Rays might've turned another former Yankees minor-league pitcher into something special
By Adam Weinrib
Remember when we told you that you should be concerned about the Tampa Bay Rays plucking minor-league free agent pitcher Braden Bristo from the Yankees' Triple-A club this winter? We weren't wrong.
While Bristo's minor-league results have never matched his stuff, and while his walk rate remains concerning long-term, he's already managed to contribute to Tampa Bay's record-setting undefeated start (and current 14-2 sprint), despite not cracking their Opening Day roster.
Bristo made his MLB debut this past week in Thursday's series sweep-finishing victory over the Boston Red Sox, which ran their record to 13-0.
Coincidentally, the Yankees also needed long relief that night, as starter Jhony Brito suffered the first blemish of his career, getting knocked around for seven earned runs in under one inning by the suddenly-fearsome Twins offense. The Yankees went with ex-Ray Colten Brewer, who absorbed four more earned runs and was DFA'd the next day.
The Rays? They sat pretty with Bristo, who sat in the mid-90s as he turned the Sox away.
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Bristo hasn't made another big-league appearance since, and his minor-league numbers with the Durham Bulls don't inspire the same level of confidence his MLB debut did (5.0 innings, 5.40 ERA, 7 Ks, 1.40 WHIP).
The fact remains, though: if the Rays are buying, you probably don't want to be selling.
For years, Tampa Bay has made hay off their plug-and-play pitching staff, featuring fungible names with indistinguishable results. Now that their offense appears to match their staff's level of dominance, turning close games into laughers with well-timed explosions, the Rays will certainly be a team to be reckoned with yet again. Odds are their 2023 season resembles their 102-win campaign in 2021 more closely than it does their 86-win backslide in 2022.
There's no way of knowing yet just how impactful Bristo's addition on their Durham Shuttle will be, but after months of celebrating the Yankees' Rule 5 wins this offseason (no loss of Andres Chaparro, the return of Zach Greene), we might've overlooked a pain point on the resulting minor-league free agent market.