If the Rays' starters, as (David) Price predicts, can make up for (James) Shields' departure, then the trade will have only upside for the organization — and the upside is significant, as Tampa Bay received four top minor-leaguers, including Wil Myers, who slugged 37 home runs in the minors last season and is rated by Baseball America as the game's fourth-best prospect.
Rays pitchers struck out 1,383 batters in 2012, the most ever in the American League. The team leader was Shields, with 223, but his share can be replaced due to those heavier workloads from Price and (Matt) Moore — each of whom struck out nearly a batter an inning last season — and in particular from quickly improving No. (5) starter Alex Cobb, 25.
Bottom Line: A pitching staff that led the majors with a 3.19 ERA and should again be the AL's best, paired with a relentless and versatile lineup, will make the Rays legitimate World Series contenders — provided that Evan Longoria stays healthy.
Projected finish: 92-70, first in AL East, lose World Series to Nationals
— Sports Illustrated The Rays are the Rays. They have averaged 91.6 wins per year since 2008 and should finish in the same range this season. They will miss former ace James Shields immensely — the biggest reason I don't believe they will reach the playoffs. But the Rays led the majors in ERA last year at 3.19, even coming from the AL East. That won't evaporate overnight, especially not with David Price around. The Rays will struggle to score runs — particularly without B.J. Upton — but they will win enough close games to stay in contention all year.
Predicted finish: 2nd in AL East
Can win 94 games if: New star Wil Myers hits 30 homers and wins Rookie of the Year, Matt Moore pitches up to his 14.46 K/9 September callup in 2011, Evan Longoria stays healthy, and Fernando Rodney again leads all relievers (0.60 ERA in 2012).
Can win 89 games if: They still don't have a catcher (26th in MLB in slugging at the position in 2012), James Loney's numbers keep falling, and Myers isn't ready for the middle of the order.
Unpredictability score — 1.19: The Joe Maddon formula requires a constant pipeline of confident young pitchers and conjuring terrific relievers out of thin air. It has worked so far, but the playoffs are never a lock in the AL East. See 2012's 90-wins-but-no-October season.
The changing of the guard in the AL East would presumably mean good things for the Rays, who have spent a half-decade wrestling with the Red Sox and Yankees. However, the offseason moves by the Blue Jays make them an automatic threat, and the 2012 resurgence by the Orioles provides another obstacle. All that said, assuming the Tampa Bay pitching is as good as or better than last season — especially in spots 2-5 — and Evan Longoria can be Longoria for a whole season, they're certainly in the mix and would have to be considered a favorite to win the division simply because they know the route.
— The Sports Network
The pitching staff will be fantastic, with Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore all taking strides forward. But the bullpen will regress ever so slightly, almost bringing them back to even.
On offense, I think Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce more than make up for the loss of B.J. Upton, and that Yunel Escobar will have a nice bounceback season in Tampa Bay. Consistency on the right side of the infield is my main worry offensively, along with standard injury concerns for Evan Longoria. …
They will be in the hunt late into the season and narrowly miss a wild-card spot.
Projected finish: 86-76, 3rd place
— Bleacher Report