It is hard to believe that the Tampa Bay Rays team that started the season 13-0 is the same group that flamed out of the postseason for the second season in a row. With a low budget and few headline names, the Rays simply are a complete team that consistently played at a high level throughout the 2023 season.
This consistency went missing against the Rangers in Tampa with Texas dominating the series. The Rays managed to score one run in garbage time and otherwise were shut out by a staff and bullpen that has dealt with a myriad of injuries.
No shots intended towards the Rangers, but when your ace is done for the season and his replacement you traded for is also on the shelf, it doesn't bode well. Add in a bullpen that still lacks an elite closer and questions from top to bottom and the Rangers are here simply because of their offense.
That was something that was impossible to tell with the way the Rays bats were dominated for the second straight postseason with neither game ever feeling particularly close.
For the Rays, this is a huge concern moving forward for a franchise that, despite playing at a high level each of the last two seasons, has generated little fan interest and choked at the start of both the past two postseasons.
Now with questions looming, it is time for the Rays to go into this season with the understanding a change has to be made. Whether it is making splashy moves in free agency or rebuilding, it is clear that Tampa's current roster isn't getting the job done.
With the Red Sox, Yankees, and Orioles all having reason to believe they will be improved in the 2024 season, it is time for the Rays to either stray from their franchise norm and spend to get the missing pieces this team clearly needs or tear it down and move on.
It is a difficult decision for a franchise that clearly has a culture of winning in the regular season but has choked away two prime opportunities against teams with obvious shortcomings each of the past two seasons.