With mounting injuries and the uniqueness of a short season, should the Tampa Bay Rays make a big move for a pitcher?
Even with a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night, the Tampa Bay Rays (17-10) are in a proverbial tie for first place in the AL East. A 9-1 road trip through Boston, Toronto and New York before returning home to play the Blue Jays was helpful.
A short season creates all kinds of interesting circumstances. On that note, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated predicted the Rays would win the World Series. It’s not that the Rays haven’t been successful, with 90-plus wins seven times in the last 12 seasons, but predicting them to win it all is quite bold.
The Rays have persevered through a litany of pitching injuries thus far. Yonny Chirinos is the latest, as he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of this season as well as all of 2021.
Chirinos is the seventh Rays’ pitcher to land on the IL this season, joining Charlie Morton, Jose Alvarado, Oliver Drake, Brendan McKay, Andrew Kittredge and Colin Poche. McKay and Poche are out for the season, and Kittredge may be headed for Tommy John surgery.
Should the Tampa Bay Rays make a big move for a pitcher?
Tampa Bay may be able to survive the litany of pitching injuries. Getting Morton back will be particularly helpful, but he’s the only one that seems close to returning.
With the trade deadline looming on Aug. 31, the Rays are sure to be in the market for a starting pitcher. Lance Lynn, Dylan Bundy, Taijuan Walker and Kevin Gausman stand out as potential targets, but there’s another, interesting possibility.
Through four starts (26.1 innings) this season, Trevor Bauer has a 0.68 ERA and a 0.57 WHIP with a 14.0 K/9 and a 2.4 BB/9 (41 strikeouts, seven walks). He has gone at least six innings in all four outings, with a total of eight hits allowed.
Bauer has also been committed to eschewing a long-term deal, instead going year-to-year until he hits free agency. That will come after the season, and with no guarantee they’ll be able to bring him back the 11-13 Reds (entering Saturday) might look to sell high.
The Rays have a well-regarded farm system, the best in baseball as ranked by many outlets, so they are in good position to buy in any circumstance. But with the Boston Red Sox going through a bad year, and the New York Yankees adding players to their IL virtually daily, there’s a unique opportunity to strike right now. With a significant move for a starting pitcher, Tampa Bay could take the reigns of the AL East and make themselves a justified World Series favorite.