- “Don’t expect” the Rays to make a run at Matt Harvey, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Rolling the dice on reviving Harvey’s career would only make sense for the Rays if and when Harvey is released by the Mets (as opposed to working out a trade), of course, but Topkin doesn’t seem inclined to believe it’s likely in any scenario. The right-hander has posted an ERA just south of 7.00 over the past two seasons with the Mets following both Tommy John and thoracic outlet surgeries.
Rays righty Yonny Chirinos is expected to be sidelined for about a month after a full examination of his elbow, per a report from Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Meanwhile, fellow right-hander Nathan Eovaldi appears to be making good progress from elbow surgery.
Chirinos had already been put on the 10-day DL; at the time of the placement, though, it was not clear how long he would miss. While it’s certainly sub-optimal for the Tampa Bay organization to lose him at all, Topkin writes that the Rays were left feeling fortunate with the prognosis.
Elbow issues for young pitchers obviously tend to set off alarm bells. In this case, though, the medical opinion is that Chirinos is not dealing with any “structural damage,” per the report. Still, it seems the club has charted a cautious course for the rookie hurler, who has impressed (3.71 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9) in his first 26 2/3 MLB innings.
The loss of Chirinos is balanced somewhat by the optimism on Eovaldi, who required work to address bone chips after nearly making it all the way back from Tommy John surgery. But he won’t be available right away, and the Rays would obviously prefer to be able to call upon both pitchers, particularly with the ballclub showing some life after a rough opening few weeks.
Eovaldi is aiming to make it back up to the majors after about three weeks of work on the minor-league mound, with a target of the Rays’ series against the Red Sox beginning May 22nd. He is already pumping upper-nineties heat, Topkin reports (Twitter links), and will begin a rehab assignment tomorrow. Eovaldi’s anticipated timeline reflects the fact that he needs to ramp fully back up after going down just before the start of the season.
- Following Corey Seager’s season-ending injury, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that the Rays will likely approach the Dodgers to gauge their interest in a trade for defensive standout Adeiny Hechavarria. Tampa Bay figures to trade Hechavarria at some point this season, Topkin notes, and moving him would open a clear path to the big leagues for surging infield prospect Willy Adames. Hechavarria, who is hitting .283/.317/.359 with a pair of homers through 102 plate appearances this season, has consistently graded out as a plus defender at short and is earning $5.9MM in 2018, with about $4.54MM of that sum yet to be paid out. Tampa Bay GM Erik Neander, of course, knows Dodgers president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman quite well from the pair’s days in the Rays’ front office, and they’ve lined up on a handful of deals in recent years (Logan Forsythe, Sergio Romo and Xavier Cedeno among them).
- Tampa Bay righty Yonny Chirinos has landed on the disabled list with a right forearm strain, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter links). The Rays have brought lefty Ryan Yarbrough back up from Triple-A Durham to take his spot on the roster. It’s not clear yet how long Chirinos will be expected to miss, though Topkin suggests that the organization doesn’t believe the injury to be serious. Chirinos had stepped up as the team’s de facto fourth starter following a series of injuries that initially led the Rays to open the season with three starters and a pair of bullpen days in place of a traditional five-man rotation. Yarbrough has been pitching in multi-inning relief stints with the Rays and could be looked at as a starting option himself in Chirinos’ absence.
3:49pm: The Rays and Diamondbacks have now announced the trade.
2:51pm: The Rays have acquired righty Sam McWilliams and southpaw Colin Poche from the Diamondbacks, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. That pair of hurlers will make up the final portion of the late-February swap that brought outfielder Steven Souza to Arizona.
The Tampa Bay organization had insisted it only relented to moving Souza because of the quality of the return. Today’s news does help to bolster that claim, as the two newcomers are not just throw-in assets.
