The Tampa Bay Rays had a complete failure of a season. The club finished dead last in the American League East, with the second worst record in all of the AL. One of the worst aspects of their play in 2016, was the bullpen. While injuries to the bullpen did set the club back, the organization should be looking to make a significant enhancement to this crucial aspect of a team.
Brad Boxberger suffered a tear in an abdominal muscle that required surgery. The right-handed reliever only played in 27 games during the 2016 season, finishing it out with a 4.81 ERA over 24 1/3 innings pitched. He’ll become a free agent, and the Rays should look at keeping him on the roster. While he didn’t show a lot this past season, 2015 was remarkable for the closer. In that season, Boxberger played in 69 games and earned an impressive 41 saves. Whether the organization puts him back into the closer role or keeps him on as a reliever, General Manager Matt Silverman should focus on retaining the 28-year-old.
In Boxberger’s absence, Alex Colome stepped into the closer role. If the Rays keep Boxberger, these two pitchers will have one tough competition for the closing spot. Colome ended the season with a 1.91 ERA, playing in 57 games and notching 37 saves. This 27-year-old shows fantastic potential in the years to come, assuming the Rays don’t use him as collateral in some bizarre trade that could end up destroying the team.
The organization paraded 18 different relievers in 2016, which featured several rookies. The club was looking for someone to break out or step up to the call. Unfortunately, the Rays found inconsistency and ineffectiveness from the relievers.
In preparing for 2017, there are a few key players that could bolster the bullpen in Tampa Bay. From within the organization, Matt Silverman, and team manager, Kevin Cash could look at adding Matt Andriese to the bullpen fulltime. Andriese proved his talent during 2016, showing better domination as a reliever versus his role as a starter.
As far as externally, there are some notable relievers up for grabs. Kenley Jansen comes to mind immediately. This soon-to-be free agent had an impressive season. Managing a 2.20 ERA, 13.92 K/9, and 2.62 BB/9, Jansen has dominated the reliever role. This right-handed pitcher has a nasty cutter that could potentially leave the best of hitters sending wind gusts to the outfield. The only hiccup to the Rays acquiring such a dominate reliever is the price.
The Rays are known for budget baseball. The ownership has proven that they just aren’t willing to spend big. This has also kept the club from going big and getting to the postseason.
More than likely, the Tampa Bay Rays will seek to buff their ‘pen from their minor league system. It’s the most efficient way for them to attempt to fix this issue, without spending much money. Honestly, if the Rays want a real solution, it’s going to cost money. Matt Silverman is going to have to find a way to get more money from ownership and put it to good use. No matter how the club goes about it, the bullpen needs to be addressed.