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Inbox: Will Rays target pitchers at Deadline?

Beat reporter Juan Toribio answers questions from Rays fans
@juanctoribio
June 24, 2019

Like always, the Rays are going to look into trade possibilities that make sense for this year and for the next couple of seasons, but you can expect Tampa Bay to be seriously active in trade talks over the next month. The belief, according to sources, is that the Rays

Like always, the Rays are going to look into trade possibilities that make sense for this year and for the next couple of seasons, but you can expect Tampa Bay to be seriously active in trade talks over the next month. The belief, according to sources, is that the Rays will look to add multiple arms to the bullpen, especially with Diego Castillo struggling and José Alvarado still on the restricted list, although he’s expected back soon.

Emilio Pagán has been the only consistent option for the Rays this season, but Tampa Bay feels confident that if Alvarado and Castillo return to form, the club is just a couple of arms away from solidifying the bullpen, which has struggled this season. Some options could include San Diego’s Kirby Yates, Detroit’s Shane Greene or Toronto’s Ken Giles. The Rays will have a numbers crunch in their 40-man roster for the remainder of the season and into the offseason, so it makes sense to try and unload some of those players through trades.

The Rays will also explore adding a right-handed bat to its lineup, which has been missed during different parts of the season. Getting Yandy Díaz back from injury will be a start, but with Matt Duffy still without a timetable, getting another right-handed bat makes a lot of sense for Tampa Bay. If the Rays remain in contention over the next couple of weeks, buckle up.

Like you mentioned, at this point, it’s a matter of if, not when, the Rays will call up Brendan McKay to help the big league team in the rotation. Now, it’ll be interesting to see just how they use him.

Talent-wise, McKay would project as one of the top five starting pitchers on Tampa Bay's staff, but it’s important to remember that the former first-round pick pitched just 78 1/3 innings last season in the Minors. He’s already at 66 2/3 innings this season and is expected to pitch a couple more times in Durham before earning his promotion. Because of that, I think it’s fair to say that the Rays could ease McKay in by having an opener in front of him, which would allow him to settle in against big league pitching and also help his innings count. He could get some starts, just like Yonny Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough have this season, but coming in after an opener seems likely.

McKay will play a big role in this year’s team, but he’s also a crucial part of the team’s future, and that’ll always be the priority of the organization.

This could be interesting to watch over the next couple of weeks. Coming into this season, the hope was for Ryne Stanek to serve as the team’s primary opener, but also get a fair amount of late-inning opportunities. The injury to Tyler Glasnow put the Rays in a hole with their starting pitching, which forced Tampa Bay to use Stanek as an opener for the majority of his outings. With Glasnow seemingly about a month away from returning -- if all goes well in rehab -- the Rays could start to use Stanek more as a high-leverage reliever instead of just an opener.

With Castillo struggling and now on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation, the Rays will get creative and use multiple pitchers to try to lock down the ninth inning. It was Pagan who did it on Saturday in Oakland, but don’t be surprised if you see Stanek get those opportunities -- at least until Alvarado comes back.

He’s getting close. Glasnow (right forearm strain) is scheduled to throw his third bullpen session since suffering the injury on Tuesday or Wednesday in Minnesota. The right-hander joined the team in this current road trip in order to pitch in front of pitching coach Kyle Snyder and make sure that everything was running smoothly. So far, so good for Glasnow, and if all goes well in Minnesota, the team will start talking about Glasnow potentially getting into some game action down in Port Charlotte during the team’s next homestand. Nothing is set until his third bullpen and the Rays will be careful with Glasnow, but things are going according to plan.

I don’t think the team is necessarily tired during this stretch. What a stretch like this does, however, is give you some nagging injuries, such as Diaz’s hamstring, and doesn’t give you much time for recovery. It also affects the way Kevin Cash can utilize his bullpen, which hurts the Rays because they depend on matchups with their bullpen more than most clubs. Before Monday’s off-day in Minnesota, Tampa Bay went 10-11 in a stretch where it played 21 games in 20 days. That’s taxing on the body, and it clearly affected the Rays. Although, most teams would tell you that they would be OK with playing .500 ball during a stretch like that.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.