Shane McClanahan will undergo Tommy John surgery

Rays ace Shane McClanahan will need Tommy John surgery next week, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). He is expected to miss the entire 2024 campaign.

It’s a devastating if not entirely unexpected development. The two-time All-Star left his start on Aug. 2 after dealing with forearm discomfort. Tampa Bay has been exploring its options for the past two weeks, though the club had already confirmed that he was expected to miss the rest of 2023 and that surgery was a consideration. He is already on the 60-day disabled list.

Surprising or not, it’s hard to overstate the significance of losing a pitcher of McClanahan’s caliber. The former first-round draft pick debuted with a 3.43 ERA in 25 starts two seasons ago. By his second major league season, he had entered as one of the best pitchers in the game. McClanahan was a legitimate Cy Young candidate in August of last year before a shoulder impingement cost him a few weeks.

The absence dropped the South Florida product to sixth in Cy Young voting, but he still finished his sophomore campaign with a 2.54 ERA through 166 1/3 frames. While his ERA took a step back this season, his 3.29 mark over 21 starts still ranks 19th among major league starters (minimum 100 innings). He is 23rd among the same group with a strikeout rate of 25.8%. McClanahan earned his second straight All-Star nod last month.

Tampa Bay has dealt with a wild injury spree over the past few months. Top perspective Shane Buzz missed the entire year after undergoing a Tommy John procedure last September. McClanahan becomes the third member of the Rays’ starting pitching staff to require surgery this year. Jeffrey Springs he required a Tommy John procedure in April. Drew Rasmussen had flexor tendon surgery last month.

Even after the absences of Buzz, Springs and Rasmussen, the Rays had an effective top of the rotation. McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow and Zach Eflin made for an excellent trio. With McClanahan now off the scene, Glasnow takes on the role of staff ace. Eflin – who has battled knee issues throughout his career but has a 3.67 ERA through 23 starts in his first season with Tampa Bay – is the #2 pick.

Early season injuries led the Rays to acquire Aaron Civale by the Guardians at the deadline. This acquisition takes on increased importance with McClanahan out. However, there is little possibility beyond the internal options for Tampa Bay to assemble the last two pivot points. Taz Bradley he was up and down as a rookie and is on option assignment to Triple-A. The Rays have pressed Zac Littell in rotation and recently activated Josh Fleming from the injured list.

Tampa Bay enters Tuesday’s game three games behind the Orioles in the AL East. They are still in strong playoff position, 7.5 games back of the Mariners (the top non-playoff team in the AL). Their chances of pulling past Baltimore to secure a first-round bye and/or make a deep run once they enter October are obviously hurt by the loss of one of the game’s best starters.

This is the second Tommy John procedure of McClanahan’s career. He missed his first year at USF after undergoing surgery in 2016. The Rays appear to be extra careful with his recovery as a result, though there’s a good chance he’d miss all of ’24 even if this was his first TJS.

McClanahan has just three years of service in the league. He will be eligible for arbitration as a Super Two player next offseason. The Rays will need to move him to their 40-man roster during the offseason, but will immediately reinstate him to the 60-day IL next spring. He will collect service time while rehabbing and remains on track to hit free agency for the first time after the 2027 campaign.

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