In an abrupt and unexpected announcement, the Tampa Bay Rays revealed on Thursday that outfielder Colby Rasmus has decided to “step away” from the game of baseball. Marc Tompkin of the Tampa Bay Times also reports that Rasmus is not expected to return in 2017.
Rasmus, who signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays this offseason, had been productive until he was slowed by a hip injury in mid-June. Prior to landing on the disabled list (DL), he was hitting .281/.318/.579/.896 with nine home runs, 23 RBI and one stolen base.
The 30-year-old Rasmus has been placed on the Rays’ restricted list.
In 2014, Colby’s brother Casey also unexpectedly retired from baseball at the age of 24.
Highly touted prospect Brendan McKay is headed to the Tampa Bay Rays — potentially as a first baseman.
McKay doubles as a slugging first baseman and a left-handed pitcher for the Louisville Cardinals, and there had been some dispute as to what position he’d play professionally. When MLB announced the pick, they called McKay as a first baseman.
While it’s unclear if that was an indication of the Rays’ intent for how they will use the talented player, it seems as if McKay’s first chance to make it will be as a hitter.
McKay has a 2.15 ERA over three years at Louisville, racking up 385 strikeouts in 310.1 innings with a high-octane fastball. It’s easy to see why pitching would be a tempting path. But the bat plays — he’s hitting .343 with 17 home runs in 2017, including a four-homer performance back in April.
UPDATE: It turns out the Rays will let McKay go both ways for now.
If you want to win the World Series, you almost definitely need a strong pitching staff. A good rotation can keep teams in the game even if their offense flounders, and a strong bullpen can close out leads and give teams the chance to come back if they’re trailing.
With that in mind, here is a list of the ten best overall pitching staffs in Major League Baseball.
10. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are a middling offensive team, but they’re hovering around .500 thanks in large part to a very strong start to the season by their pitching staff. They have the third-best ERA in the American League and four starters with ERAs under 4.
Jake Odorizzi has been a surprise leader of the staff with a 3.14 ERA, and Matt Andriese has impressed with five wins and a 3.24 ERA. Chris Archer has predictably rebounded from a down 2016, and perhaps most importantly, Alex Cobb has come back from Tommy John surgery to give the Rays a valuable lift.
The bullpen has also been strong. Closer Alex Colome looks to be the real deal, while Chase Whitley has been a big surprise with a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings. There is no standout superstar on this staff, but a collection of solid arms have combined to make a good pitching staff thus far.
9. Arizona Diamondbacks
Every year in baseball, there are a few teams that perform better than many observers would have expected them to. That doesn’t necessarily mean they go from worst to first or jump into the postseason. Some cellar-dwellers take a huge leap forward to respectability and put themselves in contention for playoff spots in years to come, while others see it all come together and surge into the postseason.
Here are five teams with varying levels of expectations who may end up impressing in 2017.
5) Atlanta Braves
Sometimes a decent indicator of how a team is progressing is to look at how they finished the previous season. On the surface, the Braves were an unremarkable 68-93 team that finished last in the NL East. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll see that their record from Aug. 1 until the end of the season was a much-improved 31-25.
Savvy moves from their front office have given them a good base of young talent to work with, with former No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson leading the charge. Swanson joins a core of talented players either entering or already in their prime, with Ender Inciarte, Freddie Freeman, and Julio Teheran forming a strong core.
The approach Atlanta has taken for 2017 is augmenting that talent with veteran players while they wait for other young guys to realize their potential. They’ve brought in two forty-something pitchers in R.A. Dickey and the iconic Bartolo Colon, and while neither will give them ace-level production, they’ll get innings from both. Brandon Phillips isn’t the second baseman he once was, but he’s still a solid veteran hitter who will provide an upgrade. Add in Matt Kemp, who hit .280 with 12 home runs in 56 games and looked revitalized after his trade from San Diego, and Atlanta does have some talent.
A playoff appearance would likely be asking too much, but don’t be surprised if the Braves flirt with .500.
4) Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays have made a formal offer to free agent catcher Matt Wieters, according to a report.
According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays have made an offer to Wieters, likely for one year and less money than the player was originally seeking. The hope is that Wieters would be interested in staying in the AL East, can stay close to his Atlanta home, reap Florida’s tax benefits, and work with a solid pitching staff. With spring training already underway, there is also some hope he will be more eager to take the offer, even if it is not what he originally envisioned.
