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Rays 40 man roster crunch may lead to several trades this month

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Expect the team to be active ahead of the July 31 Trade Deadline.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday the Tampa Bay Rays made a number of roster moves. The Rays traded Andrew Velazquez to the Cleveland Indians for International Free Agent pool money. They completed a trade that sent Casey Sadler to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a low minors reliever Nathan Witt.

The Rays activated Jose De Leon from the 60 day injured list as his maximum rehab time had elapsed. He was optioned to Durham to continue returning to full strength after having Tommy John surgery last spring.

The 40 man roster is currently full with four additional players on the 60 day injured list. The players on the 60 day injured list are Tyler Glasnow, Anthony Banda, Anthony Bemboom, and Matt Duffy.

And beyond those four names, the Rays may add again via trade. Eventually, more names will have to give.

Here’s the current state of the 40 man roster.

Starting Pitchers (9 plus 2 60-day)

Blake Snell
Charlie Morton
Brendan McKay
Yonny Chirinos
Ryan Yarbrough
Jalen Beeks
Austin Pruitt

Whether the pitchers actually start the game or come behind an opener. With the callup of Brendan McKay the Rays will need six pitchers capable of giving some length as his six day pitching schedule helps protect his innings count. This doesn’t mean a full six man rotation, though, as Daniel Russell broke down earlier this week.

Currently Ryan Yarbrough and Jalen Beeks are in Durham as they get some work in while the Rays navigate the all-star break.

Austin Pruitt survival on the 40 man has been the source of some outrage among fans. Right now he’s the next starter/bulk guy up when needed, though, and Tuesday night he was needed. Until players return from being injured there is no reasonable alternative.

Tyler Glasnow (60-day IL)
Jose De Leon
Anthony Banda (60-day IL)
Brent Honeywell Jr.

The Rays have missed Tyler Glasnow. It’s hopeful he returns sometime around August. The biggest improvement after the trade deadline count be the return of a healthy Glasnow.

Jose De Leon, Anthony Banda, and Brent Honeywell Jr. all are at different stages of post Tommy John surgery recovery. Jose De Leon was removed from the 60 day list after using his maximum allotment of rehab days.

Until the Rays are comfortable with De Leon or Glasnow throwing in the majors, Pruitt’s place on the 40 man is safe. At some point you hope the staff is healthy enough that it’s a choice you can make, but for now he’s necessary.

Anthony Banda has just started his rehab process making his third appearance last night. He’s at least a month away from even being an option, and in early August he will need a 40 man spot unless he suffers a setback that disrupts his rehab.

Brent Honeywell Jr. is out for the year after breaking his elbow while trying to return to the mound from the same surgery. At some point the Rays could 60 day him for space, but that’s likely an emergency situation only.

Relief Pitchers (12)

Emilio Pagan
Jose Alvarado
Diego Castillo (10-day IL)
Ryne Stanek
Colin Poche

As things sit these are the relievers the Rays are going to rely on getting big outs whether late in the game or to open a game. It’s unlikely any trade at the deadline would push any of this group out of the 25 man roster. They all have options, so if necessary due to workload any of them could spend ten days in Durham.

Oliver Drake
Chaz Roe

Oliver Drake and Chaz Roe are out of options, and neither are high leverage. Drake has shown to be an interesting if not solid relief option. Roe has had a miserable season and I imagine these are the two to go when they acquire any relief help at the trade deadline.

Andrew Kittredge
Adam Kolarek
Jake Faria
Hunter Wood
Ian Gibaut

Andrew Kittredge and Adam Kolarek are currently on the 25 man roster as they carry eight relievers and Diego Castillo being on the injured list. Jake Faria has been called up this afternoon as a fresh arm, and could provide some length like Drake does now.

Hunter Wood has been up and down when they need a fresh arm or somebody has gone on the injured list. He’s mostly getting work in a one time through the order, multi-inning relief role.

Ian Gibaut was added to the 40 man roster last winter, and suffered a lat strain during spring training that delayed the start to his season. Coming into the season Gibaut likely was going to see a similar use as Colin Poche. He was going to get his opportunity at some point. He’s only allowed two runs in 11.1 innings (10 appearances) and he’s gotten his strikeouts (31.5%), but he’s also walked too many (14.5%). His position is likely secure.

Catchers (3 plus 1 60-day)

Travis d’Arnaud
Mike Zunino
Michael Perez
Anthony Bemboom (60 day IL)

Travis d’Arnaud and Mike Zunino currently are the tandem in the majors. Michael Perez has been in Durham and represents the strongest three catcher situation the Rays can currently have. Zunino has struggled at the plate, but we saw what happened when Zunino and Perez went to the injured list earlier this season and saw the Rays scrambling to add depth at the position.

Bemboom isn’t likely to be long for the 40 man as when he’s healthy he’s likely to be DFA’d.

Infield (9 plus 1 60-day)

Willy Adames
Yandy Diaz
Brandon Lowe
Ji-Man Choi
Joey Wendle

Ji-Man Choi and Brandon Lowe have just been moved to the 10-day injured lists, but shouldn’t miss much time. These are the five that are likely to stay on the 25 man roster when healthy at this point.

Matt Duffy (60-day IL)

Matt Duffy is scheduled to make another attempt at a comeback over the next week. If he’s healthy enough to play he’ll get added, but until that time comes it’s best to just assume he isn’t coming back.

Nate Lowe
Michael Brosseau
Christian Arroyo (10-day IL)
Daniel Robertson (10-day IL)

Nate Lowe was recalled today. It’s hard to see how Nate Lowe and Choi exist on the 25 man roster at the same time, but as the Rays are set to face several left handed pitchers this coming series, his addition makes sense for now.

