Inbox: How will potential new rule affect Rays?

Beat reporter Juan Toribio answers fans' questions

February 7th, 2019

How would the proposed three-batter minimum impact a team like the Rays, who think so differently on pitcher usage?
-- @k_tools

For those who don't know, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday that MLB is considering implementing some big rule changes for the 2019 season, one of them being a requirement for pitchers to face at least three batters each outing.
This rule would definitely affect and alter the way Tampa Bay -- and every other team in the league -- approaches its roster, especially the bullpen. It would affect guys like , who is much more efficient against left-handed hitters than he is against righties. But aside from that, the rule change wouldn't affect a lot of the players on the 40-man roster due to the fact that the Rays have a good amount of players who can pitch multiple innings.
The opener role received a lot of attention last season, but in the strategy, the Rays looked for their opening pitchers, like , to get through at least one inning. It wasn't until Brewers manager Craig Counsell used for just one hitter against the Dodgers in the playoffs that the perception of the opener began to change. If the rule were to be implemented, it would affect the game in ways, but the Rays have plenty of multi-inning options out of the bullpen. There aren't many teams in the league that are better in adapting than Tampa Bay.

Is there any chance the Rays will go for at least one of the experienced relievers in the free-agent market? There are still some guys who have pretty solid arms, like , , , , , or ?
-- @whsxpfl26

There's always a chance of a team adding a player during Spring Training, but the Rays feel confident in their bullpen and will likely go into camp with what they have. Tampa Bay understands that the best way for the young players to keep improving is by giving them a chance and seeing what they're able to accomplish. If the younger players struggle, the Rays could go with one of the non-roster invitees or go out into the free-agent market and add a veteran on a one-year deal.
Any chance the Rays bring back or on a one-year or Minor League deal? They both seemed like great clubhouse leaders, and I'm surprised they are both still available.
-- @acardinali88

Because of the way the roster is constructed, there's a better chance of Romo coming back than Gomez, although neither is expected back. Romo is reportedly close to signing a one-year deal with an undisclosed team, and Gomez is still waiting for his interest to pick up. They made key contributions to the team last season, especially with the younger players, but because of all the young players in the outfield and in the bullpen, it's probably in the best interest for the parties invovled to go their separate ways.

Any chance at seeing Lucius Fox on the big club?
-- @AidenOnAir

You'll get a chance to see Fox with the big league club during Spring Training, as he's one of 24 non-roster invitees. It's unlikely Fox will see time in the Majors once the season begins, but he could make an appearance in September as a pinch-runner if the Rays are in contention and need a good basestealer. Other than that, it's probably a safe bet to see Fox in Triple-A Durham next season, where he hopes to continue to climb as one of the best prospects in the Rays' organization (he's ranked No. 9, per MLB Pipeline).
Do you get the sense that the Rays' front office doesn't really think 2019 is the first year of their window to really try to compete, or is this current iteration of the roster is really what they had in mind going into the offseason? I want to trust the process, but it also feels that we're just a few moves away from really competing, and that we missed the chance to make some of those moves.
-- @ZachBellesq

I don't think the Rays feel they're not ready to compete in 2019, and while they didn't necessarily make a splash by adding a big bat to the lineup this offseason, they did go out and spend money on in order to bolster the rotation. Tampa Bay believes it can make a run at the playoffs in '19, but the club is not limiting itself to just this season. The Rays want to continue to build a roster that will be good in '19 and beyond.

With that being said, if Tampa Bay jumps out to a good start this season and believes it can make a run at a title, the Rays will be an active team around the non-waiver Trade Deadline in order to add to the roster. Until then, they are going to be aggressive, but also mindful of the fact that they have a young core that has the potential to make the club a yearly contender in the American League.