all-star break, they've only won four games. Yes, the Yankees have also been shaky since the break, but they've still managed to have big wins in there. The Rays have lost games to Kansas City, as well as fellow wild-card competitors like Baltimore, Toronto and Cleveland. They're also without several pieces due to injuries, and have no solid choices at catcher and shortstop. This is a team that could have won the Willson Contreras sweepstakes and decided not to. Yes, Jose Siri in center is still a move that could benefit them, and David Peralta in right is also a nice upgrade, but the low budget mentality of this team is making the Rays rely on people like Rene Pinto, Luke Raley and Roman Quinn when other teams have bench performers like Trayce Thompson, Matt Carpenter, Brendan Donovan and Sam Haggerty, you can't really compare.
At the very least, this team has something resembling a normal rotation now, even if I still see Jeffrey Springs as a glorified opener [as well as a glorified prick]. McClanahan is still the ace, Kluber is still the veteran standout, and Drew Rasmussen is doing pretty well in the middle, with a 3.06 ERA and 6 wins. It's not a perfect rotation, but there's something going there even without Glasnow, Baz or Chirinos.
I want to believe that once people start coming back this team could have more of a chance, and I know how unsinkable they've been already, but...I'm not sure. Maybe this is the edge of the Kevin Cash avalanche. Maybe this is how far this can go. I have no idea. I still see the Rays sneaking in, but it's not gonna be easy, and it's not gonna be with this version of the team.
Coming Tomorrow- As an NL East team recovers, a young starter learns underneath two phenoms while they're both here.