As expected, the fire sale continued on Friday for the Tampa Bay Rays. In an offseason where the Red Sox have made enormous strides and the Yankees are essentially the same team that won a championship two seasons ago, Tampa Bay has all but given up on contending in the AL East. The Rays fell further behind for the immediate future on Friday when they agreed to trade ace Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs for a package of minor league prospects. If you recall, Garza tossed a no-hitter back in July and finished the 2010 season 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA.
Tampa Bay has already let Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena walk and closer Rafael Soriano won’t be returning either. They traded shortstop Jason Barlett — who had become a fan favorite amongst the handful of loyal Rays fans — to the Padres. Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton remain with the team, but we can only wonder how long it will be before the Rays start fielding trade offers for the two young studs.
The bottom line is the Rays have become a franchise that needs to either change locations or accept their position as perennial bottom-feeders in the AL East. Sure, a three-year span where their prospects have an impact and are still under team control could arise again, but unless they find a way to fill the stands they’ll never be able to sustain a talented roster. Pending a few more trades before the season begins, Tampa Bay will likely revert to the form we grew used to before 2008 came along.