The Rays’ rotation has been as big of a reason as any over the last few years as to why Tampa Bay has been successful, and it helped the Rays to a World Series appearance and nearly a championship in 2020.
It sounds like that rotation could look vastly different in 2021.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Rays have told other clubs that they’re open to the idea of trading Blake Snell this offseason. Snell, 28 in December, is coming off a strong two-month season in which he registered a 3.24 ERA with a 63/18 K/BB in 50 innings over 11 starts, and pitched well in the postseason with a 3.03 ERA and 37 strikeouts in six starts. The 2018 Cy Young Award winner signed a five-year, $50 million extension in the spring of 2019, and is owed $39 million over the next three seasons. The southpaw has also battled command issues with a career 3.8 BB/9 rate, and he hasn’t exactly been an innings-eater with just one season above 150 innings pitched.
Feinsand notes that the Rays are not “actively shopping” Snell, but with Tampa Bay -- and every other club, so it seems -- looking to cut costs following the truncated campaign, it shouldn’t shock anyone if Snell is playing for another team this spring.
The Rays also employed Charlie Morton last year, and after declining his $15 million option, he's found a new club in the Atlanta Braves. The Braves announced that they had signed Morton to a one-year, $15 million deal on Tuesday morning, and it's a big boost to what already looked like a quality rotation on paper. Yes, Morton posted a disappointing 4.74 ERA in 2020, but that was over a whopping 38 innings and nine starts, and he looked like the hurler that was among the best in baseball for the majority of the postseason. At the age of 37, Morton may not be an elite option going forward, but he should miss enough bats with a quality lineup behind him to provide more than a little fantasy relevance.
Even if with the loss of Morton and Snell (sort of) on the market, the Rays still have good starting options in Tyler Glasnow, Ryan Yarbrough and talented young options like Brendan McKay and Josh Fleming along with one of the best bullpens in baseball. They also could explore some of the more “cost effective” options for their staff, but it’s fair to say that Tampa Bay’s starting five will be weaker than what we saw in 2020. An obvious point, perhaps, but worth pointing out.
Orioles designate Nunez for assignment
As teams were tasked with setting their 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft, the Orioles made one of the more surprising roster moves of the offseason on Friday when they designated Renato Nunez for assignment.
Nunez, 26, has been one of the few effective hitters for Baltimore over the last two seasons, and after slugging 31 homers in 2019, the right-hander slashed .256/.324/.492 with 12 homers in 52 games. A former mid-level prospect, Nunez is far from a perfect player -- he is very unlikely to hit for average, doesn’t provide any value on the bases and isn’t exactly a wizard with the glove -- but because of his power, there should be a market for his services this winter, although it’s possible Baltimore is able to trade Nunez before he hits the market.
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Arihara to be posted Nippon-Ham Fighters
It’s been rumored for a while -- and still isn’t official -- but Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters will post right-handed pitcher Kohei Arihara. Arihara threw 132 2/3 innings in 2020 over 20 starts, and he posted a 3.46 ERA with a 106/30 K/BB ratio in that time frame. The previous year, the 28-year-old was a contender for the Eiji Sawamura Award -- the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award -- with a 2.46 ERA, 0.919 WHIP, and 161/40 K/BB ratio in 164 1/3 frames.
This is not a Shohei Ohtani or Hideo Nomo level of pitcher, but Arihara has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter for someone at the highest level, and given the lack of options on the market, it seems very likely that a club will bring him over to be a part of their rotation in 2021. Assuming he’s brought over to start, he will offer some redraft potential this summer.
Quick Hits: Sandy Alderson confirmed Monday that he will essentially serve as the Mets' president of baseball operations in 2021 … According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, free agent Eric Thames is drawing interest from MLB, NPB, and KBO teams Thames struggled to a .203/.300/.317 batting line in 41 games this past season with the Nationals, who then declined his $4 million option for 2021 late last month … In a statement Monday, the Cardinals acknowledged that they are "gathering details" about Carlos Martinez's participation in a street party this past weekend in the Dominican Republic … The Cubs and president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer have agreed to a five-year extension … Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Red Sox are showing interest in free agent left-hander J.A. Happ … Tim Healey of Newsday reports that J.T. Realmuto is fully recovered from his hip injury and has been going through normal offseason workouts … Reds acquired RHP Brandon Bailey from the Astros for cash considerations … Angels signed OF Scott Schebler to a minor league contract. Schebler will make $900,000 if he makes the big club, per USA Today's Bob Nightengale. Yasiel Puig is now being represented by agent Rachel Luba of Luba Sports. Luba also represents free-agent hurler Trevor Bauer … Royals released RHP Glenn Sparkman.