MLB: Ross Atkins clear head of AL East general managers

Jul 2, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Francisco Mejia (28) misses the tag as Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Marcus Semien (10) is safe at home plate during the second inning at Sahlen Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 2, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Francisco Mejia (28) misses the tag as Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Marcus Semien (10) is safe at home plate during the second inning at Sahlen Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /
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Tampa Bay’s Collin McHugh. Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay’s Collin McHugh. Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

Tampa Bay Rays, Erik Neander, -2.1 games

Since the conclusion of the 2020 MLB season, Neander has basically preoccupied himself with ways to economically improve the state of the Rays pitching. Given that the Rays were second in ERA and third in fewest runs allowed in 2020, it was an interesting approach.

The data is clear on the approach. Neander has infused 18 new faces into the Rays picture since the end of 2020, all but four of whom were pitchers. The departure numbers are less one-sided: eight pitchers gone, seven non-pitchers. That puts the overall numbers at 33 personnel moves, two-thirds of them involving the addition or subtraction of an arm.

Who were those arms? Chris Archer for one. Signed as a free agent in February, Archer (-0.2) has been a functional non-entity, appearing in just two games before succumbing to injuries.

The most impactful mound moves involved a pair of lesser-knowns. Collin McHugh (+0.7), who sat out 2020, has appeared mostly in relief. He has a 1.77 ERA.

Reliever J.P. Feyereisen (+0.6) came over in May along with Drew Rasmussen (-0.2) as the return on the trade of Willy Adames (+1.4) to Milwaukee. As well as Feyereisen has performed, 4-1, 1.47 in 17 appearances, the deal still swings to Milwaukee by a margin of 1.0 games because of what Adames has meant to the Brewers.

From a publicity standpoint, Neander’s biggest callup was obviously shortstop Wander Franco (+0.3), who debuted in June. But from a performance standpoint, to date, anyway, the most productive callup has been the shortstop Franco replaced, Taylor Walls (+0.9). Playing now as Franco’s backup, Walls has the better batting average and better power numbers.