Potential Players of Interest: NRI Relief Types
Based on the current roster, the Rays have most of their bullpen in place. Without including Jake McGee, who will open the season on the disabled list, Tampa Bay has five pitchers who either lack options or cannot be optioned to the minors due to service time: Grant Balfour, Jeff Beliveau, Alex Colome, Ernesto Frieri, and Kevin Jepsen. Add in Brad Boxberger and, even if the Rays use Colome in the rotation, their bullpen is about full without considering the merits of Jose Dominguez, Kirby Yates, Burch Smith, and Steve Geltz.
Still, this being the Rays, it seems likely that they’ll add at least one more veteran reliever on a non-roster deal. Let’s take a look at some of their options.
Before getting to the names, let’s state the obvious: pitchers available on non-roster deals are usually flawed in a way that limits their potential contributions, be it performance or health-related. As such, while the pitchers listed here might not be attractive at first blush, they do fit within the parameters of what a non-roster invitee tends to look like. (Note: Pitchers listed alphabetically.)
Matt Albers missed almost all of last season due to shoulder tendinitis, forcing the Astros to decline the $3 million option they held on him for 2015. Despite the time off, Albers is still two months away from throwing for teams, which ought to cause concern about his early-season availability. When right, he’s a fine middle reliever who uses his sinker-slider combo to generate grounders. The quality of his stuff these days is anyone’s guess, but he might offer the highest ceiling of the bunch.
Blaine Boyer pitched in 32 games with the Padres last season after not appearing in a big-league game in either of the previous two years. He’s older than Albers, and has worse shaving habits, but there are some things to like about his game, such as his control and strikeout-to-walk ratio. Alas, Boyer has enough negatives to explain away his absence from the majors. He doesn’t command his 92-94 mph fastball well, and he’s inconsistent with his slider in all facets—location, shape, and effectiveness.
Another former Brave, Buddy Carlyle threw a surprisingly competent 31 innings with the Mets. He showed impressive control—no surprise, given his walk rate—and did a good job of keeping runners off base in general. Carlyle, who turned 37 over the weekend, posted those numbers with a simplistic approach. He didn’t bother much with bendy or slow pitches, opting instead to throw a lot of four- and two-seam fastballs and cutters. He’s unlikely to repeat last season, but as a low-leverage reliever he could have his uses.
Nick Masset, on the other hand, had an ugly season with the Rockies in ’14, his first since undergoing shoulder surgery in 2012. He doesn’t throw as hard as he used to, but his low-to-mid-90s fastball has some run and his trademark curveball still has its depth. (He also mixes in a cutter.) Masset probably doesn’t have the command to be more than a middle reliever these days, and the past injury woes are concerning, however, he’s been a durable workhorse in the past and there could be more upside here than in other cases.
Finally, there’s Jamey Wright. Because obviously.