The Rays are facing an uphill battle to keep their franchise relevant in a market that may not truly be a big-league market, writes former MLBTR scribe Howard Megdal in a piece for USA Today. While ownership bet big on 2014 with an $80MM payroll that was seen as a lot for the Rays, that figure ranked just 25th in the Majors this season. The increasing payrolls around the game create a shrinking pathway for the Rays, Megdal writes, and with a stadium that conjures up memories of what the fan experience was like in the 1980s (plus the rejection of a prototype for an innovative new stadium), there appears to be little sign of things improving. The team has an exciting crop of young pitching that features the likes of Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, Jeremy Hellickson and a returning Matt Moore (in 2015), but Megdal wonders how long the team will be able to hold onto that group. Those who don’t sign extensions, after all, will see their price tags soar in arbitration at an ever-increasing rate, and offense is only getting more expensive. As such, the Rays’ lack of revenue — the team drew just 1.446MM fans this season — is a significant concern.
Here’s more on the Rays…
- The Rays’ biggest needs heading into the offseason appear to be a power bat and a reliable reliever to deepen the back end of manager Joe Maddon’s bullpen, but Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wonders if the Rays already have those pieces in the form of Wil Myers and Grant Balfour. Myers had a self-described “nightmare” of a season, but he’s looking forward to an offseason to rebuild his health and a clean slate in 2015. Meanwhile, Balfour has altered his mechanics and feels he’s found a groove in the season’s final month (three runs and a 12-to-2 K/BB ratio over his past 11 frames). Given his $7MM salary next season, a return to form for Balfour is crucial for the Rays, whose payroll will reportedly decline significantly.
- After a scary looking knee injury on an attempt to avoid a tag at home plate, Yunel Escobar received good news, writes MLB.com’s Bill Chastain. An MRI showed no structural damage in his knee, and while he won’t play for the remainder of the season, he should be fine going forward. Manager Joe Maddon notes to Chastain that Escobar’s play picked up once the rumors of him being traded to the Athletics in August dissipated. Maddon called “Oakland-gate” a “tough moment” for Escobar, noting that he didn’t fully understand the situation. It may just be a coincidence, but Escobar did hit .301/.378/.479 with three of his seven homers this season from Aug. 27 on.