A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE RAYS
They're gonna struggle to score runs, but once Matt Moore gets back in May or June, you're talking about the best rotation in the AL.... You never want to say anyone's like Greg Maddux, but when you watch Alex Cobb pitch—any pitch in any count and great command.... Chris Archer's got a mid-90s fastball, a plus slider. His overall stuff is probably better than Cobb's. You see the maturity; he's harnessing his emotions a little more.... Drew Smyly changes speeds, throws strikes and keeps the hitters off-balance.... Jake McGee has easy, plus velocity. He comes right at you with the fastball, and batters don't get good swings on it. They gave him a chance to close and he jumped on it.... The question is, Who's going to play shortstop? I'm thinking Asdrubal Cabrera. He's going to have to rely on scouting reports and positioning because he's lost a step, but he's played it and he's got good hands.... They're kind of waiting on Desmond Jennings. They want to hide him down in the lineup a little bit, take the pressure off him. He's having a great camp, squaring a lot of balls up.... Kevin Kiermaier is a good defensive player. He's got great quickness in centerfield, above-average instincts. But the defense is definitely ahead of the bat right now.... Steven Souza has power, he can run. It's just a question of, Is this guy gonna hit? He's a high-strikeout guy. He's hit at Triple A, but he's got some holes on the inner half with the breaking ball.
In the last 2½ years the Rays have dealt away many of the core pieces from their 2008--13 run, including James Shields, David Price and Ben Zobrist. With Tampa Bay lowering both payroll and expectations, it's time to make one more big deal to set a rebuild into motion—trading Evan Longoria. His first team-friendly deal expires after '16, when his six-year, $100 million extension kicks in. He will represent about 16% of the Rays' payroll this year and could approach or even exceed 20% of it in 2016 and '17. Longoria is still a valuable player, worth more than three wins a year in each of his last three full seasons, but that won't be enough to push the Rays into the postseason the next few years. Trading Longoria can help bolster a Rays farm system that has slipped into the bottom third of baseball after years of poor drafting.
LEAGUE RANK 12
MANAGER KEVIN CASH 1ST SEASON WITH RAYS
2015 PROJECTED STATISTICS BY ROTOWIRE.COM
ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES (LONGORIA)