The Top 10 Greatest Pitchers in Tampa Bay Rays History

One of the newest MLB franchises, the Rays have featured great pitchers over their history, who each dominated during a small window of time.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 24: Shane McClanahan #18 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning in a baseball game at Tropicana Field on April 24, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

After a late-career emergence as a star with the Houston Astros, the Tampa Bay Rays signed Charlie Morton to a two-year, $30 million deal that proved to be one of the better signings in the franchise’s still relatively brief history.

Morton finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2019, behind only his former Astros teammates, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.

That season alone nearly put him on this list, but the 2020 season was limited to just 60 games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Morton posted a 4.74 ERA over nine starts that year. Even for a team that began play in 1998, there just wasn’t quite enough of a body of work for Morton to make this list.

With that said, the contrast between the Rays and some of the older franchises we’ve ranked — like the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies — is drastic. Not only do the Devil Rays have less than 30 seasons of play to pick from, but they haven’t typically spent to keep stars once they get expensive.

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Also, even some of the best pitchers in Rays history were far from workhorses, as the organization has prioritized stuff over the ability to pitch deep into games (or seasons) in recent years.

So this is a unique list, but one that was still fun to put together. Here are the 10 greatest pitchers in Rays history.

10. Jake McGee (2010-2015)

Best Season With The Rays: 2014 – 5-2 with a 1.89 ERA, 197 ERA+, 1.73 FIP, 0.897 WHIP, 90 strikeouts, 19/23 (83%) on save attempts and a 2.5 fWAR

Career Stats With The Rays: 21-11 with a 2.77 ERA, 138 ERA+, 2.58 FIP, 1.017 WHIP, 319 strikeouts and 5.9 fWAR

McGee is the all-time leader in appearances for a Rays pitcher, having taken the ball 297 times over the course of parts of six seasons in Tampa Bay.

In both 2012 and 2014, McGee finished the season with an ERA under 2.00. Between the three-year period of 2012 and 2014, McGee was fourth in both appearances (213) and fWAR (4.9) among American League relievers.

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To claim the final spot on this list, McGee beat out the aforementioned Morton, along with Grant Balfour, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Jake Odorizzi and Jeff Nieman.

9. Tyler Glasnow (2018-2023)

Best Season With The Rays: 2023 – 10-7 with a 3.53 ERA, 118 ERA+, 2.91 FIP, 1.083 WHIP, 162 strikeouts, zero complete games and a 3.2 fWAR

Career Stats With The Rays: 27-16 with a 3.20 ERA, 130 ERA+, 3.10 FIP, 1.025 WHIP, 526 strikeouts, zero complete games and 9.8 fWAR

In his first season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Glasnow has managed to do what he never could in Tampa Bay — maintain his incredible stuff while being a workhorse out the starting rotation.

With that said, when Glasnow was on the mound over parts of six seasons with the Rays, he was often dominant. Despite pitching just 338 1/3 career innings with the Rays, Glasnow is eighth in franchise history in strikeouts with 526. His 9.8 fWAR is also the sixth-best mark among all pitchers in Rays history.

There’s definitely a “what if?” element with Glasnow’s tenure in Tampa Bay. If he had been more durable, he likely would be in the top five. At the same time, it was probably inevitable that the Rays were going to trade him as he got more expensive.

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8. Alex Cobb (2011-2014; 2016-2017)

Best Season With The Rays: 2014 – 10-9 with a 2.87 ERA, 130 ERA+, 3.23 FIP, 1.136 WHIP, 149 strikeouts, zero complete games and a 2.5 fWAR

Career Stats With The Rays: 48-35 with a 3.50 ERA, 112 ERA+, 3.68 FIP, 1.217 WHIP, 570 strikeouts, three complete games and 9.7 fWAR

Selected in the fourth round of the 2006 MLB Draft out of Vero Beach High School in Florida, Cobb spent his first six seasons with the Rays.

His finest season in Tampa Bay came in 2014, when he posted a 2.87 ERA and logged what at that point was a career-high in innings pitched at 166 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, Cobb wasn’t able to build on a pair of impressive seasons in 2013 and 2014, as he underwent Tommy John surgery in May of 2015 that essentially cost him two seasons.

