ST. PETERSBURG — Though no games are being played today on what would have been opening day, there is some baseball business being conducted.
As other teams have done this week, the Rays on Thursday optioned seven players to the minors: pitchers Anthony Banda, Brendan McKay and Trevor Richards; and position players Randy Arozarena, Mike Brosseau, Nate Lowe and Brian O’Grady.
The moves, reducing the “active” 40-man roster to 28, were essentially procedural, and pretty much at the direction of the league.
“We were basically very much encouraged by Major League Baseball to somehow trim our roster down, get it as close to what would have been an opening day roster (of 26),” manager Kevin Cash said.
But there are some ramifications, and could be more pending terms of a soon-expected agreement between the league and players union on pay, service time and other financial and contractual issues stemming from the coronavirus pandemic delay to the season.
If a player optioned to the minors gets hurt, he would go on the minor-league injured list whenever play resumes, meaning he would get paid based on his minor-league salary and doesn’t get major-league service time.
Cash said the phone calls to the players Thursday were difficult to make given the circumstances.
“Every single one of them, they’re tough,” Cash said. “To be honest, the timing of it was tougher, maybe as tough as any roster decisions we’ve made because it kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth with what we’re all experiencing and going through right now.”
Cash said his understanding was that there would soon be a league-wide roster freeze, but there was a possibility that when play resumes, rosters would be expanded beyond 26 and if so the players optioned Thursday “will have the opportunity to come back join us.”
If that is the case, that could mean the players would not have to serve the required 10 days (for position players) and 15 days (for pitchers) in the minors.
None of the seven players seemed likely to make the 26-man opening day roster barring additional injury issues, though McKay and Brosseau would have been in the conversation. Cash said all seven players sent down "could certainly impact us at any given point in the season, whether that’s opening day, whether that’s 15 days in, that’s to be determined.''
McKay, who was set back slightly due to some shoulder soreness early in spring training, could have been an option if Blake Snell wasn’t ready to pitch during the first week of the season due to his elbow issue. And Brosseau seemed a candidate, along with Daniel Robertson, for a final roster spot if the Rays opted to open the season with 14 position players (and 12 pitchers).
Cash noted that Arozarena and O’Grady, both offseason additions, “were really impressive” during camp.
With Thursday’s moves, here is what the Rays’ roster looks like, with the non-roster players, such as reliever Aaron Loup, who had a good chance to make the team, re-assigned to the minors: