Rays, Brendan McKay Agree To Two-Year Minor League Deal

The Rays are in agreement with left-hander Brendan McKay on a two-year minor league contract, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). Tampa Bay has also agreed to traditional one-year minor league deals with catcher Nick Dini and reliever Colten Brewer.

McKay is a former fourth overall pick who has spent his entire career with the Rays. A two-way superstar in college, he increasingly focused on pitching as a professional. An excellent strike-thrower, he moved quickly through the minor leagues and reached the majors by 2019. McKay started 11 of 13 games during his rookie season, showing promising strikeout and walk marks through 49 innings.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to throw a single major league pitch in the four years since then. He missed the shortened 2020 season on account of a shoulder problem that eventually required surgery. The rehab from that procedure kept him out of action until late June 2021. Just a few outings into a minor league rehab stint, McKay suffered a flexor strain in his forearm that again proved to be season-ending. He was then diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and underwent surgery to correct that issue last November.

McKay spent most of 2022 on the injured list recovering from the TOS procedure. He set out on a rehab assignment in mid-July and spent his allotted 30-day window pitching back to Triple-A. The Rays then formally reinstated McKay from the IL but kept him in Durham on an optional assignment. A few days later, he suffered a UCL injury while pitching with the Bulls. Tampa Bay announced in September he’d require Tommy John surgery, an injury that’ll cost him the entire 2023 season.

At the end of this year, the Rays outrighted McKay off their 40-man roster. They released him the following week, a quirk of the minor league service system. He’s spent parts of six seasons in the minors, and he’ll have reached a seventh in 2023. After the ’23 campaign, he’d have qualified for minor league free agency if not added to the 40-man roster anyhow. By releasing him and subsequently re-signing him to a two-year deal, Tampa Bay can keep him in the organization for the 2024 season without a 40-man spot, giving them a chance to reevaluate him after a hopefully successful rehab.

Brewer, 30, pitched in the majors in four straight seasons from 2018-21. He split that time between the Padres and Red Sox, with his most extended work coming for Boston in 2019. The righty has tallied 91 innings over 81 major league appearances, working to a 5.04 ERA. Brewer signed with the Royals for the 2022 campaign. He spent the season at Triple-A Omaha, pitching to a 4.76 ERA over 39 2/3 innings. He struck out a quarter of opponents with a higher than average 10.7% walk rate.

Dini has sparse major league experience, having suited up 20 times for the Royals in 2019. The right-handed hitting catcher played in the Kansas City organization through the 2021 campaign, after which he signed with the Mets. Dini spent the season at Triple-A Syracuse, putting up a .232/.323/.446 line with 11 home runs in 201 trips to the plate.

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