Michael Brosseau is getting his opportunity with the struggles of Daniel Robertson and hitting the injured list after having knee surgery. Robertson could be pushed to the 60-day at some point to make temporary room on the roster.

Christian Arroyo is in his last option year. He hasn’t been healthy when the Rays could use him. I imagine if he was healthy Brosseau wouldn’t currently be on the 40 man and get his shot.

Outfield (7)

Tommy Pham
Kevin Kiermaier
Austin Meadows
Avisail Garcia
Guillermo Heredia

Tommy Pham, Kevin Kiermaier, Austin Meadows, and Avisail Garcia are all in your starting lineup most days covering the three outfield positions and designated hitter. Guillermo Heredia plays his role against LHP to give Kiermaier or Meadows the day off.

Jesus Sanchez
Joe McCarthy

Jesus Sanchez and Joe McCarthy were both added to protect from the 40 man last winter. Sanchez has had a good year in Montgomery and likely won’t be any real consideration for being called up until next summer.

McCarthy was productive in his limited time available last year in Durham. This year he returned to Durham in early June after dealing with back issues during spring training. McCarthy had back surgery during his final year at the University of Virginia that caused him to fall in the draft. The question about when he could make his debut centers around his availability when the situation arises.

And more need added in December 2019

This winter the Rays will be forced to make one of their most sizable and impactful additions in recent memory.

Of MLB.com’s top 30 Rays prospects the following are eligible for the rule 5 draft:

#6 Vidal Brujan
#7 Ronaldo Hernandez
#10 Lucius Fox
#12 Nick Solak
#13 Moises Gomez
#20 Resly Linares
#27 Garrett Whitley

Vidal Brujan and Ronaldo Hernandez are locks as unanimous top 100 prospects to get protected. Brujan was recently promoted to Montgomery (AA), so he’s likely not going to be much help next year. Hernandez is warming up after a cold start in Port Charlotte (A+). It’s possible Hernandez ends the year in Montgomery (AA), but he’s likely still two years away from helping out the Rays.

Lucius Fox hasn’t had the best season for Montgomery (AA), but his power is starting to come around and he continues to show off his speed on the bases. As an up the middle prospect at either SS or CF Fox will be a guy they likely need to protect.

Nick Solak has shown good power with 16 homers in Durham (AAA). Even with the MLB balls that is tied for 12th in the International League. He is a bad defender at second base, but is fine in the outfield. With the second base position having multiple players on the MLB roster outfield is the most likely way he finds playing time with the Rays. At FanGraphs he finds himself at #93 on the most updated prospect list. He’s just off other top 100s. He might be one of the preferred prospects the Rays trade for help this summer.

Moises Gomez isn’t hitting well at Port Charlotte (A+), so it might be an aggressive add. He had a very good year in Bowling Green (A) last year shooting up Rays prospect lists.

Resly Linares is the only pitcher to make this list. In the long term he’s likely a reliever, but that might be more the 2-3 inning variety similar to Jalen Beek’s usage.

Garrett Whitley missed all of 2018 after suffering a labrum tear in his shoulder during spring training last year. The former first round pick had a good season in 2017 for Bowling Green (A) with 13 HR and 21 SB. The expectations weren’t all that great this year after missing a full year of development. His strikeouts are up to 35.7%, but he’s shown power (.171 ISO) in a league that is notorious for sapping power. There’s still a lot to like even if he’s limited to left field after the shoulder injury.

This doesn’t include high minor performers like Jake Cronenworth and Kean Wong on the position side. Matt Krook, Curtis Taylor, and Sam McWilliams on the pitching side.

The real roster crunch comes from not having many players set to be free agents (Avisail Garcia and Travis d’Arnaud) and the amount of position players the Rays will likely need to protect from the rule 5. It’s tough to carry multiple position players on the 40 man that you don’t expect to help you in the upcoming season.

This isn’t to say there isn’t some that look like easy cuts right now. The last few slots need to be flexible to make it through the season.

So what happens at the Trade Deadline?

As the Rays talk with teams about making short term and long term additions the Rays are going to be looking to make some moves from players that will likely need to be on the 40 man this winter.

Possible DFA candidates that might bring back cash considerations or a future lottery ticket:

Chaz Roe
Oliver Drake
Austin Pruitt
Michael Brosseau

The ideal outcome would be to find another Pham style deal. They traded OF Justin Williams (40 man) and LHP Genesis Cabrera (Dec 2018 Rule 5 add) as the main pieces in the deal.

The Rays also made this type of trade last winter when they brought in Emilio Pagan while trading Brock Burke and Kyle Bird who were both added to the 40 man last winter. In addition to Pagan they received the Oakland Athletic’s #40 draft pick to push back the roster crunch to the future.

Possible prospects you could see traded:

Jesus Sanchez
Vidal Brujan
Ronaldo Hernandez
Nate Lowe
Lucius Fox
Nick Solak
Christian Arroyo

If the Rays find a player similar to Tommy Pham they shouldn’t be afraid to trade a very good prospect like OF Jesus Sanchez or 2B Vidal Brujan that both sit in most top 50s if that’s what it takes. It was rumored the Rays were willing to trade Sanchez for one year of Paul Goldschmidt before the St. Louis Cardinals beat their offer.

The likely scenario is they find the best reliever they can get headlined for a guy like Nick Solak. They’ll add some solid secondaries that they would likely prefer to also come from potential 40 man players.

This isn’t a roster that is impossible to upgrade. It’s also not easy to upgrade when you have competent MLB players throughout most of the 40 man.

If you can upgrade the position, though, any current 25 man player should be fair game as part of a trade for an upgrade. The Rays should be aggressive, because over the next six months they aren’t going to be able to get full value in trade or by using all the players they have.