There is an old adage in baseball about how one can never have enough starting pitching. The Tampa Bay Rays, however, appear poised to test the validity of that statement.
Last season, the Rays headed into Spring Training with eight pitchers vying for spots in the rotation. Wade Davis, an eleven game winner in 2011, was relegated to the bullpen as a long reliever. Alex Cobb started the season in the minors, being called up when Jeff Niemann was injured in May. Alex Torres, another potential option in Spring Training, struggled with his control all season and did not pitch for the Rays in 2012.
Yet, with as much depth as the Rays had for the rotation last year, they may have even more this season. It is possible that, barring a trade, the Rays could go into Spring Training with eleven or twelve pitchers trying to wedge themselves into the rotation at the start of the season. In fact, the second tier of starting pitching for the Rays may be better than what some teams have as their regular rotation.
With all the starting pitching depth the Rays have, it would seemingly make sense to trade some of it for a controllable bat that could be plugged into the lineup. However, the same could have been said last year as well. Instead, they Rays gave significant at bats to players such as Jose Molina and Carlos Pena, with predictably tepid results. After the anemic offensive production last season, and given the general dearth of quality pitching across baseball (players such as Luke Hochevar got 32 starts, and Jonathan Sanchez took the mound twelve times) the Rays would seemingly be in prime position to make a deal.
Yet, the Rays may choose to hold on to these talented arms, at least for one more year. David Price and James Shields, as well as they have performed, are starting to get expensive. Jeremy Hellickson is approaching arbitration. The pitching staff is starting to get a bit expensive, particularly for a team with as low a payroll as the Rays have. However, with all the talented arms in the minors, they may have much less expensive pieces to plug in on the horizon.
Even though it may behoove the Rays to make a trade now, they may well decide to wait another year, to give the present group of pitchers another chance to lead them into the playoffs. However, should that be the path they choose, it may come back to haunt them by the end of 2013.