The Rays have finalized the 26-man roster, pending no further injuries between now and Opening Day on Thursday afternoon — Wander Franco has had some quad tightness this spring after returning from the World Baseball Classic, but is seemingly good to go.
Most of the Rays roster was not a legacy throughout camp, thanks to minimal turnover this Spring.
From the starting roster, Tampa Bay saw RHP Corey Kluber, OF Kevin Kiermaier, C Mike Zunino, and OF/DH David Peralta depart via free agency, Ji-Man Choi traded to the Pirates, and familiar relievers Brooks Raley, JT Chargois and JP Feyereisen shipped out to the Mets, Marlins and Dodgers, respectively. The team also cut Ryan Yarbrough (who was dropped from the rotation late last season, he landed on the Royals roster) and Nick Anderson (Braves).
Many of those names above were injured or ineffective by year end, but the five key departures were Kluber, Choi, Peralta, Raley, and Yarbrough, and the Rays added very little to make up for all of these losses: one starter via free agency, and one reliever via trade.
Headlining the off-season, RHP Zach Eflin was signed to replace Kluber fresh off a deep post season run, and would slot into No. 3 overall in the rotation if Glasnow had stayed away from injury. Instead up-and-down arm LHP Josh Fleming won the open slot out of camp, pushing Eflin into the Rays second game of the season on Saturday.
After that, there were eight players left in camp competing for the final four roster spots, a competition neatly split among four position players for two bench spots and four relief arms for two bullpen slots.
On the position player side the competition was down to DH Jonathan Aranda, UTIL Vidal Brujan, OF Josh Lowe, and 1B/OF Luke Raley.
Bucking the trend, given the team’s previous roster construction prioritizing switch hitters and utility gloves, the Rays went with the hottest bats in Spring Training, bolstering the outfield depth by selecting Lowe, who exceeded his rookie limits in 2022 and was on last year’s OD roster, and the out-of-options Raley, who has been adding a first base glove to his bag.
On the pitching side the battle was between minor league free agent RHP Kyle Crick, young RHP Calvin Faucher, journeyman RHP Trevor Kelley, and Rule 5 selection RHP Kevin Kelly.
The winners from that group were Faucher and Kelly, and it’s not difficult to see why. Faucher exceeded rookie limits in 2022 but struggled to throw his big stuff for strikes last season; this spring Kevin Cash called Faucher’s strike throwing “elite.” Kelly, on the other hand, was acquired via the Rule 5 draft and must be maintained on the Rays starting roster or otherwise be returned to the Guardians; the Rays like the diversity his over-the-top arm angle brings to the bullpen.
Crick worked to expand his repertoire this off-season but had stuff a bit too close to entrenched reliever Ryan Thompson to crack the Opening Day roster. He has since elected free agency but could return to the Rays organization on a new deal. Kelley was a minor league free agent signing from Milwaukee and added as quickly as possible to the Rays 40-man roster, but had an option remaining on his rookie deal, so he’ll head to Durham to start the season, and will likely be the first name called upon for the shuttle.
Catchers (2): Christian Bethancourt, Francisco Mejía
Infielders (5): Yandy Díaz, Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe, Isaac Paredes, Taylor Walls
Outfielders (5): Randy Arozarena, Josh Lowe, Manuel Margot, Luke Raley, Jose Siri
Designated Hitter (1): Harold Ramírez
Starting Pitchers (5): Shane McClanahan, Zach Eflin, Drew Rasmussen, Jeffrey Springs, Josh Fleming
Relief Pitchers (8): Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Garrett Cleavinger, Pete Fairbanks, Calvin Faucher, Kevin Kelly, Colin Poche, Ryan Thompson
Injured (4): Shawn Armstrong, Shane Baz, Tyler Glasnow, Andrew Kittredge