The Tampa Bay Rays front office was busy on the last day of pitcher/catcher workouts in Port Charlotte, officially announcing the acquisitions of right-handed hurlers Collin McHugh and Chaz Roe.
Roe agreed to a one-year, $1.15-million deal, describing the decision to sign with the Rays as a “no-brainer,” while McHugh previously inked a one-year, $1.8-million contract. He too described the decision to sign with Tampa Bay as a “no brainer.”
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Rays moved right-handers Yonny Chirinos (Tommy John surgery) and Oliver Drake (right flexor tendon strain) to the 60-day Injured List. Tampa Bay’s roster is full and, arguably, better equipped to handle the upcoming season.
Roe told Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) that he liked that the Rays added several veterans to the otherwise young core of players.
They’re going to help out tremendously. It’s good to have those guys around for feedback to bounce stuff off of them. They’ve been around for a while. They’re not afraid to speak their mind. I think that’s what we need right now. I think it’s going to help out our ballclub a lot.— Chaz Roe
Roe boasts one of the league’s biggest breaking sliders in terms of horizontal movement. 1047 pitchers have thrown a slider over the last five seasons, yet no slider had more horizontal movement than Roe’s. Since Tampa Bay acquired the right-hander in 2017, Roe has performed to a 3.54 ERA, a 27.7% strikeout rate, and a 1.27 WHIP, with 139 strikeouts across 119-1/3 innings (151 appearances). He, however, was limited to just 10 appearances last season due to right elbow discomfort resulting in the team shutting him down in August.
Roe rested through the postseason, and began his rehab in the offseason, noting that he’s “100 percent ready to go” in the present tense.
Roe told Adam Berry (MLB.com) he didn’t need much convincing to come back to Tampa Bay.
I’m just happy to be back here. I’m happy to be back, and hopefully, we can run it back. … I love it here, love the group of guys, so it was a very easy decision on my part.— Chaz Roe
Meanwhile, McHugh said he considered Tampa Bay along with a small group of clubs, citing the team’s cutting-edge use of pitching, which he said was exciting.
With my background as a starting pitcher and my recent background as a reliever and short-inning reliever, it kind of gives me some versatility to be able to kind of fill those spots and fill those innings where it’s going to be needed.— Collin McHugh
Rays skipper Kevin Cash said McHugh can fill a number of different roles in 2021.
He’s proven over his career that he can be really versatile and really effective whether it’s starting, whether it’s providing late-inning one-inning stints, or a multi-inning role.— Kevin Cash
In-kind, McHugh mentioned that his flexibility should provide Tampa Bay with some much-needed innings.
Bringing the guys in that we’ve been able to bring in — myself, Rich, (Michael Wacha), Arch — some of these guys who’ve had some success in the past as starters but also know the game is changing and know the game is developing in a way in which shorter stints might be what’s asked of you. I think we’re all open to it, and we’re all ready to take the ball when it’s given to us. … I think we’ve got a good plan in place of how to fill these innings and how to fill them really effectively.— Collin McHugh
The Rays will hold their first full-squad workout on Tuesday morning in Port Charlotte. Yet on Monday, all eyes were on a bulked-up Austin Meadows and 25-year-old catcher Francisco Mejía.
After battling through injuries and a bout with COVID last season, Cash said Meadows looked “awesome” as he arrived at camp.
Meadows looks awesome. He had a really rough season last year with injuries and COVID,. Really proud of Austin for working really hard this offseason. We can see that.— Kevin Cash
Cash also said he was encouraged by the early looks at the position players in camp, mentioning that they already looked to be in midseason form.
Looking at all the guys, they all look in really good shape. They hit on the fields and they looked to be in mid-season form that first round of batting practice.— Kevin Cash
As for Mejía, the Rays believe he will benefit from a change of scenery after he and others were traded for Blake Snell in December. While the backstop went just 3-for-39 with San Diego last season, he has been projected by Baseball Prospectus to pop 10 homers and slug .422 in 2021. This is the same player that slashed .265 BA/.316 OBP/.438 SLG across 244 plate appearances for the Padres two seasons ago, and was a .295 hitter with a .810 OPS in the minor leagues — including a 50-game hitting streak.
Tampa Bay expects Mejía to tighten up his defensive game with help from field coordinator Paul Hoover and catching coordinator Tomas Francisco, and play behind Mike Zunino.