That said, Wieters is a Scott Boras client, and the agent may have other thoughts. There’s also interest from other teams, although the lack of formal offers might be disconcerting to him.
The Rays make sense for Wieters if he’s willing to play out a year and take a little less money. It is quite late in the process for him to get what he really would have wanted.
The Tampa Bay Rays will look at a lot of different ways to get better this winter, but trading Evan Longoria does not sound like it will be one of them.
According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays are willing to listen to offers for a number of players, but Longoria is not one of them. The team is said to be uninterested in moving him after a year in which he hit .273 with 36 homers.
A big factor is that Longoria remains remarkably valuable contract-wise. His 6 year, $99 million deal is well below what market value would dictate he’d get if he were a free agent today.
It’s far more likely that the Rays deal a pitcher, as they were rumored to be doing last summer. They have a surplus of good options there and may look to take advantage of that depth.
Despite their acquisition of Rich Hill, the Los Angeles Dodgers are still eyeing more rotation upgrades.
According to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, the Dodgers are still in on Tampa Bay Rays starters, though without the same sense of urgency.
With Hill in the fold, the Dodgers no longer have to go all out to make a deal. They have been linked to this Rays ace, and they still have the prospects to do it. That said, their sense of urgency is probably less than it was before the Hill trade, and they can play hardball if they are quoted a price they don’t like.
The Texas Rangers need starting pitching, and they’re eyeing the Tampa Bay Rays as a possible trade partner.
Matt Moore is a name high on Texas’s list, but Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly are also reportedly on Texas’s radar.
The Rays have a whole lot of young, controllable starting pitching. Odorizzi is just 26 and under team control through 2019. Smyly turned 27 in June and is controllable through 2018. Moore is 27 as well and signed to a team-friendly contract through 2019. Any deal for any of the pitchers would be an investment for the long term as well, though all three pitchers have had their share of struggles in 2016.
Texas is aggressively pursuing pitching help, and they were reportedly in on another starter who has since been moved to another team. They’ll almost certainly add an arm before the August 1 trade deadline.
The Tampa Bay Rays are reportedly open to turning back the clock.
According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays would at least be willing to discuss bringing back former outfielder Carl Crawford if he were interested in joining the team.
Crawford was recently released by the Dodgers and is available for a league minimum salary. He was hitting just .185 in 2016, and at age 34, his best days are almost certainly behind him, even if he does return to the place where it all started. Crawford played for Tampa Bay from 2002 through 2010, and he was one of the franchise’s first and brightest stars. He even helped them to two playoff appearances and a World Series berth. He probably wouldn’t offer much on the field, but the Rays could use outfield depth, and it would be a nice reunion of sorts.
It’s not clear who else, if anyone, would be interested in Crawford’s services. We can safely rule out one team as a possible destination, though.
The Tampa Bay Rays suspect the Chicago Cubs may have tampered with manager Joe Maddon, and they could pursue charges, according to a report.
Maddon surprisingly opted out of his contract with the Rays on Oct. 23, not long after being informed by the team that he had a 14-day window to opt out thanks to executive Andrew Friedman leaving for the Dodgers. Though Maddon expressed strong interest in returning to the team, less than a week later, reports said he was being hired by the Cubs, who are expected to make the announcement official on Monday.
The Rays are suspicious over the seemingly sudden change in heart by Maddon and may pursue tampering charges, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Here’s what Marc Topkin writes:
The gist of the Rays’ issue is the feeling that the Cubs reached out to Maddon (or his agent reached out to the Cubs) sometime after it was known that exec VP Andrew Friedman was leaving, which opened a 14-day window for Maddon to opt out. Maddon spoke strongly about wanting to stay on Oct. 14 when Friedman’s departure was announced. In short, the Rays believe something changed before Maddon finalized his opt-out Oct. 23.
Maddon publicly said he and the Rays were in a financial disagreement over his future, which is believable given the financial constraints Tampa Bay faces. But it’s awfully fishy that a deal between Maddon and the Rays came together so quickly after he opted out.
It’s like dating: many people only break up with their current companion when they have someone else lined up next.