On Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays inked a one-year, $3-Million deal with right-handed free-agent hurler Micahel Wacha. The veteran now joins Blake Snell, Ryan Yarbrough, Tyler Glasnow, and Shane McClanahan as the Rays front five starters in the rotation. For the time being, Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster is full.
Wacha, 29, is an eight-year veteran that spent most of his career with the St Louis Cardinals, where he was a middle of the rotation hurler. His best season came in 2017 when he finished with a 4.13 ERA and a 3.63 FIP across 165-2/3 frames. Yet injuries have impacted Wacha’s career although he’s reportedly healthy now.
Wacha struggled through eight starts with the Mets in the truncated 2020 season, pitching to a 6.62 ERA and a 5.25 FIP with nine home runs allowed in just 34 innings of work. His 2019 season was also less than stellar thanks in no large part to the aforementioned. His peripherals were eye-popping, to say the least, making Wacha a low-risk/high reward target. The 11.3% swing-and-miss rate was his highest since 2013 according to FanGraphs, and he generated whiffs on a career-high 34.3% of pitches outside the zone. He also logged a very strong 37-to-7 K/BB, and his 1.89 BB/9 was the lowest of his career.
Wacha’s fastball velocity bottomed in 2019 with the Cardinals, sitting at a career-low 93 mph, however, he made some positive gains in 2020 and currently sits at 93.6 mph. He also changed his pitch selection considerably in New York, scrapping his curveball in lieu of a three-pitch mix; the four-seam fastball, a cutter, and a Bugs Bunny changeup. His changeup is the most intriguing offering, as it boasts significant movement that allows him to miss bats.
The right-hander becomes another hurler in a long line of low risk/high reward reclamation projects that the team has become well known for, which Rays GM Erik Neander spoke about on Friday.
We have a lot of confidence in our pitching program and it’s not one particular type or style of pitcher. Frankly, I think more than anything I just think it’s the care, it’s the human touch that they invest in each and every pitcher to help them get them the most out of themselves that really drives it.— Erik Neander
— The Rays are among the teams with interest in free-agent right-hander Ryne Stanek. The former Ray was a regular opener with the team in 2018 and 2019 when he pitched to a 3.17 ERA/3.64 FIP and averaged more than 10 strikeouts per nine across 122 frames. Stanek had difficulty in Miami, which acquired him before the 2019 trade deadline, and the right-hander was non-tendered as a result.
— Brent Honeywell underwent arthroscopic right elbow surgery on Wednesday. The successful procedure was done to relieve mild discomfort and it isn’t expected to impact his 2021 season. That is good news for the hurler, who is expected to compete for a spot in the starting rotation in Spring Training.