Cobb did regain his form in 2017, going 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA and 4.16 FIP over 179 1/3 innings pitched in his contract year. He would ultimately land a four-year, $57 million free-agent deal with the division-rival Baltimore Orioles.

7. Shane McClanahan (2021-Present)

Best Season With The Rays: 2022 – 12-8 with a 2.54 ERA, 144 ERA+, 3.00 FIP, 0.926 WHIP, 194 strikeouts, zero complete games and a 3.5 fWAR

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Career Stats With The Rays: 33-16 with a 3.02 ERA, 130 ERA+, 3.36 FIP, 1.105 WHIP, 456 strikeouts, zero complete games and 7.9 fWAR

McClanahan’s story in Tampa Bay is still being written, but it’s hit a snag in 2024, as he’ll miss the entirety of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Still, what he did over his first three MLB seasons was enough for him to crack this list, and sets a foundation that if he builds on it will see him climb up this countdown in the future.

Between 2021 and 2023, McClanahan’s 3.02 ERA was the eighth-best mark among qualified starting pitchers. McClanahan was an All-Star in both 2022 and 2023, finishing sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting in the first of those two seasons.

6. Matt Garza (2008-2010)

Best Season With The Rays: 2008 – 11-9 with a 3.70 ERA, 119 ERA+, 4.14 FIP, 1.240 WHIP, 128 strikeouts, three complete games and a 3.3 fWAR

Career Stats With The Rays: 34-31 with a 3.86 ERA, 109 ERA+, 4.24 FIP, 1.251 WHIP, 467 strikeouts, six complete games and 8.2 fWAR

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Garza only spent three seasons with the Rays, but he made them count.

After being acquired from the Minnesota Twins in the Delmon Young trade, Garza pitched three complete games in 2008, two of which were shutouts. He would log over 200 innings in each of the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Garza was the ALCS MVP in 2008, starting two of the four games that the Rays won over the Red Sox. Most notably, Garza limited a loaded Red Sox lineup to just two hits and one run over seven innings in Game 7, helping the Rays to win the first pennant in franchise history.

The Rays have an unfortunate history of being on the wrong end of no-hitters, but Garza also fired the first — and to this point, only — no-hitter in franchise history on July 26, 2010, using 120 pitches to turn the feat against the Detroit Tigers.

5. Chris Archer (2012-2018; 2021)

Best Season With The Rays: 2015 – 12-13 with a 3.23 ERA, 121 ERA+, 2.90 FIP, 1.137 WHIP, 252 strikeouts, one complete game and a 5.1 fWAR

Career Stats With The Rays: 55-69 with a 3.71 ERA, 107 ERA+, 3.49 FIP, 1.232 WHIP, 1,167 strikeouts, three complete games and 19.0 fWAR

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Archer has the distinction of being involved in two of the most notable trades in franchise history. The Rays acquired him in the return package from the Chicago Cubs for the aforementioned Garza in January of 2011 before eventually trading him to the Pittsburgh Pirates in July of 2018, a move that saw them net Glasnow.

In between those two trades, Archer established himself as one of the greatest pitchers in Rays history. Archer finished third in AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2013, and fifth in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2015. He was an All-Star in both 2015 and 2017.

Archer is in the top four in Rays history among pitchers in fWAR (19.0), ERA (3.71) and wins (55).

4. Scott Kazmir (2004-2009)

Best Season With The Rays: 2007 – 13-9 with a 3.48 ERA, 130 ERA+, 3.45 FIP, 1.379 WHIP, 239 strikeouts, zero complete games and a 4.8 fWAR

Career Stats With The Rays: 55-44 with a 3.92 ERA, 114 ERA+, 3.87 FIP, 1.390 WHIP, 874 strikeouts, one complete game and 15.9 fWAR

A first-round pick by the New York Mets in 2002, Kazmir was acquired by the Devil Rays in the July 2004 Victor Zambrano trade. He became one of the first stars in the franchise’s history.

