It’s the latest in a staggering series of significant injuries for the former #4 overall pick. McKay hasn’t thrown a single major league pitch since 2019, as he’s been plagued by an almost unfathomable string of bad luck. He missed the shortened 2020 season on account of a shoulder problem that eventually required surgery. The rehab from that procedure kept him out of action until late June 2021. Just a few outings into a minor league rehab stint, McKay suffered a flexor strain in his forearm that again proved to be season-ending. He was then diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and underwent surgery to correct that issue last November.
McKay spent most of 2022 on the injured list recovering from the TOS procedure. He set out on a rehab assignment in mid-July and spent his allotted 30-day window pitching back to Triple-A. The Rays then formally reinstated McKay from the IL but kept him in Durham on an optional assignment. A few days later, he suffered a UCL injury while pitching with the Bulls.
Before all of the injuries, McKay was one of the sport’s most unique young talents. A two-way superstar at the University of Louisville, he’s continued to dabble in the two-way experiment in pro ball. McKay has performed better on the mound than he has a first baseman, and he had a fairly promising debut showing three years ago. While he only managed a 5.14 ERA through his first 49 big league frames, McKay punched out an above-average 25.9% of batters faced against just a 7.4% walk rate. It seemed as if he’d be a key piece of the rotation for the next few seasons, but the injuries have thrown that off track.
Last offseason, MLB granted the Rays a fourth minor league option year in recognition of McKay’s injury troubles. He’d spent the first few months of the season on the MLB injured list. While he was eventually activated and optioned, McKay only spent 17 days on optional assignment. According to his transactions log at MLB.com, he’s been recalled and placed on the MLB 15-day injured list. Players only exhaust an option year if they spend 20+ days in the minors during a season. It appears the Rays will keep him on the MLB IL — thus paying him a prorated $700K minimum salary and allowing him to accrue service time — to avoid exhausting that final option year. Tampa Bay figures to transfer him to the 60-day IL to free up a spot on the 40-man roster when necessary.