Just two weeks away from the trade deadline, the Tampa Bay Rays have clearly emerged as contenders in the AL East, standing atop the Wild Card race and just 2.5 games out of first place in the division.
Like usual, GM Andrew Friedman and the Rays probably won’t make much noise at the deadline, but it is likely that we see at least one minor trade later this month.
Here’s my ranking for the organization’s top four best bargaining chips.
4. Ryan Roberts
Ryan Roberts is one of the most likely trade candidates for the Rays at the deadline. With the team healthy and the offense functioning well, Tampa Bay simply does not have a spot for him on the roster, which is why he’s currently playing in Triple-A.
If the Rays do try to make a move at the deadline, expect to see them shopping Roberts.
3. Enny Romero
One of the Rays’ top pitching prospects, Enny Romero was just selected to his second consecutive All-Star Futures Game earlier this week. The 22-year-old left-hander has exciting potential and has looked good this year with Class AA Montgomery.
With the emergence of Chris Archer, Alex Torres, Alex Colome and Jake Odorizzi, could Romero be a possible trade candidate?
I don’t expect to see Friedman even attempt to trade him, but if he does decide to dig deep for prospects, this may be a good time to deal Romero with his stock pretty high.
2. Kelly Johnson
Could Kelly Johnson be a potential trade target for clubs seeking a bat and some depth? The 31-year-old is enjoying a strong comeback year in Tampa Bay, posting a .762 OPS with a 113 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) and a 1.8 WAR.
Since his contract is expiring at the end of the year, Andrew Friedman may listen to some offers for Johnson but I doubt he’ll pull the trigger. He’s a key part of a team that plans on competing in October, so I don’t think it would be the right choice to deal an important piece like Johnson.
1. Roberto Hernandez
Roberto Hernandez’s numbers this season in the back end of the Rays’ rotation aren’t too pretty: 5-10 with a 4.90 ERA and a 4.58 FIP. However, Hernandez has shown some flashes of his All-Star Fausto Carmona days, posting a career-high 3.36 K/BB rate.
With rookie Chris Archer appearing to be more than capable of pitching in the Rays’ rotation and Alex Cobb returning soon, the Rays may look into trading Hernandez, who will be a free agent after this season.
If the Rays decide to hang on to him, he might find himself with a role in the bullpen.
We have a while to go before the MLB Hot Stove begins to heat up, but it’s never too early for Tampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Friedman to start thinking of potential trade options for later this summer.
Despite trading away James Shields this past offseason, the Rays organization is still stacked with young pitching talent that could come in handy once the deadline approaches.
Let’s take a look at possible Rays trade chips with the most value.
There are many teams that could use a pitching prospect like hard-throwing right-hander Alex Colome more than the Rays. Colome, who is one of the top arms in the Rays farm system, probably would have already made his Major League debut with most other teams in the league.
The 24-year-old has a high ceiling for potential, which should make him an attractive trade piece if the Rays’ were to put him on the block. Colome has electric, frontline-starter type stuff including an excellent fastball and a good feel for his secondary pitches. Once he improves his command, he’ll definitely be MLB rotation worthy.
Colome is currently playing with Triple-A Durham, and is enjoying a solid start to the season. His numbers after six starts include a 2.84 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 15 walks over 31.2 innings pitched.
With already great pitching depth and a bright future starting pitching wise, dealing Colome while his value is pretty high may be a good idea for the Rays.
Enny Romero is another hard-throwing, high-upside pitching prospect in the Rays minor league system. The 22-year-old southpaw, like Alex Colome, also has very exciting stuff.
He should be an effective Major League starter once he refines his mechanics and command.
Being one of the better pitching prospects in the game, he’ll likely be able to reel in a decent amount of offensive talent if he were traded. Romero, who’s off to a slow start to the year with Double-A Montgomery, seems to be at least a full year away from making a big league impact as he continues to develop in the minors.
Chances are, of course, that the Rays will hang on to Romero, but trading him is definitely an interesting thought.
Jeremy Hellickson drew a lot of interest last winter, and there’s no question that a handful of teams would still love to have a consistent and solid starter like him in their rotation
After a shaky start to the season (4.79 ERA in seven starts), his value has gone down a bit, but the Rays still may look into trading Hellickson before the deadline or possibly even after the season. He hasn’t been somebody bouncing around trade rumors lately, but he could be a potential trade target in the future.
