I am not a big fan of using questions in headlines. Writers shouldn’t be coy or try to be too clever, and we should try to be definitive when possible. But I honestly have no idea what the future holds for Mr. Jeffrey Warren Niemann.
If Niemann is the odd-man out of the rotation, as the evidence suggests, the Rays most likely options would be to send Niemann to the bullpen or trade him before the regular season starts.
The Rays faced a similar scenario last year with Wade Davis and chose to go the bullpen route with resounding success. But would Niemann be as good in the ‘pen as Davis?
One reason often cited for keeping Niemann is the pitching depth. But we learned last year that keeping the starting pitcher in the bullpen does not add to that depth. When needs arose for starting pitchers in 2012, the Rays bypassed Davis, noting that it would take too long to get him back into starting pitcher shape.
On the other hand, we also know from the Davis saga that the Rays can stash a starting pitcher in the bullpen for a year and other teams may still be interested in trading for Niemann even if he hasn’t started a game in 18 months.
Ultimately, it may come down to how good the Rays feel about their bullpen (is Niemann a better option than Jamey Wright, Josh Lueke, or Brandon Gomes?) or what other teams are offering in a trade.
We have heard that the Rockies have already asked the Rays about trading for Niemann. And if they, or another club, offer the Rays a package they think is fair, they will probably make the deal.