With the loss of JP Howell for the year, the Rays are left with Randy Choate as the only lefty in the bullpen. So the natural reaction is to think the Rays will go out and find a cheap lefty in the trade market. Maybe not…
Clubs that have spoken with the Rays say they don’t expect Tampa Bay to react to J.P. Howell’s season-ending shoulder surgery by running out and trading for bullpen help.
“They’re already past that,” said an executive of one club. “They’ve already got the [Randy] Choate factor going, and the [Lance] Cormier factor, and the [Andy] Sonnanstine factor. They’re like Minnesota getting past losing [Joe] Nathan. That team has so much character and it’s so focused, they just deal with it.”
Down the road, the Rays might hunt around for another left-handed reliever. And “They’d love to add a couple of power arms in the ‘pen,” the same executive said. But in the short term, they’re second in the league in bullpen ERA. And opponents are hitting .215 against that bullpen. So this is a team in no hurry to make a deal.
The Rays do have RJ Swindle and Heath Phillips at triple-A Durham. But Swindle just came off the DL and Phillips has never been particularly tough on lefties.
And of course there is a guy in double-A Montgomery named Jake McGee. He is still being used as a starter, but in his last four appearances he hasn’t been allowed to pitch past the fourth inning. This suggests that the Rays have already started the transition to relief pitcher.
So maybe the Rays are confident with what they have. But if they do need to make a change, there are options from within.