The Tampa Bay Rays have already made one move this winter to prepare their roster for the upcoming season. They’ve already made a first round of cuts to open up space for players returning from the 60 day disabled list and the newly acquired Mike Zunino and Guillermo Heredia.
The roster currently sits at 40.
With a full complement of major league players and a host of major-league-ready talent in the minors, the Rays have many decisions to make as they set a 2019 roster. Of course there are likely trades and free agent signings yet to come, but looking at the current organizational talent pool, here are our best guesses about who will remain in or move to a forty-man roster slot.
This article discusses pitchers; part two reviews position players.
“Starting” Pitchers (Options remaining):
Blake Snell (1)
Tyler Glasnow (1)
Yonny Chirinos (2)
Ryan Yarbrough (3)
Jalen Beeks (2)
Jacob Faria (1)
Wilmer Font (0)
Austin Pruitt (1)
Brent Honeywell (2)
Anthony Banda (1)
Jose De Leon (2)
Chih-Wei Hu (1)
Andrew Moore (1)
Jose Mujica (2)
If the season were to start today Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Yonny Chirinos, Ryan Yarbrough, and Jalen Beeks would likely compose the starting rotation. The question would be how many are used as traditional starters and how many would work behind an opener. At least one of these players will likely move to the bullpen to give some length.
Brent Honeywell, Anthony Banda, Jose De Leon, and Jose Mujica are currently rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery. Honeywell and De Leon should be able to help sometime in the middle of the season since they went down early in spring training. Banda didn’t have surgery until the middle of June so he might be able to help late in the season, but might miss the whole season. Mujica didn’t have surgery until September 11, so he’s out for the entire 2019 season. The Rays will be faced early on with an interesting decision. Mujica could be designated for assignment to free up a forty-man spot in hopes he can be hidden in the minors while he recovers.
Wilmer Font is the real wild card here. He is out of options so would have to stay on the 25 man roster for the whole season be lost to waivers. The 28 year old looked solid in his brief cameo for the Rays. Unfortunately he was never able to return from a strained lat. He could end up DFAd or be a favorite for the opening day roster.
Jacob Faria is closer to the Font category than any of the others. Faria had a very good 2017, but struggled in 2018, at least in part while pitching around an oblique injury. A strong and healthy Faria could force himself into the conversation for the starting rotation; a struggling Faria could find himself back in Durham. With one option remaining he is likely to survive the winter on the forty-man roster, giving the Rays some depth at minimum.
Andrew Moore was one of the pieces received in the Alex Colome and Denard Span trade with the Mariners in the middle of the 2018 season. Moore has some major league experience, but is close to the cut line and could easily find himself off the roster this winter.
Chih-Wei Hu was moved to the bullpen in 2017, but then back to a longer role in 2018. Of the pitchers in this group he’s likely safe, but could be in danger if the Rays need to open up space.
It takes 8-12 starters to make it through a major league season, so the depth will likely be needed even if it looks overboard at first glance.
Jose Alvarado (2)
Diego Castillo (2)
Ryne Stanek (1)
Chaz Roe (0)
Hunter Wood (1)
Jaime Schultz (1)
Adam Kolarek (2)
Oliver Drake (0)
Hoby Milner (2)
Jose Alvarado, Diego Castillo, Ryne Stanek, and Chaz Roe have punched their ticket for the opening day roster. Roe is the only one without an option, but after a strong 2018 season he has earned a major league job.
The Rays are going to continue to leverage their bullpen so guys with options continue to be most valuable. This may limit the number of traditional relievers the Rays can afford to have in their bullpen. Even traditional reliever usage can be stretched as Castillo and Stanek routinely got 4-6 outs.
Oliver Drake was just claimed and could either be attempted to pass through waivers or treated like a MiLB signing in spring training.
I’d be pretty shocked if Hoby Milner made it through the winter on the 40 man. Adam Kolarek probably wins the battle for second left handed reliever as things currently stand.
Check back later for the second part of this series, focusing on position players.