Is Tampa the Most Dangerous Team in Baseball in a Short Season? Do the Indians Match Up?

Matt Loede

As the shortened 2020 season gets closer in Major League Baseball, SI MLB Insider Tom Verducci predicts that one team that might just be the most dangerous in all of baseball is that of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays have set the standard when it comes to being able to be competitive and challenge for a World Series on a small budget.

How small? How about the lowest in all of baseball.

Last season the Rays had a payroll of just $64 million dollars, with their highest player in terms of salary being outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who made $8 million.

Why does Verducci think that Tampa could be the most dangerous team in the Majors? One word – pitching.

"I would say they set the curve for pretty much everything," Verducci said. 

The Rays have the type of pitching depth that most teams can only dream of. If you look at their starting five, they have probably the best rotation in the American League, right up there with the Indians.

Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell, Yonny Chirinos, Ryan Yarbrough and Trevor Richards gives the Rays six possible solid starters.

Their pen is also solid, with Nick Anderson as their closer, Diego Castillo ready as a setup or he can also step in as well.

Chaz Roe, Colin Poche, Oliver Drake and Andrew Kittredge make up a solid pen that is the best in the AL East.

If the Rays indeed have the best pitching staff in baseball, where do the Indians stand in terms of matching up?

Their starting five is nothing to sneeze at, even after the team has traded a pair of front line starters over the last 11 months, in Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber.

As of now the starting five for the Indians include Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale.

Add in Adam Plutko who just might overtake Plesac or Civale, and even youngster Jefry Rodriguez and the team could have six or even seven starters who can matchup in the American League.

The pen boasts the likes of Brad Hand as the closer, and then you have Oliver Perez, Adam Cimber, and Nick Wittgren, and youngsters like James Karinchak, James Hoyt and Phil Maton.

Plutko said Monday via Zoom call at Progressive Field that having flexibility in the rotation and bullpen gives the Tribe a big edge over a lot of other teams.

“I think that’s where the Cleveland Indians have had the advantage over the last couple years in baseball,” Plutko said.

“Just the fact that our starting pitching is so deep and we can hand the ball off to the bullpen, we can then do some different things, and that’s exciting.”

We will see if Plutko’s words ring true when the regular season gets underway on July 24 and if this staff is ready to challenge the likes of the Rays for the title of best in the American League.