For most of the offseason the Tampa Bay Rays were losing key components from their squad that won the AL East title last season.

From big parts of their bullpen in setup man Joaquin Benoit (signed with Tigers), closer Rafael Soriano (signed with Yankees), Dan Wheeler (signed with Red Sox) and Grant Balfour (signed with Athletics) and starter Matt Garza (traded to Cubs) as well as All-Star left fielder Carl Crawford (signed with Red Sox)  it looked as if the Rays would have a very difficult task of repeating, let alone contending, with the Yankees and Red Sox in the tough AL East.

The addition of Manny Ramirez should have the Rays in the hunt in the AL East.

But the Rays look as if they could be in the thick of things in the East with their latest two acquisitions. Sources indicated Friday that veterans Manny Ramirez ($2 million a year) and Johnny Damon ($5.2 million) had agreed to deals with the Rays. Those two alone would help bolster the Rays offense. Ramirez would provide a power bat too hit around Evan Longoria while Damon could bat near the top of the lineup. Reports are that Ramirez is in good shape as well which could be beneficial to the Rays

Tampa also has room for Jeremy Hellickson in its rotation now that they traded Garza. Hellickson showed in his few starts last season that he has what it takes.

With a starting rotation that will consist of David Price, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, Andy Sonnanstine and Hellickson, the Rays should be set. The bullpen losses could be tough to overcome, but the Rays did add Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth.

If theit two new bats can put together strong years and the Rays find the right mix in their bullpen, there is no reason they can’t be in the mix with Boston and New York in the East.

 

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