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Rays’ AL Pennant Odds Improve with Additions of Aguilar, Richards

Blake Snell on the mound
Are the Tampa Bay Rays a good bet to win the American League Pennant? Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr).
  • The Tampa Bay Ray’s acquired Jesus Aguilar and Trevor Richards at the trade deadline
  • Aguilar was an All-Star in 2018 but has struggled in 2019
  • The Rays are still without Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, who are injured

During the trade deadline, a lot of attention was given to the Houston Astros and New York Yankees for opposite reasons. However, one team that flew under the radar was the Tampa Bay Rays, who quietly improved themselves and their odds to win the American League Pennant. Are they a sneaky-good value play at this point?

Odds to Win 2019 American League Pennant

Team 2019 AL Pennant Odds
Houston Astros -110
New York Yankees +180
Minnesota Twins +750
Cleveland Indians +800
Tampa Bay Rays +1100
Oakland Athletics +1600
Boston Red Sox +1700

Odds taken 03/08/19.

Rays Were Busy at the Trade Deadline

The national media spent very little time talking about the Rays at the trade deadline but they were quite active. They acquired five players and they were first baseman Jesus Aguilar, utility man Eric Sogard and right-handed pitchers Trevor Richards, Nick Anderson and Peter Fairbanks.

And even though the Rays have one of the top farm systems in baseball, they were quite shrewd with their decisions. Only one of the prospects they traded away was in the Top 100.

Rays Still Being Frugal

The issue with being frugal – as the Rays are – is that sometimes you get a deal and find a gem in the rough, but sometimes you’re paying less and getting less. For example, Aguilar had 35 home runs and an .890 OPS last season as an All-Star but he had just eight home runs and a .698 OPS in 94 games with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Even though he was batting .225 on the season, he batted .298 in July. Maybe it was just a slow first half for him and now he’s starting to wakes up. It’s also possible that 2018 was an aberration for the 29-year-old we may never see his All-Star form again. That’s the type of risks you go for when you’re frugal.

The same goes for Anderson, who is a late-blooming reliever. It’s his first year in the league at age 29 and his 3.92 ERA and 1.28 WHIP are not bad, but are higher than you’d like for a reliever. However, he also has a FIP of 2.64, suggesting that he’s maybe better than the traditional stats indicate.

As you can see, the Rays are not exactly adding sure-fire, known commodities like Zach Greinke. They’re taking calculated risks in the hopes they pay off. These types of moves can probably get them to the playoffs but they’d need to get a lot of breaks to beat out the Yankees, Astros and Cleveland Indians to win the AL Pennant.

What’s the Best Bet?

It’s hard to get excited about the Rays to go deep in the playoffs. Is it possible? A starting rotation with Charlie Morton, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow is intriguing. That’s a one-two-three punch few people would want to face.

At the same time, Snell and Glasnow aren’t healthy, and 35-year-old Charlie Morton had an ERA of 5.00 in the playoffs over the last two years.

More importantly, this team has been a middling unit since the June as they were 35-19 on May 30th and they are 28-29 since. I’d bet them to make the playoffs but I wouldn’t bet their AL Pennant odds – even if the price looks attractive.

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