The Rays are currently the little team that could. With one of the lowest payrolls in MLB, and a weird little pitch strategy we now call the opener, they have gone from being a running attendance joke, to being a surprise juggernaut that might just with the AL East this season.
They picked up World Series hero Charlie Morton over the offseason, adding him to a pitching rotation that also includes Cy Young winner Blake Snell, among other up-and-comers like the (currently injured) Tyler Glasnow. Needless to say, they’ve found something that works.
This week they’ll be hoping to bounce back from a weekend series loss to the Minnesota Twins, and their first stop is Detroit, where they’ll face a rotation of Ryan Carpenter, Spencer Turnbull, and Daniel Norris. I took a moment to ask Danny Russell, managing editor of DRaysBay, the SB Nation Rays blog, a few questions about what Tigers fans can expect from the Rays this week.
BYB: What would you consider the Rays biggest need to stat competitive in the AL East?
DR: At this point the Rays have had fairly solid bullpen management but seem to be concerned. They’ve recalled names from Triple-A that are unexpected, the de facto closer is on family leave, and the opener strategy always makes your head spin just a bit more than if you’re looking at other schedules. So the answer is better bullpen pieces, even if the pieces have been decent thus far. I hear there’s a guy named Craig that needs a job.
There have been a lot of rumors spinning around about the Rays acquiring big name free agents like Keuchel or Kimbrel. Do you think these rumors have any merit, or if the Rays might pick up anyone else before the All-Star break?
What a segue I just made to that question! Unequivocally yes they should be in on a big name, as the team is spending peanuts and both are solid talents. Dallas Keuchel is not where I’d spend because Tyler Glasnow is returning from injury just fine. I’d instead want to target Kimbrel. Not only would a generational closer help this Rays team with playoff aspirations, but it would also prevent him from signing with a team the Rays would compete against. Win-win.
The Rays have had a few minor leaguers take sips of coffee this season, do you think there are any other prospects that the Rays might call up this year?
Jose De Leon, who was formerly a highly touted prospect, is on his way back from Tommy John surgery and has been flashing the stuff that earned him a reputation years back. He’s in Triple-A now and could also help the Rays alleviate some of the innings they need eaten with quality.
How many guys named Lowe does one team need?
As many as can hit like Brandon or Nate Lowe! (For your readers’ knowledge, they are pronounced differently! Brandon Lowe rhymes with wow; Nate Lowe rhymes with woah). [Ed note: they also have Josh Lowe, who is Nate Lowe’s brother]
How’s that David Price trade looking in retrospect? (also can we have Willy Adames back?)
At the time of the Price trade, Dombrowski praised the Rays scouting effort, and called Adames a future All-Star at short stop, despite being in A-ball. Right now Willy does not look like an All-Star in his sophomore season, but he’s completing plays really well at the position and the bat should come around shortly when he adjusts. Every team he’s been on in the minors he was a team leader, so that could come about soon as well. The trade looks fine, and no you can’t have him back!
Which Tigers player do you think is going to be the biggest thorn in the Rays side this series?
I pay attention to baseball pretty closely, but I’m gonna level with you here. I’m only confident I can name three position players on the Tigers roster: Miguel Cabrera, Nicholas Castellanos, and I think y’all demoted Mikie Mahtook for JaCoby Jones? Maybe?
The Rays won’t see Boyd on this trip either, so the answer is Shane Greene.
Which Rays player do you think would be considered a “below the radar” star, someone who is just killing it, but the general public might not be aware of.
Just a heads up: Avisail Garcia is a decent baseball player again!
Do you think the Rays still have a shot at winning the AL East?
Absolutely. They just have to stop playing day games (which they’ve lost way too many of!).
Thanks so much to Danny for taking the time to chat with us. You can find more of his work over at DRaysBay.