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ST. PETERSBURG — With a talented Major League roster coming off a 100-win campaign, a season-ending injured list full of potential contributors and a Minor League system overflowing with talent, the Rays are facing a significant roster crunch this offseason. That will force the front office to make some difficult decisions throughout the winter, starting this week.

The Rays placed right-handers Oliver Drake, DJ Johnson and Chris Mazza as well as left-handers Cody Reed and Ryan Sherriff on outright waivers earlier this week to clear space on their 40-man roster. Sherriff was claimed off waivers by the Phillies, while the other four cleared waivers.

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Drake and Reed elected free agency. Johnson and Mazza were outrighted to Triple-A Durham and will become Minor League free agents on Sunday.

Those moves left the Rays with 34 players on their 40-man roster, but it will likely be full again in a few days. The deadline to reinstate players from the 60-day injured list is Sunday, and Tampa Bay must add pitchers Jalen Beeks, Yonny Chirinos, Tyler Glasnow, Colin Poche, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson after they finished the season on the 60-day IL.

On Wednesday, the following seven players became free agents: Chris Archer, Nelson Cruz, Collin McHugh, David Robertson, Michael Wacha, Chaz Roe and Tommy Hunter. Catcher Mike Zunino theoretically could join them, but the Rays are expected to exercise his $7 million club option for 2022 on Sunday.

None of the relievers placed on waivers earlier this week played a substantial role for the Rays this past season, but they were all part of the depth that allowed Tampa Bay to survive a torrent of pitching injuries while winning the highly competitive American League East. The club will need to replenish that depth heading into next season, especially with ace Glasnow set to sit out all year following Tommy John surgery, and high-leverage reliever Nick Anderson out through the All-Star break due to right elbow surgery.

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After making 10 scoreless appearances for the Rays in 2020, plus two more in the World Series, Sherriff made the Opening Day roster this year and then took time away from the team to focus on his mental health. He returned in June for the first of a few big league stints, posting a 5.52 overall ERA with one save in 16 appearances for the Rays, along with a 2.81 ERA over 32 outings in Triple-A.

The Rays had high hopes for the 28-year-old Reed entering last season, as he made their Opening Day roster after an excellent spring. But he was set back by a few bouts of weakness/numbness in his left hand, which limited him to 12 appearances in the Majors and eventually forced him to undergo thoracic outlet syndrome decompression surgery on June 2. Reed healed remarkably quickly, making it back for six scoreless appearances (three hits, nine strikeouts, one walk) for Triple-A Durham at the end of the season.

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The Rays still have a handful of quality lefty relief options on their roster in Beeks, Adam Conley, Poche and Springs, plus lefty starters who have relief experience like Dietrich Enns, Josh Fleming and Ryan Yarbrough.

Drake, 34, did not pitch this season after the Rays re-signed him in February. He was expected to miss time due to a right flexor tendon strain, but wound up not pitching at all, as he was set back by a neck/back issue and eventually shut down from throwing.

Mazza had a 4.61 ERA in 27 1/3 innings over 14 appearances this past season, but his flexibility was necessary for the Rays as they shuffled pitchers in and out of their bullpen. Mazza was optioned to Triple-A 10 times throughout the year, and he made a handful of multi-inning appearances — including a three-inning save on Aug. 27 — that spared the rest of Tampa Bay’s relief corps for another day.

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The Rays acquired Johnson prior to the Trade Deadline, and the big-bearded righty made three scoreless appearances before he fell while throwing a pitch on Aug. 8. He was removed from the game, with manager Kevin Cash saying Johnson felt a “crack” in his shoulder, and went on the injured list due to a right shoulder sprain on Aug. 10.

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