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Three Rays Players Elect Free Agency, Could They Return?

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Major League Baseball’s Players Association announced Friday that 130 players have become free agents from reaching the required big-league service time and reaching the end of their current contracts.  This includes three players acquired by Tampa Bay Rays during the 2023 season and therefore a qualifying offer can not be extended to them.

Well take a look at all three players and determine whether any of them could be a part of the team in 2024.

RHP Robert Stephenson

Stephenson was acquired by the Rays from the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 2 in exchange for infielder Alika Williams, and in 42 games with Tampa Bay, posted a 3-1 mark with a 2.45 earned run average, a 0.678 WHIP, and 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings.  He throws his fastball in the upper 90s, and has the gyro slider that became one of the best swing-and-miss pitches out there.  Kyle Snyder and the rest of the pitching staff gave Stephenson the tools needed to get him over the top, and I see him going out and getting him a multi-year deal that will pay him very well for a reliever.

Chances he returns: none


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LHP Jake Diekman

The 36-year-old was cast aside by the Chicago White Sox after just 13 appearances having pitched to a 7.94 ERA and a 2.118 WHIP, with just a 8.7 strikeouts/9 rate and a whopping 10.3 walks/9.  The Rays were able to swoop him up for the pro-rated minimum, and Diekman rewarded the club with a 2.18 ERA, a 1.125 WHIP, 10.5 strikeouts/9 and just 5.0 walks/9.  On top of the much-improved performance on the field, Diekman was one of the glue guys in the clubhouse, inspiring a lot of the camaraderie with the pitching staff and the position players.

Chances he returns: Diekman is a midwest guy, but with an opportunity to again be a part of a bullpen that should be in contention for another postseason berth and division title, he could definitely look for one more run here.


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RHP Chris Devenski

Devenski came to Tampa Bay August 29 after being released by the Los Angeles Angels, and made nine appearances for the Rays, sinishing 3-2 with a 2.08 ERA and a 0.808 WHIP.  The right-hander certainly looked more like the reliever who made the All-Star Game in 2017 with Tampa Bay as opposed to  pitcher that had struggledbetween the 2018 season and late August, but the sample size certainly appeared to be too small to make a definitive conclusion.

Chances he returns: Devenski’s market will certainly be a lot smaller than either Stephenson’s or Diekman’s, which leads me to think that not only could the Rays bring him back, but I think they could get Devenski to sign a minor-league deal with a big league Spring Training invitation.

Written By

Steve Carney is the founder and publisher of St. Pete Nine. One of the people most associated with baseball coverage in Tampa Bay, he spent 13 seasons covering the Rays for flagship radio station WDAE, first as producer of Rays Radio broadcasts, then as beat reporter beginning in 2011. He likes new analytics and aged bourbon, and is the owner of one of the ugliest knuckleballs ever witnessed by baseball scouts.

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