We all know that the Tampa Bay Rays are having their pitching depth stretched thin. They currently have three starting pitchers, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, and Matt Moore, on the DL with injuries, and a fourth, Alex Colome, is suspended. The Rays need to bring in some outside help, as Erik Bedard and Cesar Ramos, both slated in the rotation for now, are mediocre options. Starter Lucas Harrell was recently designated for assignment by the Houston Astros. Could he be an option for the Rays?
Harrell established himself as a big league starter in 2012, when he posted a 3.76 ERA in 193.2 innings. He also has a strong minor league track record, as he as put up a 3.65 ERA in his career despite being young for his league most of the way. However, in 2013, Harrell imploded by posting a 5.86 ERA and losing his rotation spot in the process. At his best, Harrell is a good number four or five starter, but as we saw last season, he has not been at his best. Even this year, he has managed only a 9.46 ERA in his three starts, which led to him being designated for assignment. But, Harrell has been reliable in the past, and the Rays desperately need at least another depth option. Therefore, they should take a look at picking him up.
The biggest problem with Harrell is that he is out of options. If he is claimed off of waivers or acquired from the Astros, he must be passed through waivers to be sent to the minor leagues. Right now, he might not immediately slot in the Rays rotation, but he at least could provide depth. The Rays do need a swingman in the bullpen with Ramos and Bedard in the rotation, and Harrell could fill that role while also proving starting depth. There are open spots on their 40-man roster, so they have nothing to lose by claiming him. Worst-case scenario, he eats a few innings out of the bullpen and then is designated for assignment and claimed by another team. Given his blunders of the past season, he might pass through waivers, and could provide an experienced depth option from Triple-A. The Rays would have no risk in this move, so why not at least claim him and give your bullpen some rest for a couple of days?
Harrell does come with four seasons of control, which certainly appeals to the Rays. If somehow he could be effective out of the bullpen, or if he could be snuck through waivers, Harrell could provide future value to the club. There is nothing to lose by claiming him, but you also have the upside that he provides value, either as a back-end starter or a long reliever. There is a chance he never can be an effective major leaguer again, but given his past success, it is worst at least taking a flyer on him.
The Rays need as many arms as possible right now, and Lucas Harrell could be one guy that they look to acquire. With open spots on the 40-man roster, there is no risk to claiming him. If they do, there is a chance, however small, that the 3.76 ERA pitcher re-emerges and he provides value to the team for many seasons in the future. The Rays love low-risk moves, and this is one that they should take.