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A’s claim David McKay off waivers, DFA Jake Lemoine

McKay comes over from the Rays

Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day Photo by Mary Holt/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Oakland A’s added a new pitcher on Tuesday, and it’s a particularly familiar name ... sort of.

The A’s claimed right-hander David McKay off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays, the team announced this afternoon.

That name might stand out to longtime Oakland fans, so let’s get one thing out of the way immediately. David McKay is not related to Dave McKay, who played for the A’s in the early-1980s and then returned as their first base coach for more than a decade in the 80s/90s. Dave does have a son (Cody McKay) who played in the majors for Oakland, but this is not him. It’s just a baseball player who coincidentally has the same name as another baseball player.

There’s also a chance that you heard the A’s got a pitcher named McKay from the Rays and thought of Brendan McKay, the former No. 4 overall draft pick who is currently on Tampa Bay’s injured list due to thoracic outlet surgery. This is also not him.

So who is this David McKay? Glad you asked!

David was a 2016 draft pick (14th round, Royals) and blasted his way up to the majors by 2019. But wait, it’s so much weirder than that sentence.

In reality, McKay first played in MLB as a member of the Mariners on May 20, 2019, against the Rangers. That August he was waived and subsequently claimed by the Tigers. Then in September, Detroit resumed a suspended game against none other than the A’s, and McKay pitched that day. The suspended game had begun on May 19 at Comerica Park, so the makeup portion also went down in the books for that day. That means technically, according to the official records, McKay made his MLB debut on May 19 in the Oakland Coliseum playing a home game for the Tigers, even though he was on the Mariners at the time and never actually threw a pitch on the day in question.

Got all that? Take a deep breath, it doesn’t stop being weird quite yet.

David went on to pitch in 25 games that summer for the Mariners and Tigers, but hasn’t seen much action since, partly due to hip surgery that cost him all of 2021. He signed with the Rays this past spring, but was shipped to the Yankees for cash before the season began, only to be shipped back to the Rays for cash two months later in June. He pitched twice for New York while he was there, then got into one game for Tampa Bay in July.

Overall, the 27-year-old has appeared in 29 games in his MLB career, all in relief.

  • McKay, MLB: 6.46 ERA, 30⅔ ip, 35 Ks, 22 BB, 5 HR, 5.29 FIP

While that’s a troublesome ERA, there is one impressive number in his strikeout rate, which is a tick above 10 Ks per nine innings. His minor league track record backs that up, with a 13.2 K/9 in his Triple-A career. The walks and homers have been too high, but the dude can rack up strikeouts.

He achieves those results using a sinker and a curveball. In 2019, the sinker averaged just under 94 mph and topped out at 96 with above-average spin, while the curve showed elite spin and stifled batters. In 2022 so far, in an extremely small sample (four innings, fewer than 100 pitches) the sinker has lost a tick off its average and has only topped at 94.5, while the curve has lost a few hundred RPMs off its spin. Statcast has also identified some of his breaking balls as sliders this year.

So what have we got? To summarize, he’s David McKay but not related to Dave McKay, he’s a pitching McKay from the Rays but not Brendan, he made his MLB debut in the Coliseum playing a home game against the A’s one day before ever actually pitching in the majors, this year he was sold from one team to another and then back two months later, and he might have an intriguing arsenal unless he doesn’t anymore.

Welcome to Oakland!

Oh, and another thing. The reason McKay was available is that he was DFA’d by the Rays to make room on their roster for Christian Bethancourt, whom they acquired from the A’s over the weekend for a pair of prospects. If you wish, you could functionally consider McKay to be a third piece in that trade return package, since he’s here as a direct result of the deal.

So what now? Oakland needed to clear space on their 40-man for McKay, so they DFA’d fellow pitcher Jake Lemoine. The right-hander appeared in nine games for the A’s this summer. We’ll find out over the next few days whether Lemoine gets claimed off waivers by anybody else, or clears waivers and maybe stays in the organization.

As for McKay, he’s now on the 40-man. He has an option year remaining, so he can stash in Triple-A Las Vegas for now if the club wishes, or they could bring him up to the bigs anytime they want.