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Rays Should Keep McGee and Boxberger

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The Rays have seen the Red Sox add Kimbrel, the Yankees add Chapman, and the Jays add Storen. How could they possibly consider dealing either McGee or Boxberger?

It’s incredible when you consider how much relief talent has been accumulated over the last two seasons in the A.L. East. While Mariano Rivera left MLB for a nice retirement, even the Yankees look to have a more dominant pen than ever before.

Before many of this year’s additions occurred, Jake McGee was reportedly on his way out of town, as reported by many including Jon Morosi:

The prevailing thought was that with so many live and high-quality arms coming up through the system, the Rays could afford to deal McGee and replace him with a younger and cheaper option. Fans and analysts alike considered the Rays adding a lineup piece and improving their run production as a result. Well, that trade never took place, and it could be a good thing.

First, let’s run down how each pen has changed in the A.L. East and how the Rays pen may look in comparison, with and without McGee included. He’ll be the chosen trade piece simply due to his salary being higher than Boxberger’s and because of his pending Free Agency.

Blue Jays

The Jays added Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez, Bo Schultz, and Ryan Tepera to their pen last season. They recently dealt away Liam Hendriks who had an outstanding season for them in 2015, but added Drew Storen who more than makes up for the loss. It’s possible that the Jays use either Storen or Osuna in the closing role, and that Sanchez could begin in long-relief or in the rotation.

The Jays oldest reliever is Brett Cecil who is only 29 years old. Storen is next at 28, and the remainder are much younger than that. Whether or not that plays in the Jays favour is unknown, but they shouldn’t lack any energy and should be able to build a fairly cohesive group.

What Storen brings to the Jays is one of the nastiest 1-2-3 punches in MLB with Cecil-Osuna-Storen. While the order may change, all three have shown the ability to be dominant and can shut the door on the best of them.

Red Sox

In Boston, the situation is very similar. The Red Sox added Craig Kimbrel to their club through a glut of prospects shipped to SD, and he joins Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa to provide the Red sox with a great 7-8-9 trio. While they may be a notch below Toronto’s considering Tazawa’s 2015 numbers, they will likely benefit from the added depth the team brought in as starters.

To mitigate the possibility of struggles from Tazawa, the Red Sox also brought in Carson Smith from Seattle. It’s completely possible that Smith will setup for Kimbrel after he put up some ridiculous numbers in 2015 and showed an ability to get strike outs when needed.

Steven Wright, Roenis Elias, and Henry Owens could all join the pen at times, competing with Robbie Ross, Neil Ramirez, and Matt Barnes for a spot in the pen. All-in-all, this is one deep and potent pen which should bode well for the Red Sox who have a few starters that struggle to make it passed the 5th or 6th inning and have up-and-down outings.

Yankees

The evil empire has rebuilt its pen over the last two season, and did so with gusto. The addition of Aroldis Chapman to Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances makes the back of the pen ridiculous if it holds up and pitches to expectations.

But it doesn’t stop there. If you don’t know James Pazos yet, you will because he’s an outstanding lefty. Chasen Shreve put himself on the map with an outstanding 2015, and both Branden Pinder and Nick Rumbelow proved effective when called on.

Bryan Mitchell will likely support the pen in the long-relief role, leaving few holes if any in this dynamite pen. If you can find a weakness in this pen, you’re definitely nit-picking because on paper, this is one of the top 2 or 3 – and possibly the best – pen in the majors.

The only big question mark for their pen is whether or not Chapman will be suspended, and if so, for how long. Should he miss 50 games, that could hurt their 7th inning duties, but it isn’t catastrophic when you consider their other options. If anything, it’ll provide an opportunity for the Yankees to figure out what else they have to work with and will provide some of their young arms with more experience.

Orioles

Surprisingly, they were able to bring back Darren O’Day, and they’ve retained the rest of their pen. Even with all of the additions the other teams made in the A.L East, it’s the Orioles who had the best pen in all of MLB according to WAR ratings, which theirs added up to 6.4, a full 1.1 higher than the 2nd place Astros.

