A look at Glasnow's future with the Rays

November 10th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Adam Berry’s Rays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ST. PETERSBURG -- When Tyler Glasnow signed a two-year extension with the Rays in August 2022, it effectively silenced any trade rumors that might have followed the big right-hander into the following offseason. The deal pushed back Glasnow’s free agency by a year and left little doubt that he’d be back with Tampa Bay this past season.

“The biggest thing for me,” Glasnow said at the time, “is the relief of knowing, like, I'm exactly where I want to be.”

How much longer will that be the case?

With the offseason underway, Glasnow is already being mentioned as a potential trade candidate, the kind of ace fans of pitching-needy teams can and will dream on. The reason is simple: He’s due a franchise-record $25 million for 2024, his last season before reaching free agency, and he plays for the Rays.

Tampa Bay has never committed that much money to a player for one season. Glasnow's salary is a big reason the Rays’ projected payroll for next season sits somewhere in the $120 million range, territory they have never before reached.

President of baseball operations Erik Neander said during the Rays’ season-ending press conference that he was “reasonably confident” they could drive up their payroll “if we think that’s the best path to winning a World Series.” If that’s not the route they take, however, they’ll likely have to part with higher-paid veterans.

They could trim salary here and there by dealing outfielder Manuel Margot and DH Harold Ramírez, among others. But the quickest way to pare payroll would be trading Glasnow for younger cost-controlled talent.

Glasnow has made it no secret that he wants to stay with the Rays, from before he signed his extension to a recent “Foul Territory” appearance when he said Tampa Bay was the “No. 1 place I want to be.” (He even bought a house in Tampa.) But can the Rays build the kind of competitive roster they want with one player earning such a significant sum?

“It’s all about the impact that a player provides -- measured, and a lot of other things you can’t measure as well,” Neander told MLB.com’s Juan Toribio earlier this week at the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Appreciate everything about Glas, including his affection for the organization and for being here. … It was a [two years for $30 million] extension; we’ve carried two-for-30 deals before, and quite well. We’ll see where it goes.

“In any given year, our team can look a little bit different come Opening Day from where it was when we wrapped the season prior. But really, really appreciate him. We’re thankful to have him. We’ll take it from here. He’s a good one to have on your side. We know that.”

That is, essentially, the argument for keeping Glasnow. When he’s healthy and effective, he’s a legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter -- the kind of pitcher who’d receive $25 million annually as a free agent without anybody thinking twice about it. That hasn’t always shown up consistently due to injuries, but look no further to see what he’s capable of than his start in 2021 or the stretch he had this summer.

The Rays need elite-level performance like that heading into next season, and it’s worth noting they showed a willingness to pay the price for that kind of player with their contract offer to Freddie Freeman before the 2022 season. They know they’ll be without All-Star ace Shane McClanahan all year after he underwent Tommy John surgery. Their rotation won’t include Jeffrey Springs until at least midseason, and Drew Rasmussen’s return could come after that.

Aside from Glasnow, that leaves them with some combination of Zach Eflin, Aaron Civale, Zack Littell, Taj Bradley and perhaps a workload-limited Shane Baz to start the season, with little proven depth behind them.

For that reason, Neander noted at the GM Meetings that pitching could be a need for the Rays this winter. Obviously, they’d have to add even more pitching if they trade away Glasnow.

“I think with some of the injuries we’ve had, we’ll have some players come back early. We’ll have some arms come back midseason. Have to get a little bit creative in terms of how we piece that all together,” Neander told Toribio. “Safe to say that adding pitching is always a good idea. This year’s no exception.”