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2016 MLB roster outlook: Tampa Bay Rays

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2016 MLB roster outlook: Tampa Bay Rays

2015 record: 80-82, 4th place in AL East

Manager: Kevin Cash, 2nd season

Estimated 2016 payroll: $66.2 million

Key additions: OF Corey Dickerson, 1B/OF Logan Morrison, SS Brad Miller, RP Danny Farquhar

Key losses: RP Jake McGee, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 1B John Jaso

Projected lineup

2B Logan Forsythe
CF Kevin Kiermaier
3B Evan Longoria
DH Corey Dickerson
LF Desmond Jennings
1B Logan Morrison
RF Steven Souza
C Curt Casali
SS Brad Miller

Projected rotation

RHP Chris Archer
LHP Drew Smyly
RHP Jake Odirizzi
LHP Matt Moore
RHP Erasmo Ramirez

Top relievers

CL Alex Colome
RHP Danny Farquhar
RHP Steven Geltz

Biggest questions entering 2016

1. Can they compete in the AL EastThe Rays improved by three wins in 2015 with an 80-82 mark, but it's going to take a much bigger leap than that to put them back in playoff contention. The Rays, in fact, finished in fourth in the AL East and were just two games out of last place. That's how deep the division was. For the Rays to improve significantly, they will need to score a lot more runs and get a better season out of starter Matt Moore. Moore has Cy Young potential, having finished ninth in AL voting back in 2013. But he's since dealt with Tommy John surgery and in 2015 saw his ERA balloon to 5.43 in 12 starts.

2. Can they improve their offenseThe Rays are now two years removed from making the playoffs and much of their problems in those two seasons have dealt with their offense. Last year the Rays ranked 25th in the majors in runs scored, a number that will have to improve this season if they want to make the playoffs. The Rays will hope several moves made this offseason will pay dividends at the plate. Tampa traded for outfielder Corey Dickerson, who hit .312 and 24 homers in 2014 with the Rockies. They also added Logan Morrison, who has fallen short of expecatations in his MLB career but did hit 17 homers in 2015. The Rays definitely added some power this offseason. We'll see if it pays off.

3. Can Kiermaier improve at the plate? One player who was already on the Rays' roster who could improve offensively is Kevin Kiermaier. The outfielder is already a fantastic player overall, but is known more for his defense. He earned a Gold Glove in 2015 and finished 17th in MVP voting mainly because of his spectacular play in center field. Kiermaier was pretty good on offense with a .718 OPS, 18 steals and 12 triples, but he has room to get better, particularly when it comes to getting on base. He posted a .298 on-base percentage in 2015, but got on at a .352 clip through his minor league career. One has to imagine his MLB OBP will only rise from here.

[Roster info via RosterResource.com]

[RELATED: Nationals trade Tyler Moore to Braves for 1B Freiman]

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?

RELATED: 2018 SPRING TRAINING REPORT DATES

Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.

RELATED: FORMER NATS PITCHER ARRESTED WITH MORE THAN 40 POUNDS OF SUSPECTED COCAINE

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.

RELATED: NATS REVEAL 2018 SPRING TRAINING TV SCHEDULE

He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.

RELATED: WHEN PITCHERS, CATCHERS REPORT FOR SPRING TRAINING