One reason for this is the fact that the 2011 Rookie of the Year and 2012 Gold Glove award-winner is a client of Scott Boras. Therefore, signing Hellickson to a long-term deal will be challenge for Tampa Bay and their small budget. Also worth noting is that he’ll be eligible for arbitration after the 2013 season.
A Hellickson deal should be able to draw some quality bats and/or an impressive prospect package. Don’t expect to see another Wil Myers-James Shields type blockbuster obviously, but nonetheless a swap that can make a large impact on two organizations.
David Price has been the center of both Rays and MLB trade rumors since spring training. It’s become clear that the Rays aren’t going to be able to afford the reigning Cy Young award-winner long term, and the league anticipates to see Price on the market when his value’s at its peak.
If one thing’s for sure, his trade value’s not where it was before the season started. He’s suffered an awful start to the year, posting a 6.25 ERA over his first seven starts. He simply doesn’t look like the same pitcher; velocity has dropped significantly and opposing batters are hitting him hard.
Hopefully it’s nothing more than some early season rust, and Price will maintain his status amongst baseball’s top trade candidates. Assuming that Price bounces back, the Rays will be receiving a talent-packed haul of prospects whenever they decide to pull the trigger on dealing their 27-year-old ace.
Last month, I proposed a few possible trade packages that I thought were good enough to pry Price away from Tampa Bay.
A David Price trade is pretty much inevitable; the question is when and with which team.
The reigning Cy Young award-winner could leave Tampa as early as this summer if the Rays fall out of contention, but could possibly stick around for two or even three more years. My guess is that he’s dealt this offseason, but when GM Andrew Friedman decides to pull the trigger depends any many factors.
After mammoth contracts signed by other elite pitchers recently (Zack Greinke, Justin Verander and Felix Hernandez), the Rays clearly won’t be able to afford Price long-term, which is why it’s time for the Rays to search for potential trade suitors.
Here are a few potential trade packages that should be able to pry Price from Tampa Bay.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals definitely have the capability to acquire David Price with the extremely deep farm system that they have.
The question is whether the Red Birds will want to take a huge chunk out of their talented pool of prospects, giving up some depth that they might need in the future.
Their top prospect list is highlighted by phenoms Oscar Taveras and Shelby Miller, but the Cardinals might not need to trade away either of the two in order to get Price. Matt Adams—who’s had a terrific start to his MLB career this season as St. Louis’ first baseman—is one player who needs to be included in this deal.
Right-handers Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha could also both be possibilities, as well as Triple-A second baseman Kolten Wong.
Here are two different Rays-Cardinals trades that I think would be fair:
Price to St. Louis in exchange for OF Oscar Taveras, 2B Kolten Wong and RHP Seth Blair or Price to St. Louis for Wong, 1B Matt Adams and RHP Michael Wacha.
Rangers everyday shortstop Elvis Andrus also inked a massive eight-year extension recently.
Like St. Louis, Texas has a stacked organization that should be able to bring them a superstar even of Price’s caliber via trade. So even if they decide to hang on to Profar, they probably could still put together a deal.
Touted Triple-A slugging prospect Mike Olt has already been subject of many trade rumors this offseason. His high offensive potential is something that should be very appealing for the Rays.
Tampa’s also going to want a high-ceiling arm in the package. Southpaw Martin Perez, another top prospect whose name has come up in multiple trade rumors, is a good fit.
Catcher Jorge Alfaro is one prospect that should be essential for this deal, as the Rays could really use a talented backstop like him in an organization that seriously lacks it.
Again, here are two different trades that might work:
Price to Texas in exchange for SS Jurickson Profar, C Jorge Alfaro and RHP C.J. Edwards or Price to Texas for 3B Mike Olt, C Jorge Alfaro, LHP Martin Perez and OF Roland Guzman.
Yet another organization loaded with minor league talent, the Cubs have a very impressive trio of top prospects to offer in shortstop Javier Baez, outfielder Albert Almora and outfielder Jorge Soler.
Right-handed pitching prospects Arodys Vizcaino, Dillon Maples and Pierce Johnson are all potential pieces to consider in a Price-to-Cubs trade.
First baseman Dan Vogelbach is another player the Rays would like to include in the package. He’s a good well-rounded hitter with great plate discipline and raw power.
