Jeff Niemann has been the subject of a number of trade rumors for years now, and the possibility of the Tall Texan being dealt has resurfaced once again. The Colorado Rockies have recently shown interest in the 30-year-old right-hander:
The Rockies, searching for starting pitching, have checked in with the Rays about Jeff Niemann and others. No talks advanced, as of yet.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) February 23, 2013
Niemann is currently battling Roberto Hernandez for the fifth spot in the Tampa’s starting rotation. If he is to lose the battle to Hernandez, the Rays only have two options: Trading him or putting him in the bullpen as a long reliever.
The problem with putting him in the ‘pen is that he simply doesn’t have the knack for it. That being said, if Jeff Niemann—who’s out of options—doesn’t get the No. 5 slot in the rotation, the Rays could find themselves in a bad situation.
This probably won’t be the case, though, as Niemann appears to be in a comfortable lead for the gig. He’s put up a 2.13 ERA in 12.2 innings while Hernandez has posted a 3.60 ERA in 15 innings.
If things continue this way, the Rays will likely just use Hernandez as a groundball specialist/long reliever and Niemann will be in the rotation.
If I was GM Andrew Friedman, I would have other plans.
The Rays’ backup catching role is a huge weakness on the team. The catching position is one that lacks talent in the organization, and the best way to address that issue fast is via trade.
Niemann is probably the best trade piece the Rays have at the moment, in terms of players that they might be willing to trade. He’s a major-league quality pitcher who can boost most rotations in baseball. He also has experience and has proven he can be very good at times.
With great starting pitching depth and awful catching depth, it would make a lot of sense to deal Niemann. With three major-league ready pitchers (Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Hernadez) available to take the fifth spot in the rotation, the Rays could use another quality catcher far more than they could use Niemann.
With pitchers who can replace him and injury issues in all of the past three seasons, Niemann simply isn’t worth $3 million to the Rays. His proneness to injury will obviously hurt his trade value, but Tampa should still be able to boost their roster with possibly someone like Ramon Hernandez or Yorvit Torrealba from Colorado.
Both Hernandez (36-years-old) and Torrealba (34-years-old) are likely both catchers that the Rockies would be willing to trade. The Rockies have four backstops in camp right now (Wilin Rosario is the team’s primary one), and are both desperately in need of starting pitching and interested in Niemann.
They can’t have both Hernandez and Torrealba on their Opening Day roster, and the Rays would take either over the Lobaton/Chirinos/Gimenez trio. Another experienced catcher to back up Jose Molina would be a great addition to the club.
There’s really no reason why a Rays-Rockies Jeff Niemann trade shouldn’t work.
In the earlier game against the Pirates, the Rays displayed some very good pitching. Roberto Hernandez, Jeff Niemann and Fernando Rodney all pitched scoreless one-inning outings. Prospect Enny Romero also contributed with two scoreless innings later in the game.
Things weren’t nearly as pretty on the offensive side, however, as the Rays managed to muster only four hits in the game that featured more regulars. The only runs for Tampa Bay came from a 2-RBI double by minor league centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier.
Top prospect Wil Myers—who made his spring training debut—walked and grounded out.
The pitching on the Rays’ second squad was just as impressive down in Fort Myers against the Red Sox. They kicked off the game with three scoreless one-inning outings by Alex Colome, Brandon Gomes and Felipe Rivero. Josh Lueke added to the scoreless streak with two quick innings of his own.
Offensive notables from the game include Desmond Jennings (2-2), Hak-Ju Lee (0-2) and Leslie Anderson (1-2, 2-run HR).
Other Rays News and Notes:
- Congratulations to Evan Longoria, who is now a father! Here’s Evan on the recent birth of his daughter:
- The Rockies have been showing interest in Jeff Niemann.
- There’s been some buzz over what David Price said about the Yankees recently.
- Reliever Alex Torres will play for Team Venezuela in the Wold Baseball Classic. Torres now becomes the fifth Ray in the tournament, joining Fernando Rodney (Dominican Republic), Ben Zobrist (U.S.), Jose Molina (Puerto Rico), Cesar Ramos (Mexico).
