Rays bring back Devenski for bullpen depth

December 6th, 2023

NASHVILLE -- The Rays turned to a familiar face to beef up their bullpen Tuesday, signing right-hander  to a one-year Major League deal with a club option for 2025.

Devenski’s deal is for a guaranteed $1.1 million, including a $100,000 buyout of his $2 million club option.

The Rays signed Devenski on Aug. 29 and added him to their bullpen on Sept. 2. The 33-year-old right-hander made nine appearances for Tampa Bay, allowing four runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks while striking out nine in 8 2/3 innings. He made the Rays’ American League Wild Card Series roster and pitched two scoreless innings in their Game 1 loss to the Rangers at Tropicana Field.

“[Devenski] took to some changes and thoughts that we might have about how to help him out a little bit. It wasn’t a whole lot of time, but what we learned about him validated a lot of the things we heard prior,” Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander said on Day 2 of the Winter Meetings. “Made well, extremely competitive, health is in a much better place. And just looking ahead, it’s somebody that can fit our pitching puzzle in a variety of ways.”

Devenski has plenty of experience as a one-inning reliever, but he expressed a willingness to get stretched out to pitch multiple innings if needed. Between that and his ability to get out left-handed hitters with his changeup, Devenski could be a useful addition to Tampa Bay’s bullpen.

An American League Rookie of the Year candidate in 2016 and an All-Star in ’17 as a dominant setup man for the Astros, Devenski bounced from Houston to Arizona to Philadelphia to Anaheim before landing with Tampa Bay.

“No matter the role, just having somebody that is as competitive as he is, made the way he is … we’re happy to bring him back and be a part of our puzzle for next year and possibly the year after,” Neander said.

Adding arms to the bullpen was important for the Rays, as their pitching depth took a few hits during the early part of the offseason.

Tampa Bay lost just three players to free agency at the end of the season, all relievers: Robert Stephenson, Jake Diekman and Devenski. The Rays lost lefties Jalen Beeks and Josh Fleming on waivers and removed right-hander Cole Sulser from their 40-man roster. They also designated right-handers Calvin Faucher and Cooper Criswell for assignment, with Faucher eventually being traded to the Marlins, to make room for prospects Austin Shenton and Yoniel Curet.

But the Rays have plenty of options returning to their bullpen. The relief corps is headlined by high-leverage right-handers Pete Fairbanks and Jason Adam, but it features a mix of profiles with right-handers Shawn Armstrong, Andrew Kittredge, Kevin Kelly and Devenski as well as lefties Colin Poche, Garrett Cleavinger and swingman Tyler Alexander. Tampa Bay is also intrigued by hard-throwing right-hander Manuel Rodriguez, whom it picked up at the Trade Deadline, and prospect Colby White.

“It’s a good group. It’s an important group. We’ve seen it over time,” Neander said. “You can never have enough pitching, but it’s a pretty good group out there.”

Around the horn
• Signing Devenski left the Rays with a full 40-man roster. Unless they drop a player before Wednesday afternoon, they will not be able to select anyone in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Right-hander Cole Wilcox, the club’s No. 11 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is among Tampa Bay’s most notable unprotected players who could be selected.

• Neander said there has been more discussion on the trade front around the Winter Meetings than last year, although those talks haven’t turned into many notable transactions yet.

"It’s been active,” Neander said. “While the trades and transactions haven't happened here other than the Devo signing, it does feel more active than the action here. Just waiting for the action part of it."

• Rays manager Kevin Cash praised René Pinto, the only catcher on the roster, and said he expects Pinto will “get a lot of reps” behind the plate next season. Cash also noted that Alex Jackson, who re-signed with the Rays on a Minor League deal, made a strong impression during his time in the organization late last season.

• Cash said shortstop Taylor Walls, recovering from right hip surgery, is doing well in his recovery and will move his rehabilitation to Tropicana Field next month. It’s still too soon to say if Walls will be ready for Opening Day, but Cash noted that Walls’ rehab is going “really, really well so far.”