The Tampa Bay Rays bullpen should be an off-season priority, but will it look the same in 2016?

The Ray’s bullpen has been an enigma for the whole season. There were a lot of positives for a group that was asked to do a lot given all the starting pitching injuries. The bullpen will likely have the most saves in team history, Brad Boxberger emerged as an All-Star closer, Steve Geltz came out of nowhere and pitched in multiple roles. Late season acquisition Xavier Cedeno revitalized his career becoming a reliable lefty and Alex Colome filled in for Jake McGee when he went down.

But fans have still been left unsatisfied.

First-year manager Kevin Cash has been second-guessed all season (sometimes correctly) as he has tried to keep the bullpen fresh as the starters’ innings seem to be managed as a collective.

Traditionally, a team’s bullpen will be made up of the closer, two setup roles, three middle relievers, and a long reliever. Here is what I project the 2016 bullpen to look like.

CL – Brad Boxberger

SU – Jake McGee

SU – Alex Colome

MID – Steve Geltz

MID – Xavier Cedeno

MID – TBD

LR – Nathan Karns

Barring injuries, five of the six spots will be solidified. Nathan Karns could return to the starting rotation, but likely will be the odd man out, losing to Erasmo Ramirez. Plus, Alex Cobb will eventually return and Blake Snell may be pushing his way into the rotation. Karns still has options and a trade should not be discounted.

Alex Colome has shown he could be a dominant set up man. Since being moved to the bullpen, he has 1.23 ERA, 1.75 FIP and a 9-1 K/BB ratio over 29.1 innings recording 6 holds. If you take out his first two appearances, his numbers are nastier. With so many options for starting pitching, a permanent move to the bullpen is a must.

Jake McGee returned from injury and once again performed admirably. By all accounts he handled the “demotion” from the closer role like a professional. He is in line for a slight raise from the $3.5 million in 2015, which could make him an attractive trade piece.

Steve Geltz and Xavier Cedeno are out of options, but their performance earns them a spot for 2016.

This leaves one spot open for a number of options for the Rays. Brandon Gomes and Matt Andriese could reprise their roles and be a part of the “Durham Shuttle.”

Enny Romero, Kirby Yates, and CJ Riefenhauser may get an opportunity.

One intriguing option is Jonny Venters who signed a 2-year minor league contract at the beginning of the season.

With teams looking for their own version of a Royals Holland-Herrera-Davis three-headed monster, the Rays have a bright future with Boxberger-McGee-Colome.

The 2015 Rays bullpen has been an overall success considering the workload they have had to take on. This offseason the team will scour through the free agent list and perhaps a few minor moves will be made. However, the names we will see in 2016 will be VERY familiar. Just need a cool nickname for them.

How does Run BMC sound?

Statistics, current as of September 8, were sourced at FanGraphs.

 

 

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