- Here are the pitchers scheduled for today’s 1:05 game against the Twins in Fort Myers: Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Frank De Los Santos, Will Inman, Matt Nevarez, Jimmy Patterson, Juan Sandoval, Alex Torres, Kirby Yates
For small-market teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, the trade market is the key to filling in holes on the roster. The Rays are in desperate need of hitting, particularly a first baseman and a DH, which means they will likely need to trade away some of their excellent starting pitching. Fellow starters Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann are probably more likely candidates to be traded away, but James Shields trade rumors haven’t totally disappeared. With Shields entering his first club option of his contract coming into the offseason, rumors starting heating up since last season’s trade deadline. After Shields was optioned by the Rays back in October, the trade possibilities started to gradually cool down. However, there are still plenty of teams in need of starting pitching help that they couldn’t find from free agency. Trading James Shields seems to be more like ‘food for thought’ at the moment, rather than a serious possibility. There might not be many clubs who are willing to offer enough for Shields, and the Rays themselves may want to hang on to him. The exciting part about a potential Shields trade is that the Rays would get some serious offensive production out of the deal, while hoping that rookie Matt Moore can replace Shields at some point in the future. The question is, what kind of deals can teams offer to make the Rays bite? Take a look at ten different trade possibilities that may be enough to send the Rays’ ace out of Tampa Bay.
If any team is looking to add a big-time starting pitcher, it’s the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto has been in many discussions to acquire a starter since the offseason began, including being barely outbid on Japanese prodigy Yu Darvish. As far as we, the Jays haven’t been looking into a James Shields trade yet. However, it wouldn’t be a shocker if they show interest in him at some point in the future. What would it take to get the Rays to send their ace out of Tampa Bay? Veteran first baseman Adam Lind could potentially be a start to a deal. With the Rays in desperate need of a first baseman, Lind could be a great addition for the club. The left-handed slugger owns a lifetime .267 batting average and has established himself as a consistent 20+ homer-type player. Blue Jays’ No.1 prospect Travis d’Arnaud would essentially be the center of the trade package. The 22 year-old first-round draftee is one of the best position-player prospects in the American League. He hasn’t reached AAA yet, but his .311 batting average with 21 homers and 78 RBI’s in Double-A last season show that he isn’t far from moving up. d’Arnaud is a catcher, which would be his most attractive asset if the Rays were to pursue him. His defensive skills are pretty impressive, lead by his great arm behind the plate. The most interesting part about the possibility of d’Arnaud being traded is that he may not have a bright future in Toronto. Rookie catcher J.P. Arencebia appears to be emerging as the team’s main catcher. Outfielder Jake Marisnick is one minor leaguer you’ve probably never heard of. Marisnick is also considered one of Toronto’s better prospects, and clearly for a good reason. Marisnick has the ability to a be a five-tool outfielder in the majors. The 20 year-old possesses great fielding and throwing ability, excellent speed, and rapidly rising hitting skills. Marisnick hit .320 along with 14 homers, 77 RBI’s and 37 stolen bases through his 118 games in Class A Lansing.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for 1B Adam Lind, minor league C Travis d’Arnaud, and minor league OF Jake Marisnick.
2011 was another disappointing season for the New York Mets, and poor starting pitching has been a big part of their struggles. The Mets simply need at least one more good starter to become a competitive team again. James Shields would give the Mets’ rotation the boost they need, and they may have some offensive players to offer. Daniel Murphy, a first baseman who also can play other positions around the infield, could very possibly be in the interest of the Rays. As Ike Davis appears to be the future first baseman of the ball club, Murphy probably has a much better job opportunity in Tampa. Former star outfielder Jason Bay just hasn’t been the same in the past two years like he was in his glory days with Boston and Pittsburgh. The slugging leftfielder is still only 33, and many wonder if he can put up the ridiculous run production that he did in the past. Bay’s big bat joins Murphy in the main focus of a potential James Shields trade. However, just Murphy and Bay would still probably not be a good enough offer for the Rays to take. A talented offensive prospect like Wilmer Flores is someone the Mets can throw in there to make this deal possible. Though I would think that it would really be a blow to the team to give away a young shortstop like that after losing Jose Reyes this offseason. Flores, who is the Mets’ top hitting prospect, has a while to go before he hits the big leagues. At just 20 years old, Flores still managed to drive in over 80 RBI’s in a full Single-A season. The youngster is progressing in all parts of his game, but his exceptional hitting skills are what could ring bells in Tampa.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the New York Mets in exchange for 1B Daniel Murphy, LF Jason Bay, and minor league shortstop Wilmer Flores.
