Rays reportedly remain in contact with free agents Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel

Following Jose Alvarado's eighth-inning meltdown Friday night (CLE 3, TB 1), the Tampa Bay Rays sit in second place in the AL East at 29-19. They are 15-15 since their 14-4 start and are currently 2 1/2 games behind a depleted Yankees team that has used as skeleton crew lineup most nights due to injuries.

Although the Rays are clearly one of the better teams in baseball, there is also room for improvement, and that improvement could come via free agency. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Tampa Bay remains in contact with Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, and both are expected to sign after draft pick compensation goes away at 12:01 a.m. ET on June 3.

Here's more from Rosenthal:

The Rays, even with the absence of breakout right-hander Tyler Glasnow for the next month, continue to see Kimbrel as possibly filling a more significant need than Keuchel, sources say. The Tampa Bay bullpen, while fourth in the majors in ERA and fifth in opponents' OPS, is largely inexperienced and untested in late-season pressure. 

The Rays have not had a set closer this season. Rather, manager Kevin Cash has used the lefty Alvarado and righty Diego Castillo in the late innings as matchups dictate. Righty Emilio Pagan also sees late-inning work, ditto Ryne Stanek when he's not used as an opener. Alvarado and Castillo have five saves each. Pagan has three.

As for the rotation, Tampa Bay is currently starting Blake Snell and Charlie Morton every fifth day, with openers and bullpen days and spot starters the other three days. Glasnow is on the injured list with a forearm issue and is still several weeks from returning. Yonny Chirinos has made spot starts and Ryan Yarbrough started Thursday to rest a tired bullpen.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays
Craig Kimbrel remains unsigned and he is on Tampa Bay's radar. USATSI

The Rays opened the season with a $69.9 million payroll, fifth-lowest in baseball and down from $80.8 million last season. It would seem Tampa Bay has money to spend this summer, especially since they haven't been to the postseason since 2013. Also, signing Keuchel could mean taking him away from the Yankees, which is not an insignificant consideration.

Expecting the Rays to win a bidding war is usually a bad bet, though to be fair, they did swoop in to sign Morton this past winter. The big obstacle may not be the money, but Keuchel's or Kimbrel's preference. They'll presumably have several contenders vying for their services. Convincing them to come to Tampa may not be easy when the Yankees, Dodgers, et al are involved.

Despite allowing the fewest runs per game (3.21) and owning an MLB-best 146 ERA+, the Rays could use more pitching depth to get through the season. Their bullpen has been worked hard in the early going, and while Glasnow's injury is not believed to be serious, forearms are tricky. If not Keuchel or Kimbrel, expect Tampa to be involved in the pitching market this summer.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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