The Rays agree with the lefty Brendan McKay to a two-year minor league contract, according to Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link) Tampa Bay also agreed to terms with the catcher on traditional one-year minor league deals Nick Dean and relaxing Colten Brewer.
McKay is a former fourth overall pick who spent his entire career with the Rays. A two-way superstar in college, he focused more and more on playmaking as a pro. An excellent pitcher, he quickly moved through the minor leagues and reached the majors by 2019. McKay started 11 of 13 games during his rookie season, showing promise with a strikeout and a walk in 49 innings.
Unfortunately, he failed to throw a single major league pitch in the four years since. He missed the shortened 2020 season with a shoulder problem that eventually required surgery. Recovery from that procedure kept him out until late June 2021. Just a few outings into the minor league rehab, McKay suffered a forearm flexor strain that again proved to be season-ending. She was then diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and underwent surgery to correct it that issue last November.
McKay spent most of 2022 on the injured list recovering from a TOS procedure. He completed a rehab assignment in mid-July and spent his allotted 30-day window returning to Triple-A. The Rays then officially reinstated McKay from IL, but kept him in Durham on an optional assignment. A few days later, he suffered a UCL injury while playing against the Bulls. Tampa Bay announced in September that he will require Tommy John surgery, an injury that will cost him the entire 2023 season.
The Rays left McKay off their 40-man roster later this year. They released him the following week, a quirk of the minor league service system. He has spent six seasons in the minors, and will hit his seventh in 2023. He would have been eligible for minor league free agency after the ’23 campaign had he not been added to the 40-man roster anyway. 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 cap, giving them a chance to re-evaluate him after a hopefully successful rehab.
Brewer, 30, played four straight seasons in the majors from 2018-21. He split that time between the Padres and Red Sox, with his longest stint in Boston in 2019. The righty has pitched 91 innings in 81 major league appearances, working to a 5.04 ERA. Brewer is under contract with the Royals through the 2022 campaign. He spent the season at Triple-A Omaha, posting a 4.76 ERA over 39 2/3 innings. He struck out a quarter of opponents with an above-average 10.7% walk rate.
Deeney has little big league experience, making 20 appearances for the Royals in 2019. The right-handed catcher played in the Kansas City organization through the 2021 campaign before signing with the Mets. Deeney spent the season at Triple-A Syracuse, posting a .232/.323/.446 line with 11 home runs in 201 trips to the plate.