The New York Yankees are really one good starting pitcher away from being the best team in the MLB. If the Yanks had a arm like James Shields in their rotation in the last two years, they probably would of won the pennant in both of those seasons. New York is very aware of that, and it’s no surprise that they have been seeking starting pitching this offseason. It doesn’t seem like they’re heading towards any sort of blockbuster trade to get a starter, but they have some young talent that makes a potential swap an interesting idea. Catcher Jesus Montero, who is the Yankees’ top prospect and baseball’s No.1 catching prospect, would be the guy to lead the young trade package for Shields. Montero has very impressive hitting abilities and he is a catcher; something that should obviously attract the Rays. Montero, who hit .328 during his first brief stint in the MLB, has all the tools to become a star slugger in the big leagues. Outfielder Chris Dickerson possibly would be another piece to the trade. Dickerson is nothing special quite frankly, as he spent most of his time with the Yankees down in AAA. The Yankees would need to offer more to make this deal work, and they do have a couple of exciting prospects deep in their farm system. First round draft pick Slade Heathcott and prodigy Mason Williams are two more young outfielders that the Rays would love to add to their minor league system. Both are just in Single-A right now, but their left-handed hitting abilities plus their good defense could be enough to complete a potential trade package for Shields.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the New York Yankees in exchange for C Jesus Montero, OF Chris Dickerson, minor league OF Slade Heathcott, and minor league OF Mason Williams.
The Texas Rangers made it all the way to the World Series in both of the past two years. I think it’s fair to say that starting pitching is what was the difference between a AL Champion Rangers ball club and a World Champion Rangers ball club. Their starting pitching was simply not adequate to prevail on baseball’s biggest stage. The Rangers would surely love to pick up an ace like James Shields, but the question is whether they are able to give away some of their outstanding offense. First baseman Mitch Moreland’s name pops up right away as a player the Rays could definitely use on their roster. The 26 year-old power-hitting lefty is in just his second year in the big leagues, and he already plays the first-base role pretty nicely. Speedy outfielder Craig Gentry had his first year of decent MLB playing time last season, and he could likely be a trade piece for Texas in the future. Gentry is emerging as someone who could be a solid MLB player. His excellent base-running skills and above-average defense are already very impressive, but he’s also improving as a hitter. Don’t be too shocked to see either (or both) Gentry or Moreland be traded away sometime in the future, as Texas may not have too much need for them on their squad. Both David Murphy and Julio Borbon can take over in the outfield, while Mike Napoli could probably fill in at first base. If the Rays were to work out a Shields trade with Texas, they would likely also get pitching out of the deal. With Neftali Feliz and Shields (if they are to make a trade) joining the rotation next season, southpaw Matt Harrison probably won’t have a consistent spot in the rotation, making him another trade piece. The Rays are certainly not looking to add to their starting pitching, but they have been seeking bullpen help throughout the offseason. The Rays would love to use Harrison as an effective left-handed reliever out of their bullpen. Still, I think that the Rangers are going to need to throw in another prospect into the pile to make a deal possible. First-round draft pick Jake Skole, a member of the Rangers’ top 10 prospects, is a thought. The 19 year-old outfielder has plenty of pop in his left-handed bat, which would be a great addition to the Rays’ farm system. Adding Skole as the final player of the trade might be close to enough to pry Shields away from Tampa. Below is the final deal that I think would get Texas the deal.
Trade Possibility: James Shields to the Texas Rangers in exchange for 1B Mitch Moreland, OF Craig Gentry, LHP Matt Harrison, minor league OF Jake Skole, and cash.