McWilliams, 22, is a big right-hander who was tabbed as the 13th-best prospect in the Arizona system coming into the season by Baseball America. He has opened eyes since, turning in 25 2/3 innings of 2.10 ERA ball in his first turn at the High-A level. Importantly, he has drastically increased his strikeout rate (to 11.2 K/9, nearly double his career rate) while maintaining his typically reliable control (2.1 BB/9). Arizona had initially picked him up in the trade that sent right-hander (and former Ray) Jeremy Hellickson the Phillies, though McWilliams has raised his profile a bit since that time.
The 24-year-old Poche is closer to the Majors, though unlike McWilliams he does not carry the potential upside of working as a starter. He has enjoyed some success in the past, but nothing like what he has shown thus far this season at Double-A. In 11 shutout innings, Poche has allowed just three hits while compiling a whopping 23:2 K/BB ratio.
It seems reasonable to think that he could be on the MLB radar in the relatively near term — he was included on Jason Martinez’s first Knocking Down the Door feature of 2018 — if he can sustain anything approaching that level of production. Baseball America rated Poche 29th among Arizona farmhands this past offseason, though like McWilliams, his early work has likely elevated his status to an extent.
- Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times takes an interesting look at the number of pitchers developed by the Rays in recent years, pointing out that there have been more games started by pitchers who were originally Rays (45 of 722) in the Majors this season than any other team. That doesn’t include starters-turned-relievers like Wade Davis, Jake McGee and Felipe Vazquez. As Topkin notes, that could be used as a damning method of lamenting the frequency with which Tampa Bay has to trade its talent or as a credit to the organization’s general ability to develop quality pitching. Topkin’s column runs through the best of the best in that group of original Rays and also looks at some names who could ascend that list.
- A number of other players are already coming off of the DL. The Reds have activated righty David Hernandez and the Mariners have brought back first baseman Ryon Healy. Both were relatively significant offseason acquisitions for their organizations. Meanwhile, the Rays activated infielder Matt Duffy and the Rangers did the same with righty Tony Barnette.
- There’s also progress to report for Rays righty Nathan Eovaldi, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Eovaldi, whose long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery was thwarted when he required another procedure late this spring, has already managed a 25-pitch pen session. It’s possible he could be back in the big leagues within a month or so, says Topkin, which seems like a reasonably promising prognosis for a player who has endured significant health questions. Of course, given the club’s poor start to the year, it could be that Eovaldi will be looking to pitch his way into a trade chip once he’s back.
The Rays are set to select the contract of left-handed reliever Jonny Venters from Triple-A Durham, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter links). It’ll be the first appearance in the Majors for Venters since way back in 2012. The lefty was a star setup man for the Braves before injuries decimated a promising career. As Topkin notes, Venters has had three Tommy John surgeries in his career — two since his Braves days — as well as a “reattachment” procedure in 2016.
Now 33 years of age, Venters burst onto the scene with the 2010 Braves, working to a combined 1.89 ERA with 9.9 K/9, 4.3 BB/9 and roughly 70 percent ground-ball rate in his first two big league seasons. Venters’ results took a step back in 2012, though he still turned in a strong 3.22 ERA with similar K/BB numbers and slightly diminished ground-ball tendencies in 58 2/3 innings before going down with injury.
Venters didn’t pitch with any team’s minor league affiliate from 2013-15 and tossed just 27 2/3 innings in rehab stints over the past two seasons. He’s allowed a run on four hits and five walks with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings thus far in Triple-A Durham.
Tampa Bay has an open spot on its 40-man roster, so no 40-man move will need to be made to accommodate Venters’ promotion. Righty Hunter Wood will be optioned to Triple-A to clear a spot on the 25-man roster, per Topkin. Venters will join Jose Alvardo and Ryan Yarbrough as left-handed options in manager Kevin Cash’s bullpen for the time being.
- Evaluators from the Cubs and Cardinals were recently on hand to watch the Rays last week, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The Rays’ limited payroll capability could make them sellers regardless of their record, though the team is also off to a slow 8-13 start overall (though Tampa has won five of its last six games). It isn’t known what players were being watched, though the Cubs have been heavily linked to Chris Archer in the past while the Cardinals had strong interest in Alex Colome this offseason.