ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays have managed to win two straight AL East crowns and make three straight playoff appearances despite having one of the lowest payrolls in all of baseball. But the front office has a formula that they believe will lead to sustained success.
"Great talent, great health, good fortune, and good timing. It takes a lot of all of that." Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander said at the team's season-ending news conference.
The Rays rely on a balance of young talent and experience, and they're not a team that goes after big-name free agents. Tampa Bay's management has pulled off a handful of excellent trades, including the one that brought slugger Nelson Cruz to the team in July.
"The Nelson Cruz move is an example of a willingness that when we feel we’re in the right spot and have a chance to make a deep run, we’ll be more willing to do that," Neander said.
The Rays pitching staff ran out of gas in their 3-1 series loss to the Red Sox, but manager Kevin Cash said he was encouraged by the attitude of this young staff.
"I think it’s pretty impressive, what it says about all of them," Cash added. "The day they came out, the next day, they all volunteered, 'We’re ready to pitch. We’re ready to get in the bullpen.'"
20-year-old phenom Wander Franco was one of the best players in baseball over the last month of the season. His manager said it looks like he's in the spotlight, and he's not moving.
"He lengthened our line-up. He made our defense better," Cash beamed. "He worked really hard at his defense to make his defense better and made our overall defense better. He is a game-changing player that’s going to be fun to watch for a long time."
Players, coaches, and managers always talk about not looking too far ahead, but Cash thinks it's okay to take a healthy peek.
"I think there’s a chance for us to be really, really good. Very confident we’re going to be really good moving forward."
Rays ace Tyler Glasnow had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in August. The team hopes he can return for another run to the playoffs next season.