2:57pm: Alvarado is back in the United States, Toribio reports (via Twitter). The left-hander will get some work in at the Rays’ Single-A affiliate to ramp up in preparation for his return to the majors.
2:01pm: Before Edwin Encarnacion was dealt to the Yankees last night, the Rays were also in talks with the Mariners about the slugger, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports (Twitter link). As is so often the case for Tampa Bay, however, payroll was a factor, as the “Yankees were in better position to absorb” a larger portion of Encarnacion’s contract. Ironically, the Rays are already paying a chunk of Encarnacion’s $20MM salary for the 2019 season — as per the terms of the Rays/Mariners/Indians three-team deal in December, Tampa is covering $5MM of the money owed to Encarnacion.
Taking on more salary apparently wasn’t feasible for the Rays, especially given that Seattle is trying to cut as much payroll as possible. While checking in on a player of Encarnacion’s caliber, or checking with a rebuilding team like the Mariners, is just good due diligence for any team, the Rays’ interest could hint at the team’s intentions heading towards the trade deadline. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears from a club official that the Rays will be “in on everybody” leading up to July 31, leading to a wealth of interesting options given how much minor league talent Tampa has on offer, or how much the team is willing to even modestly expend its salary commitments.
For instance, Topkin cites former Ray and current Padres closer Kirby Yates as “a potential bullpen trade target.” We’ve already heard that San Diego would basically need to be blown away to move Yates, and that’s assuming they become deadline sellers at all given that the team is still alive in the NL wild card race. A pitcher like Yates fits the Rays’ model, however, as he is only owed around $1.4MM for the remainder of this season and is also arbitration-controlled through 2020.
The bullpen seems to be Tampa Bay’s “top need,” Topkin writes, though he also (more hypothetically) suggests that the Rays could even explore a blockbuster position player addition like Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. Needless to say, that type of a trade would be a longer shot, though it suggests just how open the Rays are to all options as they push to win the AL East.
In regards to the pen, the Rays should theoretically be in line for some internal help once Jose Alvarado returns from the restricted list. However, MLB.com’s Juan Toribio (Twitter link) reports that “there is still no timetable for” when Alvarado would potentially rejoin the club. The left-hander originally went on the family medical emergency list back on June 2, though since that leave period has a maximum of seven days, the Rays moved Alvarado to the restricted list a week later.
Details are scarce, which isn’t unusual given the personal nature of the situation, though the longer Alvarado is out, the more it could enhance Tampa’s need for relief help, particularly from the left side. Alvarado has a troubling 6.2 BB/9 this season, yet despite that shaky control, still has a 3.09 ERA and 12.3 K/9 over 23 1/3 innings this season.