The Rays have signed right-hander David McKay to a minor league deal with an invite big league camp, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter). McKay was eligible to sign during the lockout because he was outrighted by the Tigers in 2020 and hadn’t signed with another club until now.
McKay made his MLB debut in 2019 with the Mariners, logging seven innings before being claimed on waivers by the Tigers and throwing 19 1/3 innings for them. He ended that season with 26 1/3 innings and an ERA of 5.47 between the two clubs. His 14.8% walk rate was certainly not pretty, but he also struck out batters at a clip of 29.6%, well above that year’s league average of 23%. He also added 45 2/3 Triple-A innings that year between the two organizations, putting up a 4.93 ERA and a terrific 37% strikeout rate, though with the concerning walk rate still present at 14.9%.
In 2020, McKay was limited a one unfortunate outing in Detroit’s Opening Day game, which was in late July because of the pandemic delay. He recorded one out before allowing a walk and a homer and then getting pulled. The Tigers optioned him a couple of days later and, with the pandemic wiping out the minors, he wasn’t able to pitch in organized games again. The club designated him for assignment in September.
As noted by Topkin, the righty underwent hip surgery in April of last year, which has kept him out of action since then. In a column about the signing, Topkin adds that McKay has recently been “hitting 96 mph with his fastball and spinning his slider effectively.” The Rays have developed a reputation for building their pitching staff by finding hidden gems and turning them into fearsome weapons. With McKay already showing a sensational ability to rack up strikeouts, the club will just need to improve his control in order for him to be their next successful reclamation project. McKay will turn 27 years old in March, has less than a year of service time under his belt and has an option year remaining, making him a good fit for Tampa’s style of cycling through a large number of cheap and optionable bullpen arms.