First of all, the chances the Arizona Diamondbacks acquire a starting pitcher before spring training are close to none. Even though the D’Backs would like to improve their starting rotation, there are some obvious reasons why a future James Shields trade is unlikely. They already made a big trade for Trevor Cahill earlier this winter, and also used some of their spending money on Jason Kubel. Also, it seems as if rookie first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is making a name for himself in Phoenix. Being a young first baseman, Goldschmidt would probably be the main trade target if the Rays were to discuss trade talks with Arizona. The problem is that the Diamondbacks aren’t looking to give away their future first baseman. What the D’Backs do have to offer is leftfielder Gerardo Parra and third baseman Ryan Roberts. Parra, who won a NL Gold Glove Award last season, is clearly on an upward rise in his three year-old career. The 24 year-old left-hander hit .292 last year and stole 15 bases (caught only once), and was a big part of the Diamondbacks’ successful 2011 season. Ryan Roberts didn’t exactly put up the same numbers as Parra, but he probably should get more credit. 2011 was the best of Roberts’ career, belting 19 homers and 65 RBI’s while batting .249 and stealing 18 bases. You’re probably asking why the Rays would want a third baseman when the have Evan Longoria. The fact is that Robert can actually play at second base and in the outfield. So Roberts could be a fit on the Rays, but in reality the D’Backs would way rather trade away Parra. Two additional top prospects should be enough to make a discussable deal with the Rays. If they were to negotiate a trade, the Rays would probably have a keen eye on both first/third baseman Matt Davidson and outfielder A.J. Pollock. Both sluggers are considered among the organization’s top prospects. Davidson smashed 20 homers and 106 RBI’s in Single-A ball last season, showing off is outstanding power. Pollock spent the whole season in AA Mobile, and batted a high .307 with 73 RBI’s and 36 stolen bases.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for LF Gerardo Parra, 3B Ryan Roberts, minor league 1B/3B Matt Davidson, and minor league OF A.J.Pollock.
Like the Diamondbacks, the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals also don’t have high odds of a James Shields trade. With the team’s ace Adam Wainwright returning (who missed all of last season due to injury) and the same starters from last year, the Cards’ rotation looks pretty set. It seems as if St. Louis will enter the spring with Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Jake Westbrook. To reel in James Shields to St. Louis, the Cardinals would need to sacrifice much of their talent that they would use to replace Albert Pujols. Right off the top, Allen Craig’s name comes to mind. Craig, who plays in the outfield and first base, batted an impressive .315 average in his second big league season. Craig would probably be someone the Rays would like to add to their roster, but his offseason knee injury could have them thinking otherwise. The Rays have emphasized their focus on strengthening the bullpen this offseason. Considering that, right-handed reliever Fernando Salas could be a player that the Cards could add to the trade package. The 26 year-old Mexican-native posted a 2.28 ERA last season through 75 innings pitched out of the ‘pen. Craig and Salas are a pretty good start to a potential Shields trade, but the Cards would probably need to throw in a couple of high-ranked prospects. 19 year-old phenom Oscar Taveras would be an exciting addition to the Rays’ system. The left-handed outfielder has just started his venture in professional baseball, but he has proven that he can flat-out rake the baseball. Prospect first baseman Matt Adams is also a big left-handed bat. The 23 year-old slugger has some big-time raw power, which he displayed in AA Springfield by smashing 32 homers with 101 RBI’s and a .300 average. With the loss of Pujols, the Cardinals are most likely going to want to get a grip on Adams rather than trade him away. That’s another reason why this trade seems unlikely. The Rays would probably demand a first baseman, and Adams would be vital to a possible deal.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the St. Louis Cardinals for OF/1B Allen Craig, RP Fernando Salas, minor league OF Oscar Taveras, and minor league 1B Matt Adams.
