ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays met the first roster deadline of the offseason on Sunday by reinstating injured pitchers Jalen Beeks, Yonny Chirinos, Colin Poche and Cody Reed from the 45-day injured list.
That left the Rays with 39 of the 40 spots on their roster filled at what is essentially the launch of the offseason with the Sunday afternoon start of free agency.
The Rays typically do their shopping later in the offseason. But after allowing starter Charlie Morton and catcher Mike Zunino to become free agents by declining teams options, they are monitoring the market closely as they have interest in re-signing both players. Both are open to returning but will listen to other offers, with nothing expected to happen quickly.
Morton’s option was $15 million and Zunino’s $4.5 million, which was what both would have made had 2020 salaries not been reduced by roughly 63 percent due to the pandemic-shortened schedule, with Morton instead making about $5.56 million and Zunino $1.67 million. Reliever Aaron Loup, who played for the prorated version of $1.65 million ($611,000), is also a free agent.
Because there is no injured list during the offseason, teams have to either put the players back on the 40-man roster or take other action.
That applies even though Beeks, Chirinos and Poche will go right back on the 60-day injured list in spring training (and come off the 40-man roster), as all had Tommy John surgery and are expected to miss most or all of 2021. Reed had a finger injury and should be ready for spring training.
Two other injured pitchers, Andrew Kittredge and Chaz Roe, were passed through waivers and became minor-league free agents, as did Oliver Drake during the playoffs. Catcher Kevan Smith is also a minor-league free agent, and catcher Michael Perez was claimed off waivers by the Pirates.
The Rays will need to do further roster trimming as they are expected to add at least two prospects, outfielder Josh Lowe and infielder Taylor Walls, to the 40-man group by the Nov. 20 deadline to protect them from being taken in the Rule 5 draft.