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The lefty was an All-Star for the Rays franchise in 2006 and 2008, and led the AL in strikeouts in 2007 with 239. He’s fourth in franchise history with 874 strikeouts.

Elsewhere, Kazmir is all over the all-time leaderboard for the Rays, as he’s sixth in franchise history in FIP (3.87), fourth in fWAR (15.9) and tied with Archer for third in wins (55).

3. Blake Snell (2016-2020)

Best Season With The Rays: 2018 – 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA, 217 ERA+, 2.94 FIP, 0.974 WHIP, 221 strikeouts, zero complete games and a 4.7 fWAR

Career Stats With The Rays: 42-30 with a 3.24 ERA, 129 ERA+, 3.51 FIP, 1.237 WHIP, 648 strikeouts, zero complete games and 11.5 fWAR

For a franchise as young as the Rays, Snell winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2018 virtually guaranteed him one of the top spots on this list.

In his Cy Young-winning campaign of 2018, Snell led baseball in both wins (21) and H/9 (5.6), while posting the best marks in the junior circuit in terms of ERA (1.89) and ERA+ (217). Snell became the second player in franchise history to win the top honor awarded to pitchers.

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Though Snell never matched his 2018 campaign in Tampa Bay, he still had some really good moments over half a decade with the Rays. That’s borne out by him being the franchise’s all-time leader in H/9 (7.381) and K/9 (1.0489), while being second in career ERA (3.24).

Still, the lasting image of Snell in a Rays uniform is probably manager Kevin Cash pulling him with a runner on first base, one out and just 73 pitches after he had pitched 5 1/3 shutout innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the 2020 World Series. As it turned out, Snell would never put on a Rays uniform again after that.

2. James Shields (2006-2012)

Best Season With The Rays: 2011 – 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA, 134 ERA+, 3.42 FIP, 1.043 WHIP, 225 strikeouts, 11 complete games and a 4.1 fWAR

Career Stats With The Rays: 87-73 with a 3.89 ERA, 107 ERA+, 3.84 FIP, 1.223 WHIP, 1,250 strikeouts, 19 complete games and 24.0 fWAR

A 16th-round pick by the Devil Rays in the 2000 MLB Draft, Shields developed into one of the greatest starting pitchers that has ever suited up for the franchise.

Shields’ finest season came in 2011, when he tossed a staggering 11 complete games, four of which were shutouts. Shields finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2011, behind Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver. He was an All-Star for the only time in his career that season.

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That came three years after helping the Rays to their first winning record, playoff trip and World Series appearance in franchise history.

The seven seasons Shields pitched in Tampa Bay represent a very significant period of time in a franchise that seems to turn over a couple years. It’s not surprising then that Shields is the all-time leader for the Rays franchise in games started (217), innings pitched (1,454 2/3), wins (87), complete games (19), complete-game shutouts (eight), strikeouts (1,250) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.676).

1. David Price (2008-2014)

Best Season With The Rays: 2012 – 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA, 150 ERA+, 3.05 FIP, 1.100 WHIP, 205 strikeouts, two complete games and a 4.3 fWAR

Career Stats With The Rays: 82-47 with a 3.18 ERA, 122 ERA+, 3.33 FIP, 1.142 WHIP, 1,065 strikeouts, 10 complete games and 21.9 fWAR

Price was the No. 1 overall pick by the Rays out of Vanderbilt in the 2007 MLB Draft. A year later, he closed out an ALCS Game 7 win over the Red Sox to help the Rays advance to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. And that was just the start of the greatest run a Rays pitcher has ever had.

Despite his success out of the bullpen in 2008, Price returned to the starting rotation in 2009, and became one of the better starting pitchers of his era. After finishing runner-up to Félix Hernández in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2010, Price got over the hump and won it in 2012, becoming the first player in Rays history to do so.

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In total, Price made four All-Star Game appearances as a Ray before he was traded to the Tigers in July of 2014. He’s the all-time leader for Rays pitchers in fWAR (21.9), ERA (3.18), win-loss percentage (.636), WHIP (1.142), FIP (3.33) and win probability added (9.4). There’s a strong argument to be made that his No. 14 should be retired by the franchise.