The Colorado Rockies have been aggressively seeking help for their starting rotation this offseason, and have even had interest of Rays pitchers. James Shields would be dream acquisition for Colorado considering their situation. The Rockies’ have two outfielders, Seth Smith and Charlie Blackmon, who would make a a decent start to a deal. The Rockies don’t seem to mind parting ways with Smith, as he has already been a hot topic amongst MLB trade rumors for a while now. Smith had probably his best season of his career last year for Colorado, batting .284 with 59 RBI’s and 15 homers. Rookie Charlie Blackmon would be every bit as much valuable as Smith in this trade. The 25 year-old only has 27 games of MLB experience under his belt, but his great minor league numbers can’t be overlooked. Blackmon played his first season of AAA baseball last year, hitting .337 through his 243 at-bats. It’s debatable, but I think one really good prospect could complete the trade package. Colorado’s No.1 prospect Wilin Rosario is a name that should surely light up eyes in the Rays’ front office. The 22 year-old phenom catcher has all the tools to be a successful big league backstop. Rosario doesn’t hit for a high-average like Smith and Blackmon, but he sure has plenty of power. His great arm behind the plate is also impressive. Rosario spent most of his season in Double-A last year, where he hit 21 home runs with a .249 average in his 102 games. Despite not experience AAA baseball yet, Rosario still earned himself 16 MLB games with the Rockies last season. In his brief 54 AB’s, Rosario was able to knock out three homers and drive in eight RBI’s.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for OF Seth Smith, OF Charlie Blackmon, and C Wilin Rosario.
A trade for a James Shields would likely put the Detroit Tigers over the top. The Tigers have been seeking a starter to complete a pretty good rotation lead my AL MVP Justin Verlander. I doubt they are looking for an ace-type pitcher like Shields though, but rather a fifth-spot starter. Detroit probably wouldn’t want to trade away a chunk of their young talent, but they have the right players to make a big deal work. Former Ray and outfielder Delmon Young could be a potential trade piece for Detroit. Last season in his first year as a Tiger, Young didn’t meet the expectations that were brought upon him after the blockbuster Tampa-Minnesota trade before the 2008 season. Young did a pretty good job producing runs, but his .268 average was the lowest of his career by 16 points. Also, his RBI total dropped 48 runs from the previous year. All reasons way a future Delmon Young trade is by no means impossible. Rookie outfielder Andy Dirks seems to have a bright future in the big leagues. Dirks played 78 games in his first season last year, batting .251 with seven homers and 28 RBI’s. Dirks holds a career AAA average of .343 (2010 and 2011) with 41 RBI’s and 11 homers through his 63 games in Toledo. Young and Dirks would make up the offensive part of the trade package, but the Tigers would probably also have to sacrifice their No. 1 prospect Jacob Turner. The first-round drafted right-handed pitcher has been surrounded by scout hype for years now. To acquire an ace like James Shields, that would mean giving up a potential future ace like Jacob Turner.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for OF Delmon Young, OF Andy Dirks, and minor league SP Jacob Turner.
The Washington Nationals have been the center of offseason excitement this winter. They came into the offseason in search of starting pitching help, and may of found their guy when they acquired Gio Gonzalez in a trade. The Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo are definitely not a team that shies away from big moves, but getting James Shields to Washington seems unlikely. If a trade were to work out, the Nats would probably have to send their slugging outfielder Jayson Werth to lead the trade package. The Rays could use his offensive production, and it’s possible he would be a demand in this deal. Even though Werth had an off-year last season batting .64 points lower that 2010, I doubt the Nationals would be willing to trade him. They signed him for a mega seven-year contract last year, and they probably don’t see any reason to give him away while they’re looking for as much outfield talent they can get. This trade possibility is more of a “what if” situation, rather than a trade rumor. Shortstop Ian Desmond and relief pitcher Henry Rodriguez would be the additional pieces to complete the trade package. Ian Desmond would be a very intriguing acquisition for the Rays. It’s amazing how well Desmond could fit in Tampa; he’s an absolute textbook Tampa Bay Rays player. For starters, Desmond is a speedy infielder (25 steals last season) who plays well defensively and does all the little things right on the baseball diamond. He puts his best efforts into the game every night, which was acknowledged when he won the Nationals’ Heart and Hustle Award. These are all traits of a Rays ballplayer. In addition to all this, Desmond was born and raised less than an hour away from Tropicana Field. Henry Rodriguez, the final piece to the potential deal, is a key part of the Nationals’ bullpen. The 24 year-old right-hander was a MLB Futures Game Selection and posted a 3.56 ERA through 65.2 innings last season. As I mentioned earlier in the article, the Rays are still continuing their bullpen rebuilding process and wouldn’t mind adding some relief help in their ‘pen.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Washington Nationals in exchange for OF Jayson Werth, SS Ian Desmond, and RP Henry Rodriguez.
