Rays stealing minor-league reliever from Yankees should raise eyebrows


Someday, a time will come when the New York Yankees are the organization on a league-wide pedestal, and any attempt to swipe their players will feel like a shoddy attempt at approximating their greatness.

Sadly, the gold standard in pitching development (and bullpen maximization) still resides in Tampa Bay. Despite middling expectations for the 2023 Rays, everyone still knows in their heart of hearts that they’ll uncover five more dominant relievers over the course of their potential mediocrity.

That means that even the most marginal of moves has to be put under the microscope when it involves Tampa seeing something in an arm that the Yankees haven’t appreciated (at least, not enough to use a 40-man spot or act proactively).

Right-hander Braden Bristo has been claimed by Tampa, signed to a minor-league contract with a spring training invite after pitching in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the past two seasons.

He’s been average. He’s been fine. Clearly, he could be elite, though, if the Rays like what they saw down in Durham.

Rays steal Yankees minor-league reliever Braden Bristo, who will dominate now

The Yankees tried the reverse of this move last spring, when reliever David McKay was squeezed off Tampa’s 40-man and found his way to Scranton. The Rays’ loss was ultimately nobody’s gain, though, after McKay threw two shutout innings for New York in mop-up duty, then posted an 18.00 ERA back in Tampa and a 3.38 mark in 2.2 innings in Oakland. Riveting.

No, no, this gambit only works when it’s the Rays poaching others teams’ talent and spinning the arms into gold. Jason Adam. Jalen Beeks. Jeffrey Springs. Garrett Cleavinger. And on, and on, and on.

The 28-year-old Bristo posted 4.86 and 4.56 ERAs the past two seasons in the Yankees’ system, though he — say it with me now! — struck out 125 in 103.1 total innings during those campaigns.

The numbers, while up and down, have unfortunately been rendered irrelevant now that the tendrils of The Trop have wriggled around Bristo and welcomed him to sunny Florida. There’s no rational reason to be afraid of Bristo. That said, the Rays’ brand of rationality lurks below the surface, and only they’re aware of it.

We’re prepared for Garrett Whitlock South.