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Rays sign David McKay to a minor league deal

A look into a new relief option for Tampa Bay

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays have signed right-handed reliever David McKay to a minor league deal, with an invite to big league spring training.

McKay is a 26-year-old reliever who has thrown 26.2 innings in the big leagues with both the Seattle Mariners and the Detroit Tigers. According to Topkin, McKay underwent hip surgery in April of 2021 which caused him to miss the entirety of that season. He is expected to be fully healthy for the 2022 season.

In his major league career, McKay owns a strong 28.8 K%, but a not-so-great 15.3 BB%. His career 6.08 ERA is not the prettiest figure, either. McKay has also posted high strikeout and walk totals over his last few minor league seasons, which speaks to a loud—yet sometimes uncontrollable—arsenal that he possesses.

About that arsenal: McKay has a pretty straightforward fastball and breaking ball mix, with the breaking ball being his real standout pitch. Baseball Savant classifies the pitch as a curveball, but it has such great horizontal movement you could argue it’s really a slider. In 2019, batters hit just .154 with a 35.7 K% against the pitch.

Only three other curveballs swept horizontally as much as McKay’s did in 2019, and the pitch’s movement and velocity looks awfully similar to former Ray Charlie Morton’s breaking ball. Here it is in action sweeping away from a hitter:

Earlier in the offseason I observed that the Rays have been borderline obsessing over acquiring breaking balls that have this shape, and wrote about it here. New Rays signings Corey Kluber and Brooks Raley also have breaking balls with extreme horizontal movement.

While the curveball is his bread and butter, McKay’s fastball is nothing to sneeze at either. Once again, Baseball Savant may not be classifying the pitch correctly, as his fastball’s movement looks more like a 4-seamer than a sinker to the eye test.

The pitch doesn’t have super-unique qualities, but it does a little bit of everything. He can throw it in the mid-90’s, it has decent vertical movement, and he throws from a low-ish arm slot which helps fastballs play better at the top of the zone. Here he is blowing 96 mph past Kevin Kiermaier:

Over the past few years, the Rays have acquired a number of fastball/slider depth arms and many of them ended up contributing to the big league team. Louis Head is a good example of this, and McKay’s pitch mix is quite similar to what Head showed last year.

Like many arms before McKay, hopefully the Rays are able to help him hone in his command of his solid arsenal of pitches. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him up with the club in the dog days of summer providing value to the ever so flexible Rays pitching staff.