The Tampa Bay Rays are yet to win their first World Series.
However, they are on the verge, and don’t need too many pieces to contend again as they have a strong foundation in place.
They need to make sure to bring a top roster into the 2022 campaign, though, because the American League East division is getting tougher and tougher.
These three free agents, however, can help them take the next step.
3. Andrew Chafin
Andrew Chafin is actually one of the majors’ best left-handed pitchers, so he surely won’t come cheap.
It remains to be seen if that situation scares the Rays away.
It better not, because while Tampa can usually rescue players and turn them into stars, it also needs to spend resources on a reliable reliever every once in a while.
Chafin had a 1.83 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP in 68.2 innings, with 64 strikeouts.
He has been one of MLB’s best and most consistent relievers for a while now.
Only MLB players who have had a sub-4.00 FIP and 40+ games pitched in every full-length season since 2017
Matt Barnes, Andrew Chafin, Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, JOE KELLY
— Ely Sussman (@RealEly) October 22, 2021
He pitched lots of high-leverage innings in 2021, first with the Chicago Cubs and then with the Oakland Athletics.
He is experienced, yet not too old at 31, and should have a bunch of solid seasons left in his playing career.
He can retire hitters of both hands, but he was especially stingy against southpaws, as they hit .170/.250/.223 against him this year.
Chafin should be a good fit in Tampa.
Will they consider him?
2. Collin McHugh
Collin McHugh is an internal free agent: he is free to sign with anyone, but last played with the Rays in 2021.
For Tampa, re-signing him is a must.
Tampa Bay lives and dies with its bullpen, and the more quality arms they can carry, the better.
McHugh had a mind-blowing 2021 campaign, with a 6-1 record in 37 games, a microscopic 1.55 ERA, 74 punchouts in 64 frames, and a 0.94 WHIP.
The best thing about McHugh is his versatility.
He can serve as an “opener” and take care of those three or four first hitters on the opposing lineup, he can be a traditional middle reliever, a fireman, or a closer.
He can retire both lefties and righties and has an incredible ability to miss bats.
In other words, he is a perfect pitcher for the Rays and should return in 2022.
1. Yusei Kikuchi
Tyler Glasnow, the organization’s top starting pitcher, underwent Tommy John surgery this year and is expected to be out until the beginning of the 2023 campaign.
The Rays desperately need an ace, and frankly, there are better odds of Shane McClanahan or Shane Baz blossoming into a couple of them than Tampa going after big fish who should command lots of dollars, such as Carlos Rodon, Robbie Ray, or Kevin Gausman.
However, a talented arm recently became available and could have untapped ceiling: Yusei Kikuchi.
With the Rays’ gifted player development staff, they have a good chance of bringing the best out of Kikuchi, a good but inconsistent pitcher who finished 2021 with a 4.41 ERA while wearing a Seattle Mariners uniform.
However, get this: in a span of 11 starts between April 29 and July 1, Kikuchi was brilliant, with a 2.33 ERA in 69.2 frames while striking out 9.43 hitters per nine innings.
"It was only 11 months ago the Mariners let him go, but it feels like like a lifetime ago. Now, after one full year with the Rays, Yusei Kikuchi is in line to win his first of what many imagine to be multiple Cy Youngs." https://t.co/Zx00Sp4QD9
— Razzball (@Razzball) November 3, 2021
The Rays could work wonders with him.