Injury-depleted Rays are looking for pitching help, and they have plenty of options to choose from

The Tampa Bay Rays entered Tuesday five games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East, and at least two games up on everyone for the top wild-card spot. While the Rays are about to embark on an important series with the Minnesota Twins -- one that could be a playoff preview -- they've recently encountered some turbulence, and not just as it pertains to their long-term home. Rather, the Rays are dealing with injuries to some of their key pitchers.

Space is infinite on the internet, but let's recap their recent woes using a convenient bulleted list:

  • The Rays placed saves leader Diego Castillo on the injured list on Sunday due to a bum shoulder. Castillo had struggled in recent outings, but has a 114 ERA+ on the year.

  • On Monday, the Rays announced starter Tyler Glasnow had suffered a setback and would be shut down for three weeks. Glasnow hasn't pitched since May 10 due to a strained forearm. He had a 1.86 ERA across his first eight starts.

  • Setup man Jose Alvarado remains on the restricted list, where he's been since early June due to a family emergency. Whenever he returns, he'll do so with a 146 ERA+.

  • Previously, the Rays had learned one of their top pitching prospects, Brent Honeywell, would miss the rest of the season after fracturing his elbow.

In summation: the Rays will be without a number of talented arms for a while longer -- and perhaps a lot longer, in some cases. 

Unsurprisingly, the Rays have been scouring the trade market for pitchers, with league sources confirming to CBS Sports Tampa Bay has engaged in talks concerning starters and relievers. The Rays are said to be open to moving second-base prospect Nick Solak, who ranks No. 12 in their system according to MLB.com.

We're not going to tick off potential targets, but we will note that the Rays have the prospect depth to go after just about anyone they want. Additionally, they have the lowest payroll in the sport by more than $10 million, at $63 million, meaning they should be able to absorb money if need to be -- of course, being able to do so is not the same as being willing to do so.

We'll also note that the Rays do have some internal candidates who could fill in the gaps. For instance, rival teams expect Brendan McKay to debut later this summer. McKay, the No. 4 pick in the 2018 draft, has 1.08 ERA and 4.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in five appearances in Triple-A. A two-way player, he's been permitted to continue hitting, yet his bat lags behind his mound work, as evidenced by a seasonal slash line of .195/.294/.317 in 143 plate appearances in the upper minors. McKay could be at least a mid-rotation starter from the day he's brought up to the Show.

Fellow prospects Jose De Leon and Anthony Banda continue to work their way back from Tommy John surgery as well, with De Leon recording his longest outing of the season on Tuesday by tossing 4 1/3 shutout innings for Tampa Bay's Triple-A affiliate. 

The Rays, then, have the ability to promote from within or acquire from outside. They may need to start leveraging those options in the coming weeks, too -- they're 10-13 in June and have series with the Texas Rangers, Yankees, and Boston Red Sox coming up ahead of the trade deadline. The Rays are still in a good position obviously, but there's a time for standing pat and then there's a time for taking advantage of the situation at hand. Tampa Bay should do the latter.

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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