Rays’ off-season should feel better than this

by Gary Shelton on December 30, 2020

in general

Cash needs a new pitching staff./JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

You sort through the rubble. You take measure of what us left. You consider what is gone.

And you wonder:

How good will the next edition of the Tampa Bay Rays be?

It is a difficult team to follow, this Tampa Bay baseball club. It sells you on unripe fruit, but come the harvest, the best of it will be gone, traded for more tomorrows. They are smart, but not as smart as they are cheap, and so, unlike other teams, they chase possibilities more than they chase hope.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the GarySheltonSports.com blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on GarySheltonSports.com.Paragraph

Another team that lost a World Series might be looking to add. Another arm, maybe. A more dependable bat. Baseball is a sport of constant change, after all. No one stands pat.

But it is different with this team. This is a harder team to pull for than the Yankees or the Dodgers, teams that don't let payroll get in the way of winning. They are a harder team to pull for than Chicago or Boston, franchises that went an eternity without winning a World Series -- but those franchises had everything else: playoffs and Hall of Famers and hope.

This one: It vexes the senses, and it challenges the faithful. It places an internal value on its players, and as soon as they make a nickel more than it deems they should, they are jettisoned for more unproven players.

And that's the thing with the Rays. They want to win, but only at bargain basement prices. They want to succeed, but every decision is with empty stands in mind. The fans of most teams enter the off-season with curiosity and hope. The fans of the Rays are cautious as if they are walking through the forest at midnight. Chances are, they are going to lose as much as they gain.

This should be said. By and large, the Rays have milked the best out of the careers of their players. David Price was better here than he has been elsewhere. Carl Crawford was nowhere near as good. Matt Garza was at his best as a Ray.

But the Rays make mistakes, too. Trading for Hunter Renfroe was tragic. So far, the signing of Yoshi Tsutsugo hasn't wowed anyone.

So will this be a good trade? Or a bad one? As I suggested a day ago, I think it depends on what you think of Blake Snell, whether you still consider him an ace, a stopper. We all agree he has good stuff, but he has 10 wins in two seasons since his Cy Young.

We know this: The Rays, collectively, do not hit a lot. But going into next year, the pitching is as shaky as it has been in a while.

So do they go to the World Series again?

Do they win the division?

Do they finish below .500?

Today, it is hard to say. I certainly don't expect a deep run in the post-season. I'd be shocked if they won the division. I think they may finish barely above .500. Maybe not even that. I think they're the third best team in the AL East, behind New York and Toronto.

The losses of Snell and Charlie Morton seem to have sapped the joy of last season. No one seems to be talking about what Randy Arozarena can do over a full season, or how Tyler Glasnow will do as the anointed ace. But more than a few fans are wondering how many games those guys have before they're gone, too.

After such an impressive season, it should feel better than this in the off-season. There should be energy, anticipation. There should be standards, expectations.

instead, there are questions, and critics, and skepticism.

And the Rays? They have to surprise us all over again.

Previous post:

Next post: