Thursday, May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Surplus of starting pitchers pays off for Tampa Bay Rays

So this is why the Rays didn't trade a starting pitcher in the offseason.

Here it is in September. They're in the midst of heated races for the American League East title and the two wild-card spots. Two of their top four projected starters (David Price, Jeff Niemann) are down.

And they still feel pretty, pretty good about things.

Over the winter, the general consensus, especially after they pretty much guaranteed left-hander Matt Moore would be in the rotation by signing him to a long-term deal, was that the Rays absolutely, positively had to trade one of their other starters.

James Shields. Or Niemann. Or Wade Davis. Or Alex Cobb. Or prospect Chris Archer.

And, executive VP Andrew Friedman admits, it's not like they wouldn't have made a deal had the right situation presented itself.

"If something (had) lined up that made us a better team, we would have done it," he said.

But there was a reason they had a high bar and didn't just make a trade because they could.

And that's what you're seeing now, with Cobb taking over tremendously well when Niemann went out in mid May (and is out again), and Archer stepping in for Price (who supposedly will miss only one start with shoulder soreness) and potentially to make another spot start or two as they try to best manipulate their rotation and monitor Cobb's workload, and Davis turning into an increasingly impressive weapon out of the bullpen.

"We would never operate under the directive that we have to do something, really on anything," Friedman said. "No matter if we ended up needing this depth or not, it's one of those things in December, January, February you can really only play the percentages.

"It would have been great if we could have gotten through a season without needing to use any of our depth. It's unlikely that happens."

And even more reason to hang on to what you have.

"Especially in pitching," Friedman said. "It's different if you have two first basemen. It's not the same as having seven starters."

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