Rays add former No. 1 pick Matt Bush to 40-man roster

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Interesting move by the Rays this afternoon, as they have added former 2004 No. 1 overall pick Matt Bush to their 40-man roster, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. Bush, who turns 25 in February, otherwise would have had the right to become a free agent.

Bush, of course, is known as one of the biggest busts in draft history. He was involved in a bar fight before even making his pro debut and batted just .219/.294/.276 over four seasons before trying his luck as a pitcher in 2007. He was picked up by the Blue Jays in February of 2009 after missing the entire 2008 season following Tommy John surgery, but was cut loose after allegedly assaulting some lacrosse players at his old high school. In addition to his extensive legal troubles, he has the unfortunate distinction of joining Brien Taylor and Steve Chilcott as the only former No. 1 picks never to play in the major leagues.

The Rays took a chance by signing Bush to a minor league contract in January. He posted a 3.29 ERA and 20/3 K/BB ratio over 13 2/3 innings between rookie ball and High-A Charlotte this past season, which was apparently impressive enough for him to return for another season. If he manages to end up as a pitcher in the major leagues, great, but turning his life around should still be the No. 1 priority.

Rays sign lefty Ryan Merritt to a minor league deal

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The Tampa Bay Rays have signed lefty swingman Ryan Merritt to a minor league contract. Nah, it’s not a big signing but we’ll take anything today.

Merritt, who has spent his entire career in the Indians organization, spent the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Columbus. It wasn’t a bad year for him — he posted a 3.79 ERA and a 52/2 K/BB ratio in 13 starts and two relief appearances covering 71.1 innings — but the Tribe just couldn’t find a role for him at the big league level. He has shown in the past, however, that he can hack it in the bigs, having posted a 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings with the Indians between 2016-2017.

His thing is that he simply doesn’t strike guys out at anything approaching a typical clip for a big leaguer: 3.7 per nine innings in his small sample of major league outings and 6.3 Ks per nine innings in the minors. Which, while it may not prevent him from having success at the big league level, is likely a reason for the limited number of chances he’s been given.

The Rays are probably the best place he could go, frankly. They’ve shown themselves willing to utilize guys in unique ways and are more likely than most teams to find places to spot a lefty control specialist who has shown he can both start and come out of the pen.