The Tampa Bay Rays’ rotation without Blake Snell

Oct 27, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) is taken out of the game during the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgersduring game six of the 2020 World Series at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 27, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) is taken out of the game during the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgersduring game six of the 2020 World Series at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Tampa Bay Rays have options to fill the hole in their rotation in the wake of Blake Snel’s departure.

So the Tampa Bay Rays are at it again.

For the sixth time in less than a decade, the Rays have traded away their ace starter because he cost too much to keep.

This time it was Blake Snell, who went to the San Diego Padres for a couple of minor leaguers. In 2011 it was Matt Garza, shipped to the Cubs for Chris Archer. In 2013, it was James Shields to the Royals. In 2014 it was David Price to the Tigers. After the 2017 season, it was Jake Odorizzi to the Twins. In 2018 Archer was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

That’s the way things work in Tampa: Become the staff leader and pack your bags.

The funny thing is that the deals tend to work out to Tampa Bay’s at least modest advantage. The Garza deal netted Archer, who at least for a while became a staff ace. Price returned Willy Adames, shortstop of the pennant-winning Rays in 2020. The trade of Shields brought in Odorizzi, who led Tampa in victories in 2016. The Archer deal returned Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow, left fielder and pitcher respectively for the 2020 champs.

Only the Odorizzi deal truly busted.

More Rays. Kiermaier may be next to go. light

If Rays fans are feeling glummer about the Snell trade, it’s because the club reached the AL pinnacle with him as the staff leader. Since October, the fall has appeared to be perilous and possibly precipitous. Not only is Snell gone, but Charlie Morton left via free agency.

The result, approaching 2021, is a Rays staff with as many question marks as proven commodities.

Precisely how the Tampa Bay Rays plan to approach fleshing out their 2021 rotation is obviously yet to be determined. But they have lots of options. Their present 40-man roster includes a dozen pitchers who made at least one start in either 2019 or 2020.  Three – Glasnow, Ryan Yarbrough, and Michael Wacha – who was signed 10 days ago as a free agent – appear destined for regular rotation duty.

That leaves two starting spots open – probably more given how teams are discussing spreading out the workload in a post-Covid season. But again, the Rays have plenty of candidates already on hand. The only questions are which ones develop, and which they prefer to reserve for their well-used bullpen.

Alphabetically, here’s a two-sentence scouting report on those options.

Jalen Beeks: Beeks was a spot starter in 2019 who converted to a full-time bullpen role in 2020 before sustaining an elbow strain in his pitching arm. He was re-activated over the off-season, but seems likely to be consigned again to bullpen duties at least until he proves his arm healthy, and possibly indefinitely.

Diego Castillo: Like Beeks, Castillo made six starts I 2019 then spent all of 2020 in the pen. He saved four of his 22 appearances and at this stage is probably viewed as too valuable a late innings specialist to be moved into the rotation.

Yonny Chirinos: Chirinos had a 2.38 ERA in three 2020 starts before going down, also to an elbow strain. Like Beeks, he was re-activated over the off-season but probably will have to prove his elbow is back to health in spring training before being entrusted with a significant workload.

Pete Fairbanks: Used mostly in relief, but given two chances to work as an ‘opener’ in 2020, Fairbanks is likely to fill the ‘innings eater’ role in 2021. He was 6-3 in 27 innings in 2020.

Josh Fleming: A 2020 rookie, Fleming made five of his seven appearances as a starter, compiling a 5-0 record and 2.78 ERA. As such he enters 2020 as probably the leading candidate to join the rotation, possibly following in the steps of Price, Snell, Shields, and Garza.

Brendan McKay: McKay made 13 appearances in 2019, 11 of them in a starting role, although his 2-4 record and 5.14 ERA were not good enough to get him out of the Rays’ alternate site camp in 2020.  He will enter 2021 with the opportunity to compete for a starting role, but also with the knowledge that the onus is on him to establish his ability.

Luis Patino: Patino, one of the four acquisitions in the Snell deal, was 1-0 with a 5.19 ERA in 11 appearances, one of them a start.  Sources project him as a serious rotation option for the Rays in 2020.

Trevor Richards: Richards was winless with a 5.91 ERA in nine appearances, four of them starts, in 2020. The one thing he has going for him is experience: Over his three major league seasons, he has started 52 games.

Next. Three questions following Blake Snell trade. dark

Ryan Thompson: A rookie in 2020, Thompson was used mostly in relief, and sufficiently proved his value there that he’s likely not a rotation option. He made one 2020 start, that coming in an ‘opener’ role against the Yankees Aug. 8.