There may not be a team in the majors that lost more than the Tampa Bay Rays did over the winter. Their fans witnessed the very identity of this team travel northward to heated rivals Boston and New York. Such is the life of a mid-to-low market professional sports team.
But it's not that low market teams can't compete. They can't compete long term. There will be stretches where key contributors will have to leave, and teams will have to move on. The Rays are about to experience such a stretch, with big name players like Carl Crawford, the heart and soul of Tampa Bay, along with Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano, and Matt Garza. It may be darn near impossible for them to have a chance at October, maybe even impracticable.
However, there are a few bright spots to check out on this team. All-Star south paw David Price will still make his living in the Bay area, and the games best all around third basemen Evan Longoria still calls Tampa Bay home. Besides having the same last name as a very attractive American actress, Longoria has his all around game making him the best player on their team, even last year.
He even has a few new toys to help play with, although referring to Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez as "new" hardly practical. Though they will help. A last stitch effort by General Manager Andrew Friedman may have them contending when the season draws to a close. But that's an immense maybe. Not with the beasts of the east standing in their way.
Don't expect one of the golden brothers of the league, B.J. Upton, to be with the team by then. The underachiever was expected to be dealt last summer, but an appropriate deal never fell through. That should happen this go around. Same could go for hard throwing starter James Shields.
Tampa Bay had a few good years of contention, even made it to the World Series only to be put down by the Philadelphia Phillies. That stage isn't somewhere I'd picture this team in the near future, but they will fights their hearts out to prove me, and the baseball world, wrong.