|It all boils down to whether this guy is on the field or not.|
PECOTA: 87 wins
My pick: Over
Joe Maddon's squad ended last year with the run differential of a 95-win team but underachieved to the tune of 90 wins, just short of the playoffs. Despite trading away a key contributor in James Shields and losing B.J. Upton, this team actually might have improved. New shortstop Yunel Escobar upgrades what's long been a key weakness, while newly acquired outfielder Wil Myers is projected to be an elite all-around slugger whenever the team decides to let him play in the pros (certainly this year at some point).
The pitching staff lost a big-time innings-eater but the organization already had an overflowing supply of young starters to work with, hence the need for a trade. Even without Shields, their rotation runs 7 or 8 deep right now. This team can pitch. It's the lineup that could potentially be a problem. Evan Longoria tends to miss too many games, Myers is currently being kept in the minor leagues for money reasons, Toronto's discarded keystone combo (Escobar and Kelly Johnson) could easily falter, they're getting no offensive value from the catcher and first base spots, and newly-minted centerfielder Desmond Jennings is still unproven. Even with so many question marks, this should still be the best offense the Rays have had in a few years. With Longoria playing at full strength, I think they'll edge out Toronto for the division and be a good bet for the World Series.