What Has Happened to the Tampa Bay Rays This Year?

Here's a rundown of what has happened to the Tampa Bay Rays and why they've gotten off to a subpar start to the 2024 MLB season.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - APRIL 27: Randy Arozarena #56 of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts after. the tenth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on April 27, 2024 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

It might be time for Tampa Bay Rays fans to hit the panic button.

At this point last year, the Rays were leading all of Major League Baseball with a blistering 23-5 record.

And now, they are starting a series against the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, fresh off getting swept by the lumbering Chicago White Sox, who were 3-22 at the start of their three-game set against Tampa Bay.

Besides having to admit, “the White Sox just swept us,” the Rays are also under .500 at the end of April for the first time since 2018.

Ad – content continues below

So what’s happening to the Tampa Bay Rays after the first month of the 2024 campaign? A team that is regarded as having the most cost-efficient front office in all of baseball?

The Rays have made the playoffs every season since 2019. Might this be the end of the franchise’s most successful run? Or have they hit into some bad luck?

What’s Going Wrong With The Tampa Bay Rays in 2024?

White Sox sweep aside, Yandy Diaz, Randy Arozarena, Brandon Lowe, and Jose Siri have all gotten off to objectively dreadful offensive starts to 2024.

Diaz, last year’s American League batting champ, is hitting .232 with 1 HR and 11 RBI. Arozarena is sporting an MLB-worst April average of .121 (11-for-91), Lowe— in only 8 games played— has struck out seven times in 30 plate appearances, and Siri (.173, 1 HR, 6 RBI) is leading the American League with 41 strikeouts.

Their usually great bullpen is the fourth-worst in all of baseball and as a team, they’ve given up the third-most runs in the American League.

April has not been kind to the Rays and their big hitters are going to have to start producing more offensively if the Rays want to right the ship in May.

Ad – content continues below

Their poor play has resulted in a significant drop in their FanGraphs playoff chances. They currently have a 37.4% FanGraph percentage of making the playoffs, in what would be their sixth-straight postseason berth.

An Optimistic Approach to a Rays May Turnaround

An optimistic approach to looking at the Rays’ performance over the first month of the season is health-focused. Given the team’s injuries, going 13-16 isn’t that bad.

There are a handful of impactful rehabbing players (Jeffrey Springs, Drew Rasmussen, and Taylor Walls) that could give the Rays a boost upon returning near the end of the season.

In the short term, right fielder Josh Lowe said he’s hopeful that an MRI “comes back clean” and that he’ll return to the lineup after “just a couple days of rest and treatment and go from there.”

Taj Bradley, the flamethrowing right-hander out since a spring pectoral muscle strain, made a strong rehab start for Triple-A Durham. Bradley threw five no-hit innings, struck out seven, and walked just one with 65 total pitches. Getting Bradley back would add some big-time velocity to the rotation and could shift lefty Tyler Alexander to the struggling bullpen.

Manager Kevin Cash says closer Pete Fairbanks has been throwing, “fairly symptom-free” from the nerve-related issue that landed him on the injured list and all tests have come back clean, which seems to be a good sign. Infielder Jonathan Aranda played in an extended spring game on April 23 and began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham on April 26, starting at second base.

Ad – content continues below

“If I’m being honest, we’re fortunate to be where we’re at. Simple as that. We have not played good baseball,” Cash said Sunday morning. “I’d like to think better days are ahead of us. I’m confident in that. We’ve got to get some guys healthy, but this group that’s here right now also is fully capable of playing better baseball. I’d like to see that turnaround pretty quick.”

Starting pitcher Zach Eflin says, “It’s going to all click. It seems like we’re just not all playing good together. Like defense, offense, pitching, it’s not all clicking at the same time.”

In a 162-game season, you’re bound to go through some tough spots. If there’s any single team that can turn it around, it’s the Rays.

In a recent ranking of the best front offices by The Athletic based on a survey of 40 MLB executives, one voter called the Rays “the scariest team in the league to trade with.” Another noted “they constantly acquire undervalued guys, they get the most out of their players and they make the tough decisions.”

It might just be the start to another storybook season for the Rays. Or, it’s panic time.

Only time will tell.

Ad – content continues below