Today is August 31, 2014, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ season is officially over. Honestly, it was over a few days ago–when the Rays lost their first two games against the Baltimore Orioles–or even a while before that. At 65-70, they sit 13 games back in the AL East and 9 games back in the Wild Card. Even if baseball started a conspiracy to have all the teams ahead of the Rays lose to get them to the playoffs, there may not be enough time. While hope is lost for this season, however, a 2015 filled with promise still lies ahead, and now the Rays have a month to figure out the best way to proceed for then.
Losses are not a bad thing for the Tampa Bay Rays anymore. They could battle to try to finish above .500, and if they do, it would be a nice moral victory. Maybe they can finish with the 84 wins they came away with in their last down year, 2009, and remind everyone that they stormed back into relevancy the following season. If they lose, though, that may be even better. Currently the Rays are tied for the 12th-worst record in baseball, which would turn into the 13th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft (the Astros have a compensation pick for failing to sign Brady Aiken to push everyone back a slot). We know how the Rays’ draft record has been recently, but the last few years have shown signs of improvement, and it would be exciting to see what Andrew Friedman, R.J. Harrison, and company could do with a pick that high. If the Rays win, then great. If they lose, don’t be as frustrated because losses have a purpose now as well.
There are certain players that everyone surrounding the Rays would love to see have a great finish to the year. It would be reassuring if Evan Longoria and Wil Myers were unstoppable at the plate to inspire confidence for how they will do next season. Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer–both coming off multi-hit games last night–have a chance to figure prominently into the Rays’ outfield picture next year. Can they finish strong and make the spring training outfield competition for next season not much of a competition at all? Speaking of outfielders, it is time for the Rays to figure out whether to keep or trade Matt Joyce and Desmond Jennings. Success from them in September would mean a double-edged sword: the Rays’ willingness to keep them may increase, but so would their respective trade values. Finally, we have pitchers like Grant Balfour and Joel Peralta. The question is obvious to everyone right now: have they reached the end of the line? Some Rays fans may be rooting against them hoping that the Rays release Balfour and decline Peralta’s option. We will have to see what happens with them in the season’s final month.
Lastly, we will see a big group of new faces before the season ends. We have heard so much about the Tampa Bay Rays’ parade of electric arms at Triple-A Durham, and now we will see them ourselves. If Jeremy Hellickson is traded, could a pitcher like Nate Karns or Matt Andriese spot as the Rays’ fifth starter while Matt Moore rehabs from Tommy John Surgery? That question won’t be answered in September, but first impressions are always important, and several pitchers have an opportunity to make one now. Alex Colome and Mike Montgomery, meanwhile, look like potential late-inning relievers for this team. Could they get a taste of their new role once they are called up? Joining all the pitchers will be position players like Nick Franklin and Tim Beckham. Can the big trade acquisition and the former number one overall pick work their way into roster spots for next year? Franklin may be the most interesting player to watch after his performance has been lacking since joining the organization. Have the Rays been working with him on an adjustment that they are about to unveil or is there serious reason for concern?
It may not be for the same reasons as before, but Tampa Bay Rays baseball will still be plenty of fun to watch this September. This season has obviously been frustrating, but let’s begin to put it in the past as we get a glimpse of the players ready to change this team’s destiny in 2015.