They may not be as flashy or well-known as others, but Zach Britton and Brian Matusz anchor this very effective and well utilized pen. Since there were not many – if any – changes made to this pen, there really isn’t much else to add, except for the fact that pens very rarely repeat their performances when they dominate. So it remains to be seen whether the Orioles staff can repeat or lags behind the others by season’s end.

Rays

Having read what is listed above it’s easy to feel deflated and to feel the Rays have a lot to live up to if they’re going to compete with the pens listed above. The 2015 Rays pen edition held the 6th worse WAR rating according to Fangraphs, so it’s easy to fall into the trap that they’re doomed in 2016. However, that’s not the case for many reason which I’ll touch on, part of which includes the hopeful return of both Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger.

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First and foremost,

Kevin Cash

was a first year Manager learning how to use his pen for the first time. He dealt with injuries all season long, more than usual, and was forced to use a new closer. Although that turned out to be a successful process, the Rays staff struggled to get consistency from their relievers.

One of the biggest struggles of the Rays pen was in their ability to induce groundouts, where they were the worst in all of MLB at 40.7%. That may seem like a minor thing, but if you’re looking to get double plays and easy ground outs, that’s a very important statistic. On the positive side, they were able to strand 75.1% of those LOB, good for 9th in the majors.

Alright, let’s get to their expected 2016 staff. In the back end, assuming both return, Boxberger and McGee can anchor the pen as well as any other. Although he struggled some in the second half of the season, Boxberger learned a lot about closing and about himself in 2015, which should make for an improved 2016.

On the left side, along with McGee, we have Xavier Cedeno who provides the Rays with a great second option from the left side. They’re also joined by Enny Romero who should definitely improve on his 2015 performance. He was simply getting used to a new role last season and will now be experienced enough to let it fly in 2016.

On the right side, we have returnees Alex Colome and Matt Andriese who help out along with Steve Geltz who can out of nowhere to dominate last season.

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They’re joined by newcomer

Danny Farquhar

who has some closing experience and one totally dominant season behind him (2014) when he threw 71 innings and managed a 2.66 ERA, 81 SO, and 1.13 Whip. If he can rediscover that season’s success with the Rays, he should be a nice addition to the pen in TB.

Finally, we have Andrew Bellatti who showed us so much promise in September that we can’t discount his earning a role with the Rays pen. If you’re keeping count, you’re right, we’re now sitting at 9 alternatives for the Rays pen, all of which have serious reasons to make the cut as the season kicks off.

If that’s not enough, we have more talent coming up. In AAA, Taylor Guerrieri has been pointed to as a possible alternative for the pen as he likely will be forced to shorten his season and limit his innings total increase. Then there’s Johnny Venters returning from injury, Jhan Marinez who holds a ton of promise, and Dana Eveland who has been more dominant than ever as a reliever. Tyler Sturdevant was also brought over from Colorado and also seems like a good option if required.

McGee and Boxberger remain most important

McGee has 26 saves and 6 years of relief experience, while Boxberger has 44 saves and 4 years of relief experience. Between the two of them, they represent almost all of the closing experience the Rays have onboard aside from newcomer Farquhar who brings 18 saves with him.

The point is that the Rays have nothing but options to look forward to and they’ll be able to fill in the pen’s 6th and 7th inning roles with high-quality arms. What they truly need to ensure to compete in the A.L. East, however, is that the 8th and 9th innings are sealed tight. Dealing either Boxberger or McGee would leave them with a giant hole there and would be a disservice to their ability to compete.

Next: Three Rays Comebacks to Impact 2016

If the Rays are going to improve from the 25th best WAR rating in the pen they NEED to keep McGee and Boxberger around. They’re extremely important to the team’s success and with the other teams adding quality to their pens, it makes no sense that the Rays would look to deplete their talents.

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