Just like the Boston Red Sox regular season last year, Boston’s offseason with new GM Ben Cherington has been a failure so far. The Sox have some good starting pitching, but there’s no arguing that they need to improve their rotation. Although the Sox will likely want to sit tight with their rotation for the rest of the offseason, they may have enough young talent to pry Shields from Tampa Bay. Ryan Lavarnway and Darnell McDonald are two interested names that probably would be thrown into a trade for Shields. Lavarnway, who played 17 MLB games in his short 2011 stint, is catcher/DH with outstanding hitting skills. Through 116 games in the minors last season (AA and AAA), Lavarnway batted .290 with 93 RBI’s and 32 home runs. Darnell McDonald, who’s played five seasons in the majors, might not have a future in Boston anyway. The 33 year-old corner outfielder struggled hitting .236 for the Red Sox last year, but hit .270 in 2010. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks is unanimously ranked the top prospect in the Red Sox organization. Middlebrooks has the ability to be an all-around excellent baseball player, which he displayed while making huge amounts of progress in the minor leagues during 2011. Because third is the only position he plays, I’m not sure what kind of future he would have alongside Evan Longoria and the Rays. First baseman Lars Anderson may not be a big name, but he would be a crucial part of this deal. As the Rays are in search of a first baseman, the big left-handed slugger would be an attractive asset in the deal. Anderson batted .265 with 14 homers and 78 RBI’s last season for AAA Pawtucket.
Possible Trade: James Shields to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for OF Darnell McDonald, C/DH Ryan Lavarnway, 3B Will Middlebrooks, and 1B Lars Anderson.
For small-market teams in Major League Baseball, most offseason wishes are not a reality. Though there are some players out there that the Rays may be able to afford. With pitchers such as Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann possible trade pieces, the trade market could be the key for the Rays to pick up some hitting. Names that maybe were on the Rays’ radar before are slipping away as the offseason progresses. Carlos Beltran just recently signed with the Cardinals, and others like Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer have also found a team. However, what the Rays need is just one or two good hitters to really bolster their struggling offense. The Rays haven’t found that bat yet, but there are still a few intriguing options out there for them. Take a look at some players the Rays would love to reel in this winter.
Colorado Rockies’ Seth Smith is the newest member of Rays trade rumors. A report from Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi says that the Rays are one of five teams interested in the 29 year-old outfielder. Smith is a solid hitter, who batted .284 and knocked in a career high 59 runs last year. Smith wouldn’t be the guy to fill in the empty DH spot, but he would help out the outfield depth chart. What makes the Seth Smith rumors most interesting, is that there is pretty good odds the Rays will land a deal with him. According to the Denver Post, the Rockies are interested in Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann. Colorado is seeking a No.3-type starter to fill in the rotation, making Davis and Niemann raise eyebrows in Denver. So to recap it all, it’s not a bad chance that Smith plays for the Rays in 2012.
The Rays could get pretty serious about getting prospect first-baseman Anthony Rizzo. After the five-player swap earlier this week, including Yonder Alonso being traded to San Diego, Rizzo immediately hit trade rumors. Sources say that the Cubs and Rays are two teams interested in Rizzo. With the Rays in need of a first baseman, it’s no surprised that they have already asked about Rizzo. I believe that he’s a player that the Rays really need to pick up this offseason. Rizzo played his first season in AAA last year, and put up ridiculous numbers. He exploded in Tucson, batting .331 and hitting 101 RBI’s in just 93 games. He also blasted 26 homers, displaying his terrific power. Rizzo is a guy with a great future in the big leagues, and somebody that would be great to have in the middle of the lineup complementing Longoria and Zobrist. The Padres would be looking for starting pitching in return for Rizzo, so Wade Davis could be used as trade bait. Unfortunately for the Rays, it appears that the Padres and Cubs are checking out a possible trade scenario including sending Matt Garza to San Diego. The Cubs are currently the only competition to get Rizzo, but they are a big obstacle.
