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The Current State of the Rays Rotation

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The Rays are doing just fine.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays have suffered many injuries this year. They aren’t the only ones.

Currently on the injured list for the Rays are RP Colin Poche (out for the season), RP Andrew Kittredge (out for the season), SP Charlie Morton (shoulder), SP Yonny Chirinos (triceps, elbow), RP Oliver Drake (biceps), and RP Jose Alvarado (lat strain). Brendan McKay (shoulder surgery) is also out for season after having surgery to repair his labrum.

The position player side has been almost been completely unaffected outside of the delayed start of Austin Meadows due to a positive COVID-19 test.

The Current State of the Rays Rotation

Here is how the Rays rotation has been scheduled for this week, starting last Tuesday:

Blake Snell
Tyler Glasnow
Trevor Richards
Ryan Yarbrough
TBA

Charlie Morton is expected to make his return this weekend in that TBA this Saturday. With Morton slotting back into the rotation things fall back into place. It unknown how long Chirinos is expected to miss. Fortunately, the Rays had exceptional starting pitching depth.

That depth has been tested and to this point they’ve passed the test with flying colors, as the Rays lead the American League East with a 19-7 record and possess the second best record in the American League despite the injuries and a slow ramp up on offense.

Snell and Glasnow threw well this week, pitching into the sixth inning for the first time in the last two starts in New York. Both have slowly worked up their innings and pitch counts, but now look to be at full strength.

Ryan Yarbrough has been an under appreciated performer for the Rays the last two years, and continues to just pick up bulk innings with solid results.

Trevor Richards has an uninspiring 5.94 ERA in 16.2 innings, but he does what you want out of a backend starter. He picks up outs and gives you a chance to win the game.

For the time being the TBA could be Anthony Banda if Morton is not ready to roll. He doesn’t have the track record, but the stuff has looked the best it has since he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018.

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Morton’s eventual return pushes everybody back into ideal roles and gives you Banda as a depth arm. The Rays have the arms to make an opener work effectively while they get their bigger arms back.

And if the Rays are in any way uncomfortable with the rotation, there are quality prospects a phone call away, but the likelihood of them tapping their top arms is low; let’s get into why.

The Standings will dictate any moves

The Rays have been one of the hottest teams in the league over the last couple of weeks. They are currently on a six game winning streak and have won 12 of their last 13 games. This has given the Rays a lot of margin for error in this pandemic shortened season.

American League East #1: Tampa Bay Rays (17-9)
American League East #2: New York Yankees (16-9)
American League Central #1: Minnesota Twins (17-9)
American League Central #2: Cleveland Indians (16-9)
American League West #1: Oakland Athletics (18-8)
American League West #2: Houston Astros (15-10)
American League Wild Card #1: Chicago White Sox (15-11)
American League Wild Card #2: Toronto Blue Jays (12-11)

Unlike the National League playoff standings the American League standings look locked in. The Rays currently are four games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays in the race for the top 2 spots in the East and 4.5 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in a potential wild card race.

The six teams occupying the number one and two spots in the division are as most expected heading into this season. According to FanGraphs Playoff Odds all six teams have a 98.2% chance or better of making the playoffs. The Rays come in at 99.3%. The White Sox have a stranglehold for the next spot at 92.3% while the Blue Jays 52.9% is the only other team team with more than the Texas Rangers 13.8% chance.

With those odds in mind, the question I see asked most right now is what pitcher should the Rays trade for to shore up the rotation? I think the answer to this question is nobody.

Tampa Bay Rays Summer Workouts
Shane McClanahan may have to wait a while longer.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

This doesn’t mean that the Rays or any of these teams should be complacent, but any add really should have one focus: Make the team better in the playoffs.

A lot will depend on Morton’s return, and we should know a lot more within the next week and a half, but right now the only trade I think that would matter is adding a pitcher that is a real upgrade to Yarbrough or Chirinos if he returns as the fourth pitcher in a playoff rotation.

This year’s trade deadline is sure to be unique and nobody really knows how this will play out. More teams should be still in a race, but the American League looks settled for most part unlike the National League that have the Pittsburgh Pirates (0.1%), San Francisco Giants (11.6%) and Miami Marlins (13.5%) currently under the defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals 44.5%. Most of the National League still possess roughly a coin flip or better chance of making it with only the Los Angeles Dodgers (99.8%) and Chicago Cubs (96.6%) as comfortable locks.

If the Cincinatti Reds fall out of the race and decide to trade a pitcher like Trevor Bauer the Rays should absolutely inquire to what it would take to add that type of pitcher to the rotation in order to make a deep playoff run, but if the alternative is add a solid but pretty average pitcher than I think the Rays are better off not making the move. The bar should be high for any acquisition.

More injuries could happen, but the Rays do have two solid options in Shane McClanahan and Joe Ryan in case of emergency. But with the playoff odds so high, there’s no real reason to break that glass unless something catastrophic changes the equation.