At some point, the big question for the Rays — after the super-sized one on when top prospect Wander Franco will be promoted — is what starting pitcher to trade for to replace the injured Tyler Glasnow.
In the 5 ½ weeks until the July 30 deadline, the Rays have a number of questions to answer, including whether they actually need to add a starting pitcher. The answer is multi-faceted, including performance, medical, analytical and other data and projections, as well as a thorough analysis of the market. Also, some good luck.
Rays general manager Erik Neander is probably appreciative that if he had to be in this position, he has a fair amount of time to sort through it. Among the factors:
⋅ How is Michael Wacha, who got the first chance to replace Glasnow and struggled Friday, doing? Or Luis Patino, who is at Triple-A and likely next in line? Is multi-inning reliever Collin McHugh an option?
⋅ Is Chris Archer, slowing working his way back from an April elbow issue, a realistic and reliable second-half possibility? Or Brendan McKay, who threw in his first game Friday (at extended spring camp) since 2020 shoulder surgery?
⋅ How is the rest of the rotation holding up? Is Rich Hill showing his age? Can Josh Fleming keep winning his way as hitters see him more? Is Shane McClanahan sharpening his stuff and getting deeper into games?
⋅ Are any of the “next wave” pitchers at Triple-A Durham, such as Joe Ryan, Drew Strotman or even Shane Baz, viable candidates? Or more experienced options such as Dietrich Enns or David Hess?
⋅ Is Glasnow a legit possibility to return from the partial ulnar collateral ligament tear and flexor strain in September?
And that’s just some of the internal questions the Rays have to answer.
⋅ What are they looking for? A guy just to fill out the rotation for the final two months? A hired gun to start Game 1 of a playoff series? Somewhere in between?
⋅ What are they willing to give up? Are they willing to deal from their treasure trove of prospects, knowing they don’t have room for all of them? (No, Franco is not available.) Would they clear out a current regular, which also could make room for Franco, Vidal Brujan or Josh Lowe?
⋅ Are they willing to take on salary, adding to their roughly $65 million payroll given the pandemic-driven economics of the last two years? If so, just for this year, in a hired gun situation? Or would they consider an extended commitment?
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Finally, there’s this one, which is kind of important:
⋅ Who can they get?
Max Scherzer is the name you will hear plenty of chatter about because, well, he is Max Scherzer, the most been-there, done-that option available, assuming he recovers from a minor groin injury and the Nationals don’t get back in the race.
He is a free agent after the season, owed whatever’s left of his $35 million salary (about $12 million at the deadline) and likely the subject of a bidding war, which typically rules out the Rays.
Several other top free-agent-to-be starters are pitching for contending teams. Those more likely to be available, and a considerable step down, include Matthew Boyd (Tigers), ex-Ray Alex Cobb (Angels), Danny Duffy (Royals), Jon Gray (Rockies) and Michael Pineda (Twins).
Those with longer financial commitments who could be had include Jose Berrios (Twins), Kyle Gibson (Rangers), Marco Gonzales (Mariners) and ex-Ray prospect German Marquez (Rockies), with more available.
For what it’s worth, Franco, who opened June with a 14-game hitting streak (and through Friday is hitting .393 with a 1.152 OPS for the month), started three of his last five games at third base after a weeks-long run of playing just shortstop. … It’s a bit of reunion week at the Trop, with visits by longtime Rays exec Chaim Bloom, who now runs the Red Sox, and former manager Joe Maddon, who now skippers the Angels, along with Cobb. … Don’t tell reliever Ryan Thompson’s dad, Ed, but his Father’s Day gift is a ball signed by catcher Mike Zunino, who has been one of his favorite players going back to his Mariners days. … Latest mocks for the July 11 draft have the Rays using the No. 28 pick on Wright State second baseman Tyler Black (espn.com), East Carolina right-hander Gavin Williams (mlb.com) or Louisiana prep second baseman Peyton Stovall (cbssports.com). … When Fox Sports asked last week on Twitter “Who is the best team in the AL?,” The Rays tweeted back: “Literally us.” … Jim Bowden lists the Rays as buyers in his trade preview for the Athletic but says they “simply” should just call up their top prospects “who quite frankly are even more talented than the players Tampa Bay is starting in the majors.” … Maddon on Friday is being inducted into the Sports Club of Tampa Bay Hall of Fame. … An mlb.com projection of the 2026 AL All-Star team has Brujan starting at second base and Franco at third. … Reliever Colby White moved up a step to Bowling Green after working 16 1/3 innings over 11 games without an earned run at Low-A Charleston, allowing eight hits and one walk while striking out 36 (of 60 batters faced). ... Jose Cruz Jr., who spent 2004 in the Rays’ outfield, returned to his alma mater, Rice, as head coach. … Ex-Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr. is back in the majors with the Dodgers.
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