Carlos Pena could be a free agent that interests the Rays in the upcoming month. Pena had success in his seasons with the Rays, and there is a possibility they bring him back. Pena batted .225 last year with the Cubs, hitting 28 homers and 80 RBI’s. With his big-time power and terrific defense, Pena could be a perfect fit to replace Casey Kotchman in 2012. The main problem though, is that he’ll probably be looking for a rather expensive multi-year deal. Pena’s agent Scott Boras said that Pena is likely not going to come a bargain price. That means that the odds signing Pena are pretty low. Anyways, acquiring Anthony Rizzo should be the Rays’ main priority. However, if the Rays can’t get a grip on Rizzo, Pena could definitely be a possibility.
Luke Scott is non-tender option that really opens up the eyes of Rays Republic. According to sources, the Rays are interested in the 33 year-old veteran. It’s not a shocker that Scott attracts the Rays, considering how good of a fit he would be. Scott is a slugging outfielder with power, and he can also fill in at DH and first. Not only would Scott look great on the depth chart, he also provides a big left-handed bat in the middle of the lineup. On top of all this, he’s pretty cheap. Last year Scott battled with injuries throughout the season (which is why he comes at a low price), so he didn’t produce his usual offensive numbers. His injuries are a concern, but he should be able to fix some of the Rays’ offensive issues. The chances of the Rays signing Scott are not exactly great, though. According to a tweet from the Baltimore Sun, a total of ten teams are expressing some interest in his services.
Andrew Bailey reportedly is another reliever in the interest of the Rays. The report also says the that the Red Sox and Rangers are checking out the Athletics’ closer. Bailey, who is a former Rookie of the Year (2009), pitched great seasons out of the bullpen for the A’s in both ’09 and ’10. Last year was a rather disappointing season for Bailey, going 0-4 with a career-worst 3.24 ERA. His mediocre 2011 season is probably what triggered Oakland’s idea to use Bailey as trade bait. Even though the Rays are looking for another reliever to add to the ‘pen, it looks like the possibility of Bailey going to Tampa is very slim. While the A’s were dealing Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals last night, Jim Bowden of ESPN reported that the Red Sox could be making a deal for Bailey. At the end of the day, Andrew Bailey is truly more of a wish than a reality.
The Tampa Bay Rays are not new to the MLB trade rumor conversation. Being a small-market team, the Rays do not have many options shopping in the free agent market. To fill in areas of need during the offseason, the Rays are practically forced to trade away some of their young talent. Players such as B.J. Upton, have been in the spotlight of Rays trade rumors for over a year now. As the Rays stand a month and a half into their offseason, new names have emerged arousing the Rays’ Hot Stove. Earlier this week, catcher John Jaso was traded to Seattle for reliever Josh Lueke. It was a move that seemed to come out of nowhere. Many analysts were already projecting Jaso as the Opening Day backstop in 2012. Since the offseason started in October, more possible trade pieces have been named. Pitchers Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, Alex Cobb, and James Shields could all possibly end up as trade bait to reel in some offensive production from teams that lack pitching. The questions are, what kind of players will the Rays pursue? What players are they willing to trade away? The Rays’ winter probably won’t be a real busy one, but there’s a lot to be done in the following months.
One player that Rays appear to have an eye on is Yonder Alonoso. The Cincinnati Reds’ Alonso is one of the best hitting prospects in all of baseball. Some people even believe that the 24 year-old has the same potential as his teammate Joey Votto. Alonso does resemble the former MVP in some ways. He’s a thick left-handed batter who can hit for average and has power as well. From what scouts predict, he’s the making of a great hitter like Votto. Besides for his phenomenal hitting skills, Alonso is also a first baseman. His ability to play at first makes him even more attractive from the Rays’ perspective. With Casey Kotchman and Dan Johnson possibly not returning in 2012, first base is one of the Rays’ areas to tend to in the offseason.
