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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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. The Rays wrap up their series with the Angels today at picturesque Angel Stadium in Anaheim. MARC TOPKIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Tommy Pham is hitting leadoff as the Rays go with six righty hitters vs. Angels lefty Sandoval.
  5. From left, Tampa Bay Rays' Joey Wendle, Austin Meadows and Ji-Man Choi meet at home plate after all three were driven in by a bases-loaded double from Travis d'Arnaud during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ  |  AP
    Rays 3, Angels 1: Glasnow’s solid start, and six strong innings from the bullpen are enough as Rays open lead over Indians.
  6. Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jalen Beeks, left, and Johnny Davis congratulate each other after the Rays defeated the Los Angeles Angels 11-4 in a baseball game Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) MARK J. TERRILL  |  AP
    He shows off that elite speed Friday with a triple for his first hit, then some pent-up emotion afterward.
  7. Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) celebrates in the dugout after scoring on a single from Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Daniel Robertson (28) at the bottom of the eighth inning against Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, Sept. 07, 2019 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.   ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    Tyler Glasnow will be on the mound for his second outing since an extended injured list stint.
  8. Tampa Bay Rays' Austin Meadows, right, is greeted in the dugout after a two-run home run against the Texas Rangers during the eighth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. RICHARD W. RODRIGUEZ  |  AP
    Fred McGriff should be at the top, but there is an interesting list that Austin Meadows is already making a case to join.
  9. For several weeks, Rays manager Kevin Cash has had to look over his shoulder to see whether the Indians or Athletics have been gaining in the American League wild card race. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Rays, Indians and A’s are all projected to win 94 or more games. In the past quarter-century, only one team has won that much and failed to make the playoffs.
  10. Tampa Bay Rays' Austin Meadows, right, gets a hug from Willy Adames after hitting a two-run home run during the third inning of the team's baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) MARK J. TERRILL  |  AP
    Four Rays hit homers, headlined by Austin Meadows’ 30th, as Charlie Morton earns his 15th win.