The Rays have now had two straight losing seasons, and have a very middling offense. The rotation is just as good as it has been in years past, and if the Rays are going to be legitimate contenders again, it will be the rotation that gets them there. The lineup is going to be very patchwork again in 2016, as it is hard to see the front office dipping its toes into the free-agent pool.
There are two names that Rays fans need to focus on over the winter — Matt Moore and Drew Smyly.
Moore and Smyly, two left-handers, combined to make 24 starts total in 2015. Moore is a former All-Star who went 17-4 in 2013, but needed Tommy John surgery after only two starts in 2014. Moore came back mid-2015, but was far from the same pitcher. He finished the year with a 3-4 record and 5.43 ERA in 12 starts. Moore struck out 8.6 per nine in 2013, but only 6.6 after returning this year. The Rays need Moore to regain his 2013 form.
Smyly was the centerpiece of the David Price trade. To this day, you will have a difficult time convincing me that the Rays handled the Price trade properly. The team panicked and traded the ace a year early to avoid having to foot the massive arbitration bill that was coming. Smyly was still a good get in the trade, but made only 12 starts in 2015. In those 12 starts, however, Smyly was very good. He went 5-2 with a 3.11 ERA and 10.4 strikeouts per nine. All in all, Smyly was very good when on the hill, but he has yet to start more than 30 games in a single season. The Rays will need at least 30 starts and 180 innings from Smyly in 2016 if they expect to have any chance of contending.