Winter Came: 2017 Tampa Bay Rays

Welcome to The Stew’s annual team elimination posts. Like our video-game posts of last year, these are best done in theme. This time? We’re going with “Game of Thrones.” Each eliminated team will join the “army of the dead.” But we won’t just talk about their demise. We’ll also highlight some positives, pick out a memorable moment, tell you their biggest need and let you know when the club might be good again. 

Sorry, Tampa Bay Rays, but you won’t sit on the Iron Throne this season.

The Rays entered this season in the familiar position of being underdogs, and once again showed us it’s not the size of the underdog that matters, but the fight within. Of course, none of that really matters at all when you fall short of the goal. Unfortunately, that’s what the Rays did, missing the postseason for the fourth straight year.

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The Rays are always going to fight an uphill battle in the AL East, Perhaps more so now that the Red Sox and Yankees appear poised to dominate the division. But they will fight admirably, looking for ways to patch up holes in the lineup and bullpen. This wasn’t their year, but their time will come again.

Let’s take a deeper look at the year that was in St. Pete:

(Amber Matsumoto / Yahoo Sports)

UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN (aka WHAT WENT RIGHT)
The Rays were the team we expected them to be. It wasn’t good enough, but it’s better than the nicest thing we can say about a lot of teams that missed the postseason. From a production standpoint, Alex Colome continues to be the best closer no one talks about. After posting a sub-2.00 ERA and 37 saves in 2016, the 28-year-old right-hander will follow up by leading MLB in saves. Chris Archer? He’s still good. Though he may not be a Ray much longer, he kept his trade value. The Rays outfield was a continuous highlight reel as well, thanks to Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza. (Mark Townsend)

THE RED WEDDING (aka WHAT WENT WRONG)
If only they didn’t have to play the Red Sox and Yankees. The Rays have won just 13 of 34 matchups against the AL East’s elite, which has made a big difference in the standings. Like most expected, the Rays offense is what held them back. Barring a late-season surge, they will finish with 700 or less runs scored for the sixth straight season. (Mark Townsend)

THE NORTH REMEMBERS (aka MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT)
The question is really which Kevin Kiermaier catch do you want to remember the most? The Gold-Glove Rays outfielder makes some pretty insane grabs sometimes. It’s hard, actually, to decide which is best, so you can just watch the two and enjoy them equally.

The first one was a game-ender, if that impresses you more. (Mike Oz)

WORDS ARE WIND (aka MOST IMPORTANT THING TO FIX)
It’s hard to be the Rays. They spend their time in the insanely competitive AL East, and with far less money than the Yankees and Red Sox. So when it comes to fixing things, they need to be smart and efficient. But what they should fix might not even cost that much, but that’s because it’s hard to do. They need to figure out what’s going on with Chris Archer. He’s an excellent pitcher, and his poor 2016 (4.02 ERA) was regarded as a blip on the radar. But his 2017 hasn’t been any better. He’s got an ERA over 4.00 again, and everyone knows he can do better. The Rays rotation has promise, especially since a few of their starters (Blake Snell and Jake Odorizzi) slightly underperformed this year. And that’s why Archer’s success is so important. With an effective Archer, that rotation could be the key to the Rays finding a foothold in the AL East. (Liz Roscher)

A DREAM OF SPRING (aka HOPE FOR THE FUTURE)
Willy Adames and Brent Honeywell should be installed as full-time players next season … we think. That’s more of a question with Honeywell. The 22-year-old was ready for a callup in 2017, but the team kept putting it off. He received a suspension at one point and spent September retweeting stories about other top prospects getting the call. So … that’s neat.

Jake Bauers could also get the call in 2018. Jose De Leon, who was acquired in the Logan Forsythe deal, is probably major-league ready as long as he can stay healthy. Brendan McKay, the team’s 2017 first-rounder, might be one of the more exciting players in the minors. The Rays will use him as a two-way player. But he won’t make it to the majors next season. Still, he’s worth following. (Chris Cwik)

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San Francisco GiantsPhiladelphia PhilliesCincinnati RedsChicago White Sox | New York Mets | San Diego Padres | Atlanta Braves | Detroit Tigers | Pittsburgh Pirates | Oakland Athletics | Miami Marlins | Toronto Blue Jays | Baltimore Orioles | Seattle Mariners | Texas Rangers

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!