The Rays have done a good job scrounging on spare parts to make bullpens, but there’s a limit to how much you can do – it’s hard to replace most of a bullpen in a single offeason by this method and it’s hard to get results like 2010.
All is not lost, however – the team has enough pitching and defense and Evan Longoria to keep from being a bad team, but if the Rays follow through with their intention to cut >$10 million in payroll from 2010, they are probably the 3rd-best team in the AL East. It’s a very ugly free agent market and the chances of someone that can contribute doing a Bobby Abreu and falling through the cracks this winter are fairly slim. Right now, I can’t see Tampa Bay being better than an 85-90 win team, short of some surprises.
The team will survive in the long-term thanks to the team churning out pitching faster than Bravo cranks out wealthy-skankertainment, but Crawford + most of the bullpen are losses hard to absorb in a single offseason. The floor for the Rays is pretty high because at every position, they have ample depth of non-terrible players, but their 2011 ceiling is also relatively low.
To see the full report and see the ZiPS for the Rays as done by Dan Szymborski at BaseballThinkFactory, click here. Dave’s projections are some of the best there are on the open market, in my honest opinion. We will be putting together a Google Doc to list the comparisons of the projections as they come out; so far we have seen Bill James’ work and these projections with more to come in the coming weeks.