We are hearing that Mark Lowe will not make the Tampa Bay Rays’ roster, which would mean that Brandon Gomes and Josh Lueke should be in the bullpen to start the 2014 season. However, as Roger Mooney tweets, Joe Maddon has said that “there’s something else in play” regarding the bullpen. What could the Rays be looking to do?
With spring training winding down, plenty of relievers will be available over the next few days. Out-of-options players will find themselves not making the big league roster, and will be available either via trade or through waivers. There will also be minor-league signees that will opt-out or be released. A trade for an already established big league reliever is also a possibility. Who could the Rays be looking at to finalize the bullpen?
A Pittsburgh Pirates Reliever
The Pirates have four players that are out of options, and only two are likely two make the bullpen. Right now it seems that Stolmy Pimentel and Jeanmar Gomez will be the two who make the team, which would alienate Vin Mazzaro and Bryan Morris. Mazzaro is the more experienced of the two and has a 4.73 ERA in time as both a starter and a reliever in the big leagues. But in his first full season as a reliever he looked very good, posting a 2.81 ERA with a 2.6 BB/9 and a 5.6 K/9. Morris is less experienced, but he could be just as good or better than Mazzaro. He pitched to the tune of a 3.46 ERA in his first full big league season last year, and was also strong in Triple-A in 2012, when he posted a 2.67 ERA. He features an excellent slider touching 90 MPH. The Rays could try to pick up one of these guys if they are sent through waivers, but they could also give up a little something of value to ensure that they get the player they want. Either of these guys would make a good addition in the final spot of the bullpen.
The Minnesota Twins’ southpaw is out of options as well, and he will not make the team as the 5th starter. He has started his whole career and was good in 2012 (3.54 ERA), but slipped significantly in 2013 (5.43 ERA). The Rays need starting depth right now after Jeremy Hellickson‘s injury and Alex Colome‘s suspension, so Diamond could provide that while throwing out of the bullpen. The main problem with the Rays’ bullpen right now is the lack of pitchers that can throw multiple innings–Cesar Ramos is the only pitcher capable of doing that. Diamond would give the Rays another pitcher who could throw multiple innings. Because Ramos has had such a strong showing this spring, he could find himself in a more significant role this season, and Diamond could slot into the long-relief spot that Ramos occupied last season. Not only could Diamond help in this role, but he could also have long-term upside to the Rays. If he can rebound to his 2012 form and benefit from not having to face hitters multiple times in a game like a starter would, he could make himself one of the Rays’ best relievers for the four years of team control that he has left. Not only that, but he could be an option to start games down the line if the Rays needed him to. He would take something of value to acquire, but likely something that Andrew Friedman would not have trouble parting with. The Rays normally get the most out of pitchers with a strong track record but recent struggles, and Diamond could become their next success story.
The left-handed Mijares just opted-out of his deal with the Boston Red Sox, and might be the best reliever that is currently on the open market. He has a career ERA of 3.23, and while that slipped to 4.22 last season, advanced metrics like FIP (3.05) and SIERA (3.45) say he should have been much better. In 2012 and 2013 he posted a K/9 of 9.1 and 9.9 respectively while also putting up a respectable BB/9’s of 3.4 and 3.7. He features a nice fastball-slider combination that gets hitters out, as well as a serviceable changeup. He would mainly throw against lefties, as he is much more successful against them (.623 OPS vs .818 OPS against righties), but this is the role the Rays would want him in. The Rays’ two current lefties don’t figure to be in this role, as Jake McGee is more than a lefty-specialist, and Cesar Ramos will likely be relied on to be the swingman of the bullpen. Mijares would slot in nicely as a lefty-specialist that the Rays currently lack, and we know how Joe Maddon loves to utilize the same-handed matchup.
Guerra was recently designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he has a solid track record. He posted a 2.45 ERA in the Dodgers’ bullpen from 2011-2012, although his 4.0 BB/9 and 7.4 K/9 indicate he is not quite that good of a pitcher. Despite the great numbers, he spent most of 2013 in Triple-A, where he was good in a hitter-friendly environment, posting a 3.66 ERA, 8.2 K/9, and 3.2 BB/9. Even if he would regress some in the big leagues from his previous success, he still would have solid numbers, and would make a great addition as the final pitcher in the Rays’ bullpen. He has the stuff to be a late-innings reliever, and even emerged as the Dodgers’ closer for much of 2012. As mentioned previously, the Rays don’t have anyone but Ramos who can throw multiple innings, but Guerra has experience doing so, which would add one more benefit to the Rays. Guerra would make a solid middle-reliever this year, with the upside of a setup man down the line. He has been drawing trade interest, but as a player in DFA limbo, he isn’t going to take too much to acquire. A decision on Guerra is expected soon, and he could very well end up in the Rays’ bullpen.
It seems as if the Tampa Bay Rays are going to make another move to add to an already solid bullpen. These are just a handful of players that could make sense to them, and there will be more that will become available in the next few days. Anyway you see it though, it is exciting to see the Rays looking to upgrade an already exciting team.