The Rays’ recent slump has seen them go 7-13, including a four-game sweep at Yankee Stadium, thus dropping them down the standings in the AL East rather precipitously. Tampa Bay had a half-game lead over New York as recently as June 10, but the Rays suddenly face a seven-game deficit in the division. As such, the team has had to “back off its trade pursuits,” Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Tampa Bay still holds a Wild Card position in the AL, so it’s not as if the team will operate as a seller this month, but teams are often less aggressive at the deadline when they believe they’re playing for a one-game playoff as opposed to a guaranteed berth in the division series. Giants closer Will Smith had been a “primary target” for the Rays, Rosenthal adds, but it’s not clear if they’ll aggressively pursue him now.
Tampa Bay faces a critical stretch of games over the next few weeks, as they’ll play the eight times Yankees and the hapless Orioles seven times in their next 15 games. That’ll provide ample opportunity to either climb back into the division race but could also create a near-insurmountable gap if New York once again dominates the series. The outcome of the Rays’ next stretch of games will likely go a long way in dictating how strongly they’ll pursue bullpen upgrades in trade talks with the Giants and other sellers.
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- Top prospect Brendan McKay opened his Major League career with five perfect innings this weekend, which was (obviously) enough to earn him another start at the big league level. MLB.com’s Juan Toribio writes that the Rays will make a decision after that game whether to keep McKay in the Majors or send him back to Triple-A Durham. It’s possible that Tampa Bay could option McKay to get a fresh arm for the final couple of games leading into the All-Star break, even if the plan is to recall him shortly after the break and plug him right back into the rotation. The former No. 4 overall pick doesn’t look like he has much left to prove in the minors after posting a combined 1.22 ERA in 66 1/3 innings of Double-A and Triple-A work, but his workload figures to be closely monitored; McKay has thrown 72 1/3 innings in 2019 after tossing just 78 1/3 innings in all of 2018.
- The Rays’ proposed timeshare between St. Petersburg and Montreal was met with a heavy dose of skepticism and negative fan reaction, but Rays leadership remains committed to the idea, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and president Brian Auld feel that split-city arrangements will eventually become more commonplace in professional sports. President Matthew Silverman also spoke of how the still-theoretical alignment would impact the team’s payroll, believing it could push the Rays to a middle-of-the-pack organization in that regard. “If this comes to fruition, we’re going to have more resources, and more resources means a higher payroll, and a higher payroll is good for all players within baseball,” said Silverman. There are still innumerable hurdles to be cleared, but as Topkin examines at length, the proposal appears to be more a plan that genuinely intrigues Rays leadership than a ploy to increase leverage in preexisting stadium talks.