The Rays have optioned starter Blake Snell to Triple-A Durham, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. This is the second demotion this year for the onetime Baseball America Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and it comes a day after Snell failed to make it out of the fifth inning. Short outings have been something of a trend for Snell, as he’s only made it through seven innings once all season (two games ago)
Snell’s current line for the year is a 4.98 ERA, with an even worse 5.06 FIP and 5.09 xFIP. He’s struck out 19.8% of the batters he’s faced and has walked an unhealthy 12.7% of those batters, so it’s hard to claim that Snell has been good, but he has flashed potential all year. The problem has been consistent command.
For now, the Rays have called up Jose Alvarado, the hard-throwing left-handed reliever, to replace Snell, but that won’t be the last move. Alvarado will be a short-term patch for manager Kevin Cash to use against the lefty-heavy Brewers lineup.
So what is the actual plan?
The Simple Version
Jake Odorizzi is making a rehab start tonight in Port Charlotte. The Rays have an off day on Monday, so that means that Snell’s spot will come up on what would be Odorizzi’s next day in a normal schedule. Odorizzi will slot into the rotation.
I think most of us were assuming that when Odorizzi returned to the majors, he would take Austin Pruitt’s spot, but perhaps Pruitt’s 6.1 innings of shutout baseball against Houston on Wednesday won him another opportunity.
The Rays need Snell to figure the major leagues out and become a mainstay in their rotation—he’s a big part of their future—but one can make a plausible case that Pruitt might give the Rays a better chance to win in his next start.
And it may be only a single start, as Matt Andriese (who has not yet made a rehab start) will be eligible to come off the disabled list soon, possibly as early as August 10, if the Rays back-dated his DL stint.
So maybe the Rays want to bring both Odorizzi and Andriese into the rotation as soon as possible, believe in Pruitt for one game, don’t like where Snell’s head is at right now, and could use an extra left-handed bullpen arm right now.
There’s Always Honeywell
We’re contractually obligated to tell you that there is another option.
Top-prospect Brent Honeywell has been pitching in Durham on the same schedule as Snell, and while Honeywell isn’t yet on the 40-man roster, if the Rays were bold with their future assets (generally they’re not, and that’s probably a good thing) they could put him there now.
They could also promote him in to take Pruitt’s place, and send Alvarado back down after a day or so.
Don’t bet on it, but it’s possible.
What does this do to Snell’s head?
The last question is how Snell will take being bounced up and down. As I said before, he’s an important part of the Rays’ future, and they need him to figure it out and become good.
I don’t think any of us really know what the move will do to his confidence, or how the Rays are handling those internal conversations, but it’s an inescapable part of the story.
But the Rays are in a playoff hunt. For now, the future will have to wait. Unless this means Honeywell is coming. Then the future is now.