ST. PETERSBURG - OCTOBER 04: Manager Joe Maddon #70 of the Tampa Bay Rays makes a pitching change against the Texas Rangers during Game Four of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field on October 4, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Last season the Tampa Bay Rays won the American League Wild Card by nothing less than a miracle. It took a walk off win by the Baltimore Orioles off of Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, and a 9-0 comeback from the Rays to defeat the New York Yankees in extra innings. The Rays would then lose to the Texas Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, and now with the off season in full effect, changes need to be made.
For one, the Rays need a first baseman. They are unlikely to re-sign Casey Kotchman, and their internal options are Elliott Johnson and Dan Johnson. They have shown interest in San Diego Padres first base prospect Anthony Rizzo, and might be willing to give up Wade Davis for him.
Of course, the Rays pitching staff is already loaded. Along with Davis, they have Jeremy Hellickson, James Shields, David Price, Jeff Niemann, and now Matt Moore. Davis is expendable, and could be a valuable asset to a team like the Padres, where he would succeed in a large, National League ballpark.
The Rays have signed Jose Molina at catcher after trading away John Jaso. Kelly Shoppach signed in Boston, so it looks like Molina, Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos. Can that group of catchers get it done? Rumors earlier this week had them interested in Ivan Rodriguez.
The middle infield could use an upgrade, with them relying on Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brigniac. Some players they could look at for cheap are Orlando Cabrea, Ronny Cedeno and Alex Cora. Again though, can that get it done in the American League East?
They should also look to re-sign Johnny Damon, too. He was successful last season, and a veteran presence like himself makes a good corner outfield or DH option. The outfield could be a strong suit in Tampa, with Damon, Zobrist, BJ Upton and Desmond Jennings.
The American League East is the toughest division in baseball, and it's only going to get tougher. Do the Rays have what it takes to win the division?