Have the Rays uncovered another diamond in the rough? Time will tell, though if you’re looking for a low-risk reclamation project, a former All-Star on a cheap, short-term deal is as good a bet as any. One-time All-Star and former NLCS MVP Michael Wacha is reportedly headed to the Rays on a one-year, $3-million contract (beat writer Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times had it first), filling the void left by veteran Charlie Morton, who defected to Atlanta as a free agent earlier this offseason.
Wacha is coming off a dismal year in New York, where the 6’6” right-hander stumbled to a career-worst 6.62 ERA in eight games (seven starts) for the Mets. The 29-year-old Texas native was, at one time, a fixture in the Cardinals’ starting rotation, enjoying his best season in 2015 when he achieved All-Star status on the strength of 17 wins and a promising 3.38 ERA. Wacha isn’t of the same caliber as Morton, but he’s still relatively young and could benefit from a change of scenery after weathering some lean years in New York and St. Louis.
Even without Morton, who was due a $15-million club option (which the cost-conscious Rays predictably declined), the defending AL Champs still boast a pair of upper-echelon arms in former Cy Young winner Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow along with one of the sport’s stingiest bullpens. Adding Wacha, a hard-thrower who logged a 3.20 ERA as recently as 2018, as rotation depth can only help.
Wacha wouldn’t be the first Cardinals castoff to revive his career in Tampa Bay. Randy Arozarena, a fringe prospect during his time in St. Louis, rose to immediate stardom as a Ray, garnering ALCS MVP honors last fall while setting multiple postseason records.