The Tampa Bay Rays have experienced an unfortunate turn of events in recent weeks. Ben Zobrist got hurt, which was a big loss but gave Brandon Guyer more playing time. Guyer was really hitting his stride when he suffered a fractured left thumb, sending him to the disabled list as well. Guyer’s injury is eventually going to give Kevin Kiermaier a chance, but as we just discussed Kiermaier is also dealing with a minor injury and won’t be promoted until Saturday. With that in mind, the Rays need to promote someone up to be their 25th man now that Alex Colome, who was the first to be promoted, is back at Triple-A. Who is their best option?
With Kiermaier unavailable, the pickings are slim with regards to position players on the Rays’ 40-man roster. The only available players are Vince Belnome and Hak-Ju Lee. We can count out Lee from the start- he really does not fit onto the Rays’ roster in any way because he only plays shortstop at this point. Belnome, meanwhile, could fit, but he’s a lefty batter, which is not ideal considering the Rays are replacing the righty-hitting Guyer. He is also poor defender anywhere but first base, limiting how the Rays can use him. If the Rays are going to call up someone for the next few days, they would prefer a right-handed hitter or a more versatile player.
The good news for the Rays is that Matt Moore and Tim Beckham can both be transferred to the 60-day DL, so the Rays can add a player to the 40-man roster if they so choose. On the other hand, they have to weigh the benefits of promoting him for three or four days versus the fact that doing so would force them to either designate him for assignment or burn a minor league option. That condition eliminates the best promotion candidate, Jerry Sands. Sands did pass through waivers the last time the Rays DFA’d him, but will they really risk doing so again to have him on their roster for such a short time?
A player who could be more conceivable is Jayson Nix. He would also have to be designated for assignment, but he just passed through waivers after the Philadelphia Phillies let him go and doesn’t have Sands’ talent. If the Rays DFA’d him, he could very well go unclaimed. Nix would give the Rays a right-handed bat who could play second base against lefties (with Sean Rodriguez in left and Logan Forsythe at DH), and that would be fine. If the Rays wanted to get creative, though, they have one better option.
With Ryan Hanigan still not 100%, the Rays have been playing Jose Molina way too much even though he hasn’t hit at all. The Rays could take some of the pressure off both catchers by calling up Curt Casali. Casali has been unspectacular at Triple-A after dominating Double-A, but he couldn’t possibly be worse than Molina has been and could be fine for a couple of starts. He could even DH against a lefty if the Rays desired. Casali would have to be added to the 40-man roster and burn an option, but he’s going to be on the roster in September to be the third catcher anyway and the Rays will have bigger problems if he hasn’t made it onto their roster three years from now. Even if it’s just for a few games, the promotion would be a great experience for Casali and the rest could be invaluable to Hanigan in the long-term.
At the end of the day, it seems unlikely that the Tampa Bay Rays call up Casali, but they could easily eschew calling up Belnome and go with Nix because he is much better fit for their roster. Over the coming hours, we will find out exactly what they decide to do.