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Looking at options to fill the open rotation spot for the Rays

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There are several different routes the Rays could take

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

With the Rays having traded Blake Snell, the team is now in need of starting pitching and has some money to spend. With a few recent trades and free agent signings, the FA market seems like it may get hot soon. It will be fun to find out which starting pitchers are left in the FA market.

Let’s take a look at some of the Rays options.

(note : All the numbers shown below are the sum of the last two years.)

Good SPs, but maybe expensive

Free Agent SP Comp 1 (2019-20 stats)

Name Age K% BB% K-BB% FIP EV Barrel% IP vFA MLBTR Fangraphs
Name Age K% BB% K-BB% FIP EV Barrel% IP vFA MLBTR Fangraphs
James Paxton 32.3 29% 9% 21% 3.92 89.4 7% 171.0 95.5 1 year - $10MM 1 year - $15MM
Jake Odorizzi 30.8 27% 8% 19% 3.58 89.3 8% 172.2 93.1 3 year - $39MM 1 year - $12MM

Yeah, I like Paxton a lot. He would be as good as Snell in 2021. He has Snell-type stuff and accomplishment. In his recent three most recent seasons, his total fWAR is 7.5 (Snell 7.9).

Paxton does come with some injury concerns. For comparison, his four-year accumulative inning is same with Snell. And his injury history makes him more likely to be satisfied with the one-year deal which is what the Rays want. I believe he would be a perfect replacement for Snell.

Odorizzi is also good. But he is younger and seems to seek a multi-year deal. If not, he would be another interesting option to replace Snell.

The question is whether the Rays can afford their price. Something in the $10-12 million range doesn’t seem like a whole lot for pitchers of their quality, but for the Rays, that’s a significant number. It’s not going to be easy in general. It is hard to predict the contract amount of an injured SP in this year’s weird market situation. So, I expect to see unexpected good news.

My suggestion: James Paxton

We are the Rays—let’s make a bargain deal

Free Agent SP Comp 2 (2019-20 stats)

Name Age K% BB% K-BB% FIP EV Barrel% IP vFA MLBTR Fangraphs
Name Age K% BB% K-BB% FIP EV Barrel% IP vFA MLBTR Fangraphs
Taijuan Walker 28.4 22% 8% 14% 4.50 88.4 7% 54.1 93.5 2 year - $16MM 2 year - $19MM
Garrett Richards 32.6 22% 9% 13% 4.49 89.7 9% 60.0 95.1 2 year - $16MM 1 year - $7MM
Chris Archer 32.3 27% 11% 17% 5.02 89.4 10% 119.2 94.3 1 year - $4MM 1 year - $7MM
Matt Shoemaker 34.3 22% 8% 14% 4.95 88.4 10% 57.1 91.7 -- 1 year - $8MM
Rich Hill 40.8 26% 9% 17% 4.06 86.8 7% 97.1 89.8 -- --
Tyler Chatwood 31.1 24% 11% 13% 4.10 88.2 4% 95.1 96.2 -- --

These pitchers have their own strengths: Walker’s youth; Richards and Archer and Hill’s good four-seam and breaking ball combos; Shoemaker’s pitch mix; and Chatwood’s moving fastball that induces weak contact. The downside is that they pitched only throw limited innings. Among them, Archer is the only pitcher who has pitched more than 100 innings in the past two years.

But would that be a problem? Snell didn’t throw many innings for the Rays too, and finding a pitcher who can throw many innings effectively is very difficult and pricey. (See section one.) The defense and wise use of the Rays can make them better pitchers.

My suggestion: Garrett Richards

I think only Richards and Archer have a front-liner type stuff among them. I know the Rays have had a conversation with Archer already. But, Richards showed good performance in 2020. He pitched three 6+ IP games and two of them came against playoff teams (OAK, LAD) and he seems to have regained his stuff after Tommy John surgery in 2018.

How important are innings?

Free Agent SP Comp 3 (2019-20 stats)

Name Age K% BB% K-BB% FIP EV Barrel% IP vFA MLBTR Fangraphs
Name Age K% BB% K-BB% FIP EV Barrel% IP vFA MLBTR Fangraphs
Masahiro Tanaka 32.2 20% 5% 15% 4.30 89.0 7% 230.0 91.1 3 year - $39MM 2 year - $30MM
Jose Quintana 31.9 21% 6% 15% 3.75 90.3 6% 181.0 91.6 2 year - $18MM 1 year - $11MM
Rick Porcello 32.0 19% 6% 13% 4.40 88.1 8% 233.1 91.3 1 year - %5MM 1 year - $8MM
Martin Perez 29.8 17% 7% 10% 4.72 86.2 6% 227.1 94.0 -- --

Tanaka’s numbers in the AL East have been quite good. Quintana is a durable pitcher. Porcello is a pitcher who has thrown 2000+ innings in his career. Perez is relatively young and can induce a weak contact. They each have their own strength, but their overall stuff is not impressive.

The Rays may want to get an inning-eater type pitcher because, they’ve lost the only two pitchers who’s thrown more than 162 innings in the last two years (Snell and Morton). But, in my opinion, these pitchers may be pitchers who have thrown too many innings against their abilities. So if the Rays limit pitch innings that fit their abilities, they may become better pitchers.

My suggestion : Rick Porcello

Porcello, in particular, shows extremely strong numbers the first two times through the order. Here’s how he stacks out with some familiar names in terms of two-times through the order FIP:

Glasnow 3.23

Yarbrough 3.36

Snell 3.45

Porcello 3.84

Most Rays starting pitchers FIP have been good the first two times through the order. Porcello’s number has been not bad at all. But his third and fourth time through the order FIP (6.04) has been worst among league SPs. (note: recent signing Michael Wacha’s number is even worse: 6.13.) So, I assume that the Rays can turn Porcello to a better pitcher knowing this information.

Honorable mention

In other article, I introduced four Asian league starting pitchers who wants to play in the big league. Arihara gets a contract from the Rangers and Sugano returned to his own country. A Korean pitcher Yang seems to have a trouble to find a decent contract. And I suggested Matt Moore would be an interesting option.

I’m less sure about Moore than the pitchers I mentioned. But if they find a pitcher who can throw well for two months or so for McKay, Honeywell, and Patino’s refining time at minor leagues. Moore could be a good option. If the Rays young starters prove they are ready in 2021, he could also make an interesting late-inning piece.

What do you all make of the market?