Does the trade of Drew Smyly make the Rays better?

by Gary Shelton on January 12, 2017 · 2 comments

in general

Rays trade starting pitcher Drew Smyly. /TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Rays trade starting pitcher Drew Smyly. /TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Thursday, 3 a.m.

If you are believer that the Tampa Bay Rays really have too much pitching, then this trade probably didn't bother you a lot.

It's hard to ask fans to block Tropicana Field with their bodies. Not for a 7-12 pitcher with a 4.88 earned run average. Drew Smyly's most recent season wasn't the kind of year that instills faith in his arm. After, he's never been a 10-game winner in the big leagues.

And so the Rays may eventually be better off with speedy outfielder Mallex Smith and the prospects of Carlos Vargas and Ryan Yarbrough.

Still, here's that ever-present nagging question about the Rays. Did they make this trade because they're in love with Smith's skill set? Or did they make it to get away from the $6.9 contract that Smyly was due? Does this trade make the team better?

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Start with this: Do the Rays really have that much pitching to spare? Did a piece have to go?

Oh, it isn't the Rays way to give up on Chris Archer after a down year. Archer was 9-19, and that's gotten a familiar spin from the team, who says there really wasn't that much difference between Archer in 2016 and in 2015 except for a few more home runs (30-19) and a bit higher ERA (4.03 to 3.23). But Archer has the stuff to be better than he was in either year. Heck, he was a 12-13 pitcher in 2015, which hardly matches his talent.

So pencil in Archer, and Jack Odorizzi (who had the only winning record on the staff). Add young Blake Snell, who ought to be better. After that, who is there? Matt Andriese? Erasmo Ramirez? Are you excited yet? Especially when you remember that the Rays' fatal flaw the last two season has been that the starting pitching has given way to the bullpen far too early.

I'll be honest: I like the Rays' every-day lineup better. Last year, I didn't think it was athletic enough, especially when Kevin Kiermaier was hurt. But once new catcher Wilson Ramos comes back, I think he'll help. I think the infield of Brad Miller-Logan Forsythe-Matt Duffy-Evan Longoria could be the Rays' best if no one has a down year. If Kiermaier and Steven Souza can stay healthy, the outfield could be fun.

Ah, but what's the old line. The game shouldn't be called “baseball.” It should be called “pitching.”

The Rays need more solid starters, not less. They need more help in the bullpen. They need to stay healthy. And they need to win more series.

In the coming weeks, look for the Rays to add arms to the bullpen. On those nights when the Rays come out of the fifth inning with a 4-2 lead, they need a staff that can make that hold up.

Do that, and the smiling might not be over.

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