Alonso’s not really a slick fielder like the first baseman the Rays have had in the past, but his offensive production could be a huge boost for the team. In just his second MLB season, Alonso put up excellent numbers for Cincinnati. He hit an impressive .330 and knocked out five homers through his 47 games. This is guy I believe the Rays should seriously go after. The former #1 draft pick has only a year left on his contract, he’s young and healthy, and he can simply rake the baseball. A hard-hitting first baseman who can also serve as a DH; sounds like a perfect fit for the Rays. The question to ask now, is who would the Reds be looking for in return? According to sources, the Reds are looking for starting pitching and ideally a No. 2 in the rotation. James Shields is the type of pitcher they are looking to get out of a Yonder Alonso trade. If the Rays are willing to give away Shields to bolster their mediocre offense, Alonso could easily be a Ray. Shields is not the only pitcher that the Rays could trade. Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann are both young arms that the Reds may like in their starting rotation. Wether the Rays decide to go with the Davis/Niemann offer or the Shields offer, a deal could very well be in their reach.
The Reds are not the only team after Davis and Niemann’s services; the Colorado Rockies also seem to have a bit of interest. Maybe not so much anymore though, as they just recently made a deal to pick up a young starter to fill in the rotation. On Wednesday the Rockies found pitching in the Angels’ Tyler Chatwood, trading catcher Chris Ianetta. It wasn’t the greatest of news for the Rays, as Ianetta would be a nice pick up considering the Rays’ catching situation. After the Rays signed Jose Molina, any possibility of making a deal with Colorado quickly diminished. If the Rockies are still looking for more pitching, they do have Ian Stewart to offer. But because he is a third baseman and the Rockies already made their main move, a deal with Colorado seems highly unlikely.
In the last few years, pitching has been the main source for the Rays’ trade away rumors. The one exception to that is center fielder B.J. Upton. The fact that Upton is still a Ray after two consecutive Trade Deadlines where he was almost traded, is a surprise to many. The Washington Nationals are one team that have been interested in Upton for a while now. With the potential in Desmond Jennings and Brandon Guyer now obvious, the long-anticipated B.J. Upton trade seems more likely than before. What the Nationals have to offer is young farm talent, including a catcher that the Rays should keep an eye on. 22 year-old Derek Norris is one of the Nationals’ top catching prospects, and is a possible trade piece with Wilson Ramos emerging as their future catcher. Of course Norris would be just a part of a B.J. Upton trade.
Infielder Blake Kelso and right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole are two more minor leaguers that could interest the Rays. Kelso is a utility player, that is known for impressing scouts with his ‘Rays style’ of baseball. The other guy is A.J. Cole, who is a 19 year-old pitcher who has great potential as a big league pitcher. These are all guys that the Rays could use in the future, but I’m still not sure how much I like the idea of Upton being traded. After all, he did just have his best year since 2008 and it seems as he might be on the way up. With the Rays in need of offense, keeping Upton is clearly the right move. Last year Upton finished top three in the five major offensive stats for the team, including first in stolen bases. Losing B.J. would be a pretty big blow for the team, especially considering their efforts to boost the offense. Upton is only going to get better I believe, and his improvement is noticeable. He may still strikeout a ton and hit for a low average, but there’s also a lot of things he does right. On the defensive side of his game, he’s probably even better. To start, there’s only a few center fielders in the big leagues with the range Upton has. This gives him ability to play shallow and still be able to snag the deep flies. In addition to his speed, Upton also has a cannon of an arm. His accuracy is not exactly spot on, but he can throw the ball hard and far. At the end of the day, any pitcher would love to have B.J. Upton playing in center field for their team. B.J. Upton has been a piece to the Rays’ puzzle ever since their magical run in ’08. The team without Upton would be hard to picture.
To recap it all, the Rays should pursue the big bat of the Reds’ Yonder Alonso. As for Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Alex Cobb, I think it’s very possible that one will be traded away this winter. Regarding the B.J. Upton trade rumors, Upton is pretty much a must-keep for the Rays’ 2012 roster. The list of Rays trade rumor names is short, but if the right moves are made the Rays will have another successful season next year. In the MLB Hot Stove, it’s about quality not quantity.