For Rays, wait 'til next year

You know, a fair number of things have gone well for the Tampa Bay Rays this season. For example, their power-hitting shortstop. From FanGraphs:

    This afternoon, we talked about the surprising power surge of Kendry Morales, who is beating his projected ISO by about 120 points this year. However, we always knew that Morales had some power -- we just didn't expect his doubles to turn into home runs like this. If we want to look at a guy whose really having an out-of-nowhere power surge, then we have to turn to Tampa Bay, where Jason Bartlett continues to have one of the craziest seasons in recent history.

    As a 29-year-old with no track record of this kind of ability, it's hard to figure what to make of Bartlett. For all the talk that Ben Zobrist's breakthrough offensive performance has gotten, he's not the only former slap hitter now whacking the ball down in Tampa. With Reid Brignac waiting in the wings and newly acquired Sean Rodriguez in the fold (plus the aforementioned Zobrist and Akinori Iwamura), the Rays have enviable middle infield depth. If they're convinced that they've fixed Bartlett somehow, then he's an all-star that they should be hanging onto.

    More likely, however, is that Tampa's going to try to shop him this winter coming off a career year and one season away from free agency. It will be interesting to see how many teams believe this version of Bartlett is for real.

After what happened last October, this season's been a big letdown for the Rays ... and it's easy to forget that despite having (as usual) one of the lowest payrolls in the American League -- they entered the season essentially tied with the A's and the Twins for the lowest -- they've got the fourth-best run differential and the fifth-best record.
Which is probably small comfort if you're a Rays fan. After all, if only Dioner Navarro hadn't been so terribly disappointing this season ... or B.J. Upton ... or Andy Sonnanstine ... or Scott Kazmir ... or Matt Joyce ... and hey, remember when David Price was a lock for rookie of the year? If just two of those guys had played this season as well as we thought they would, the Rays would be running even with the Rangers. And if three? Well, then they'd be busting the Red Sox's chops and we'd be salivating over the American League wild-card race.

And if my uncle were a woman, etc. Again, small comfort for those who really care.

But to that small comfort, we may add another: the Rays are still loaded with talent. Sonnanstine's going to get back to where he was, and Wade Davis will arrive soon, so even after trading Kazmir the Rays will still have six legitimate starting pitchers. The Rays might seem a little thin in the outfield and at DH. But even if Bossman Junior and Pat the Bat don't rebound next season, the organization is so thick in the infield that they can make any moves that need making.

Yes, next season the Rays will once again be locked in a terrible battle with the two richest teams in the sport. But they will be well-armed for the fight. Not that it'll matter a great deal, if you fans don't actually show up at the ballpark.