Tampa Bay Rays: Finalizing Deal with Shawn Tolleson

Apr 14, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Former Rangers relief pitcher Shawn Tolleson is headed to the Tampa Bay Rays. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 14, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Former Rangers relief pitcher Shawn Tolleson is headed to the Tampa Bay Rays. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tampa Bay Rays are adding a veteran arm and depth to their bullpen with the imminent signing of free agent Shawn Tolleson.

The Tampa Bay Rays are very close to finalizing a deal with reliever Shaw Tolleson formally of the Texas Rangers, who was non-tendered last month after declining an assignment to Triple-A and elected free agency in hopes of finding a better opportunity.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times first reported the news that the Rays were close to finalizing a deal with Tolleson, and that he is healthy and ready for spring training. At this time, there is no information on salary or length of contract, or official word from the Rays.

That better opportunity is with the Rays who will look beyond his disastrous 2016. He struggled through a season that saw him lose his closer’s job, get sidelined with a back injury, demoted to the minors and finally being dropped from the roster after posting a 2-2 record with a 7.68 ERA and 11 saves in 36-1/3 innings in which he had allowed 53 hits, including eight home runs.

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In Tolleson’s previous two seasons (2014-2015) with the Rangers, he was nothing but lights out posting a 2.88 ERA with 9.1 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 across 144 innings of relief. Working primarily as the set-up man in 2014, Tolleson was 3-1 with a 2.76 ERA in 64 games.

Earning the closer’s job in 2015, Tolleson was 6-4 with a 2.99 ERA and 35 saves in 37 chances over 73 games, with 76 strikeouts in 721/3 innings. In his three seasons with the Rangers, Tolleson went 11-7 with a 3.84 ERA with 46 saves in 180-1/3 innings appearing in 174 games.

Tolleson lost the closer’s job just a month into the season despite sharing the AL lead in saves with 11, but it was the blown saves (4) and an ERA over nine that led to the removal. From this point on, it was downhill for the Rangers 2015 Pitcher of the Year.

At the end of July, he was the odd-man out in the bullpen with a demotion to Triple-A Round Rock as the Rangers chose to bring up pitcher Lucas Harrell. At Round Rock, Tolleson had a 12.46 ERA with two homers allowed in 4-1/3 innings before being shut down for the season because of a lower-back strain.

According to Evan Grant and Gene Fraley of Sports Day, Tolleson never found the change-up and could not do much with any other pitch. At the time of the demotion, opponents were batting .338 against him and according to brooksbaseball.net, opponents were hitting .364 against the change-up compared to 2015 when opponents batted just .218.

As for his back injury, which is good to go according to Topkin, Tolleson did have some minor problems during the early part of spring training with back spasms, which is common with pitchers at this time. However, Tolleson has had issues with his back in the past – having had surgery in 2013 to repair a herniated disk while with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Can the Bullpen Issues be Solved In-House

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This can turn out to be a great pick-up for the Rays, especially if he can return to his successes from 2014-2015. Now, if only the Rays can sign a right-handed power hitter that can play the outfield/1B/ and DH…