The Tampa Bay Rays have been hit hard by injuries this season, but now they are starting to get healthy. Ryan Hanigan recently returned to the Rays and Brandon Guyer started his rehab last night at Triple-A. Also, Jeremy Hellickson has been rehabbing, and appears set to return to the big leagues if his final rehab start on Tuesday goes well. When Hellickson returns, who will he replace on the Rays roster?
Option 1: Trade/Release Erik Bedard
When it was announced that Bedard would be taking a place in the rotation back in April after Alex Cobb‘s injury, Rays fans had a collective sigh. Bedard had looked awful in 2011-2012, posting ERAs of 5.01 and 4.59, and the only reason the Rays were able to keep him around in the organization was because no other big league club wanted him. But Bedard has been solid for the Rays since joining the rotation, posting a 3.83 ERA, which is second among the team’s starters behind Chris Archer. That being said, Bedard’s 7.8 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 aren’t too inspiring, and you have to wonder if his numbers so far are too good to be true. For what it’s worth, Hellickson will make his final rehab start on Tuesday, which is also when Bedard will start for the Rays, meaning that Hellickson could slide into Bedard’s spot into the rotation on regular rest. The Rays may find a trade market for Bedard and get a minimal return, or they can just release him. Convincing him to return to the minors is highly unlikely, as Bedard would probably find a big league opportunity elsewhere. Despite the fact they would lose Bedard from the organization, this is the most likely outcome.
Option 2: Send down Jake Odorizzi
Odorizzi hasn’t gotten the results that the Rays were looking for in his first extended big league action, putting up a 4.85 ERA in 65.0 innings of work. He has been outpitched by Bedard this year, although his 10.5 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 are better than Bedard’s. His main struggles have been maintaining results the second and third time through the lineup, and the Rays have been playing around with his pitch selection all year to try to solve these issues. In the end, it all comes down to the how the Rays think Odorizzi can pitch down the road. He has higher upside than Bedard, but sending him down may be the best way to have him work on maintaining his stuff throughout his entire start. All-in-all Odorizzi likely stays with the club. Especially with them falling further and further out of contention, they’d rather let Odorizzi learn how to overcome struggles in the big leagues rather than demoralizing him by sending him down.
Option 3: Move Odorizzi, Bedard, or Hellickson to the bullpen
This is what the Rays will do if they want to keep Bedard in the organization and avoid sending Odorizzi to the minors. It would be a decent solution for plenty of teams, but the Rays don’t have a clear way to make room in the bullpen for any of them. Brad Boxberger and Kirby Yates are the only two players in the bullpen with options remaining, but both are deserving of being in the big leagues. Boxberger has posted a 2.45 ERA in 22 outings, and Yates has thrown 3.0 scoreless innings after putting up a 0.36 ERA at Triple-A Durham. The Rays could send down Yates, but their bullpen would be worse off because of it, so in all likelihood this isn’t the best option.
In the end, we will most likely see the end of Bedard’s time in the organization. The Rays won’t want to send Odorizzi or Yates down, and thus trading or releasing Bedard is the best option. This isn’t ideal, but the good news is that Jeremy Hellickson is finally healthy again. Hopefully he can provide a boost to a club that desperately needs one.