Rays Roster Shuffle Begins This Weekend
Beginning Sunday, the Rays will expand their active roster as the limit on roster size shifts from the customary 25 to 40 during the final month of the regular season.
Tampa Bay began their roster shuffling a bit early this year when they optioned Jeremy Hellickson to Class-A Charlotte. Essentially a paid vacation, the right-hander is expected to return to the majors some time early next week. The faux option is apparently envogue this season as the Rays and a number of teams have “optioned” established members of their clubs to lower-level affiliates with seasons ending in early September.
The loophole allows teams to operate with a free roster spot without having to adhere to the 10-day waiting period after optioning a player. The end of the affiliate’s season voids the hold. The team also does not burn an option year as the player will not spend 20 days in the minor leagues. This week the Rays used Hellickson’s rotating spot on Jeff Beliveau, Jake Odorizzi, and now Brandon Gomes. Beliveau and Odorizzi were optioned to Double-A Montgomery. The Biscuits end their season Monday, meaning the pitchers can return to the Rays if needed on Tuesday.
In addition to the expected callups and disabled list activations, the Rays might make some procedure moves to ensure they have added flexibilty should they qualify for postseason play. With three pitchers currently on the 60-day disabled list (Jeff Niemann, Juan Carlos Oviedo, and Jesse Crain) the Rays have three possible playoff roster exemptions for pitchers not on the roster prior to September 1. Crain may actually pitch this season, but it seems safe that the club could add two pitchers to the postseason roster called up on Sunday or later.
On the position player side, the Rays may recall injured prospect Hak-Ju Lee despite the fact that he is – and has been – out for the season. Tampa Bay will need a 40-man roster spot when they choose to promote the recently signed Delmon Young to the majors. In addition, it has been my understanding that in order to add Young to the playoff roster as a September 1 callup, the team would need a position player on the major league disabled list.
Brandon Guyer and Luke Scott are currently on the DL, but both seem likely to be activated for on-field roles. Recalling Lee, and immediately placing him on the 60-day DL, would free up a spot on the 40-man roster as well as create the playoff exemption. The only downside to the move would be paying Lee a prorated portion of the major-league minimum and giving him a month of useless service time. In this case the roster flexibility outweighs those costs.