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What should the Rays do to enhance their postseason chances?

Tampa Bay can upgrade with a starter, reliever or hitter. Or do they need all three?
Starter Tyler Glasnow's injury has created pressing needs for the Rays as they head into the second half of the season. Times
Published Jul. 11
Updated Jul. 11

The Rays sit a half game ahead of Cleveland for the first AL Wild Card spot, but they’re 17-19 since the start of June. With injuries to starters (Tyler Glasnow), relievers (Jose Alvarado) and position players (Brandon Lowe), Tampa Bay appears to need an infusion of talent. But what area deserves the most attention? Or do they need an upgrade at all three positions? What should the Rays do to enhance their postseason chances? We convene a roundtable to get answers.

Easier said than done

Marc Topkin, Rays beat writer @TBTimes_Rays: It’s easy to say what they “need” to do - add a couple experienced lockdown relievers, a proven bat and maybe another starter. But it’s not realistic to think they’ll do all that, given the competition and acquisition cost. The key will be prioritizing their needs and identifying players who they’re pretty certain can help. And while the offense and rotation can use some help, the biggest thing they need is an experienced reliever who’s been there and done that. Two, actually.

MORE RAYS: Here's how to fix a broken team

They need to ‘close’ the deal

Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer, @EddieintheYard: There’s no question what this team needs, a bona fide closer. Here’s what we learned in June. The Rays don’t have the arms to continuously close close games, and that’s something they will unquestionably need down the stretch to get to the postseason and also to do anything of substance if they get there. Really, after watching Alvarado, Castillo and Roe all struggle, is there anyone you truly trust in a one-run game in the eighth or ninth other than Emilio Pagan? Getting back Tyler Glasnow? Getting valuable innings from Brendan McKay? Continuing to see Yonny Chirinos grow? Those are all great things, but they won’t matter if the late-inning relievers can’t seal the deal. Relievers will start to hit the market as more teams start to fall out of the race, but here are some names to chew on: Detroit’s Shane Greene, San Diego’s Kirby Yates and San Francisco’s Will Smith. They aren’t necessarily household names, but they are strikethrowers (that’s a very important word here) who have built strong track record of late-inning success. That’s what the Rays need.

Do it for the fans and be a buyer

Martin Fennelly, columnist @mjfennelly: As they ponder a double-dip half future in Montreal, the Rays need goodwill and to fulfill the social contract between this team and its town. That means being a buyer at the trade deadline. Forget starting pitching. The Yankees and Red Sox will be after that. End of story. Nor could this team add much in the way of offense, but do look into it. The bullpen needs help. It could be expensive help, as the Rays might have to look at Shane Greene of Detroit, Will Smith of San Francisco or maybe bringing back former Rays hand Alex Colome, who has been great for the White Sox. Expensive, yes, but the Rays are in it, and to help them stay in it, they could use an experienced hand out of the bullpen to help close things. This is a young team. It could use someone who won’t crack under playoff-chase pressure. Don’t underestimate what a playoff season could do to offset public perception around this team’s future, unless, of course, the Rays don’t care. Surprise us, guys.

MORE RAYS: What baseball is saying about the Montreal plan

A starter could strengthen the bullpen

Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor, @hoop4you: The bullpen started out well but appears to be wearing down. Both Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado have spent time on the IL, and the opener approach, while novel and celebrated, can take its toll when the bulk guys don’t last or the other starters leave early. With Tyler Glasnow landing on the IL, a starter could help reset the early-season order. Sure, a closer would be great but the price would be high. An innings-eating starter could alleviate some pressure and the team should be able to acquire one without giving up too many promising prospects. Given the AL teams that have fallen out of contention, surely there’s a veteran who can step in and relieve the relievers.

Get back to basics

Mike Sherman, sports editor, @mikesherman: The Rays’ record in one-run games is 7-10, which ranks 24th in baseball. Here’s a modest proposal: Turn the Thursday workout at the Trop into a back-to-basics session on base running. This is a good team that is awful on the bases. Failing to score from second on what should have been an extra-base hit. Getting picked off at first base to end a ninth-inning rally. There have been games when Rays have been thrown out for the cycle (at all four bases). We could go on. The need for more pitching is unquestioned, but sometimes the most important answers lie within.


  1. Tampa Bay Rays' Tommy Pham, right, connects for a double in front of Houston Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos, left, during a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke) MICHAEL WYKE  |  AP
    Outfielder is dealing with right hand and elbow injuries that have limited his production: :"It’s frustrating. I’ve ne
  2. Picturesque Dodger Stadium, where Rays take on Dodgers tonight. MARC TOPKIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rays visiting NL best in a YouTube only game, third visit to Dodger Stadium in seven years after none in first 15.
  3. Blake Snell on his return: “I think if (we were) 20 games out I probably wouldn’t pitch the rest of the season, honestly." CARLOS OSORIO  |  AP
    With the team in the playoff hunt, Snell’s return from injury is expedited, but Tampa Bay still expects quality innings.
  4. Rays sensation Austin Meadows, right, and teammate Willy Adames will have plenty to celebrate if the Rays can make ground in the wild-card race this week. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    The multi-step process starts with registering online for a “postseason ticket opportunity."
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Felipe Vazquez works against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Denver. Pirates All-Star closer Felipe Vazquez has been arrested on charges of pornography and soliciting a child. Vazquez was taken into custody Tuesday morning by Pennsylvania State Police on one count of computer pornography/solicitation of a child and one count of providing obscene material to minors. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File) DAVID ZALUBOWSKI  |  AP
    The girl was 13 when the relationship began, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement says.
  6. Blake Snell returns to the mound tonight in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. [AP photo]
    As part of an MLB package, select games are moved off traditional TV for viewing via mobile devices, smart TVs, laptops.
  7. The Rays' Travis d'Arnaud drives in three runs with a bases-loaded double during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels. MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ  |  AP
    Since the May trade for $100,000, d’Arnaud has been a key contributor to the Rays’ success on and off the field.
  8. Brendan McKay, shown here in July at the Trop as the Rays' DH against the Orioles, comes through with his first major-league hit on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, against the Angels. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    After winning his June debut on the mound, the rookie gets his first hit Sunday. Also, Pagan as the savior, Meadows keeps streaking.
  9. The Angels' Andrelton Simmons beats the throw to Rays catcher Mike Zunino to score on a double by Albert Pujols during the first inning on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. ALEX GALLARDO  |  AP
    On the merits of resiliency, Yarbrough’s career-high workload, Pham’s adventurous albeit not costly trip around the bases.
  10. Rays shortstop Willy Adames battles a ground ball up the middle but can't come up with the single hit by the Angels' Kevan Smith during the third inning on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. ALEX GALLARDO  |  AP
    Angels 6, Rays 4: A rough outing by Ryan Yarbrough puts Tampa Bay down early, and a late rally wasn’t enough.