ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays feel they have everything it takes to win the World Series and aren't afraid to say it.
The budget-minded franchise that's played into October four out of the past six seasons boosted payroll instead of cutting back this winter in hopes of making another strong run for the playoffs.
"The goal is to be the team that plays the last game of the year and win," third baseman Evan Longoria said.
"I felt like we were really close to breaking through last year," the three-time AL All-Star added. "And with the team that we have this year, I'm really excited to go out and try to prove to ourselves that we are good enough to do that."
The Rays won 92 games a year ago, including a Game 163 tie-breaker to claim a wild-card spot, and have compiled the second-best record in baseball over the past six seasons.
That's not enough for manager Joe Maddon and a hungry collection of players who reported to spring training feeling as if there's unfinished business to tend to after losing to eventual World Series champion Boston in the AL division round.
"I love that our guys feel and think that way. I think it's great," Maddon said.
"You'll hear that rhetoric in a lot of clubhouses, whether it's baseball, football or basketball, but you've got to back it up. You have to really believe it. Not just say it," he said. "Some groups say it because they're supposed to say it. Some groups say it because they believe it. Our guys believe it."
That confidence was bolstered by the Rays' ability to keep most of the key components from last year's roster together, including lefty David Price, who anchors one of baseball's deepest pitching rotations.
Price and just about everybody else expected the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner to be traded, however the Rays wound up giving him a $14 million one-year deal, in addition to re-signing first baseman James Loney and landing free agent closer Grant Balfour in moves that represent a big chunk of a club-record payroll of around $80 million.
Andrew Friedman, the team's vice president of baseball operations, also traded for catcher Ryan Hanigan and infielder Logan Forsythe to give Maddon additional flexibility filling out a batting order around Longoria and 2013 AL rookie of the year Wil Myers.
"Talent can't win every game for you, but it's a good start," said Loney, who signed a three-year, $21 million deal — largest since Tampa Bay has given to a free agent since Stuart Sternberg became principal owner.
"If we can stay healthy, if we can do the things we're capable of doing," second baseman Ben Zobrist add, "we certainly have as good or better chance than any other team in the league to win it all."