Here’s a swap that I think the Rays would go for:
Price to the Cubs in exchange for SS Javier Baez, RHP Arodys Vizcaino, Dan Vogelbach and OF Jae-Hoon Ha.
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
The MLB offseason is still over a month from over, and the Tampa Bay Rays have yet some holes to fill in on their roster. One addition they could really use is a DH, prefferably a power-hitting right-handed one who can also platoon at first base with the newly-acquired James Loney.
Michael Morse could be just the guy. After re-signing first baseman Adam LaRoche earlier this week, the Washington Nationals are now open to trading Morse, and have already discussed a potential deal with multiple teams. It looks like the Rays could very possibly be one of teams in on him (Twitterlinks), and Nationals even pointed out that “the Rays would make great trade partners.”
The 30-year-old outfielder has hit .296/.345/.516 with 64 homers and 198 RBI over the last three years, which is exactly the kind of offensive production the Rays need in their lineup. Morse is mainly an corner outfielder, but can also play a bit of first base and third base as well. His poor defense is likely the reason why AL clubs seem to be more suitable to acquire Morse as a designated hitter. The problem with that, however, is that Morse strongly opposes playing DH. Knowing how much the Rays value defense, he’d have to accept playing DH if they were to sign him.
It’s clear that Morse would be a great fit for the Rays, but is he affordable for Tampa Bay’s small budget? Morse is under a contract that will make him $7 million in 2013 before he becomes a free agent after the season. Considering that the contract is only for one more year, I believe picking up a quality DH who can supply 20+ home run power as well as platoon at first base is definitely worth the money and will without a doubt improve the Rays’ chances of contending this season.
What would a potential Mike Morse deal include? In exchange for the slugger, the Nats are reportedly looking for a left-handed reliever and/or prospects. Prospect southpaw Alex Torres and lefty specialist Cesar Ramos instantly come in mind, and the Rays probably wouldn’t be too reluctant to give up either of them.
If the one thing’s for sure, the chances of Morse being traded this winter are pretty high. Washington does not want sit a $7 million dollar player on the bench instead of getting rid of his salary for prospect talent.
Andrew Friedman and the Rays are in prime position to make an aggressive move right here that would give the lineup a much-needed boost, and I say they take advantage of the opportunity.
With Day 1 of the MLB Winter Meetings already behind us and Day 2 now in progress, Andrew Friedman and the Tampa Bay Rays have shown that they’re not going to hesitate to pursue players on the free agent or trade market. After being involved in a flurry of rumors on Monday, it looks as if the Rays could be pretty active this week in Nashville.
With a handful of possible trade possibilites on the table and multiple teams contacting the Rays, here are five things the club should try to do over these next few days.
Trade Jeremy Hellickson or James Shields
The chances the Rays trade either one of the two talented starters seem very likely at the moment. As important as these two top-tier arms are to the Rays’ rotation, trading one of the two (not both) would make a lot of sense for a couple of reasons.
Tampa has a surplus of starting pitching and is in serious need of offensive help, and both Shields and Hellickson are currently at very high value on the market. In addition, if the Rays were to trade Shields, it would be one less huge salary to pay (that they can hardly afford anyway).
Trading either Hellickson or Shields (or David Price) is really their only way of acquiring a star-quality player or top prospect caliber talent this winter. Knowing that Rays will probably trade one of them should make the next couple of days pretty exciting.
Not trade David Price
The Rays have made it clear that they’re willing to trade away Cy Young award-winner David Price for the right offer, taking into account the 29-year-old phenom’s upcoming pricey contract issues. In a recent article on ESPN.com, columnist Buster Olney points out the fact that Price may very possibly be traded sometime in the next year as the Rays are probably not going to be able to afford him eventually.
Although his value may be at its career peek right now, I think dealing Price this offseason would be a mistake. The Rays could use the offensive boost, but the core of the franchise is still pitching and defense, and trading away a player like Price would potentially be too big of loss for the team.
Put Alex Colome, Alex Torres, Alex Cobb and Wade Davis on the trade block
Believe it or not, the Rays could actually enter the 2013 season with a much better better offense without trading one of their three top starters. Being so deep in the starting pitching department, the Rays have major-league ready starters that aren’t even being used to their full potential and a handful of talented pitching prospects that they could afford giving away.
If the Rays can keep the same ridiculously good starting rotation they had this year and at the same time put together a better offense for next season, they’re going to be one very serious contender in 2013.
With prospects like Colome and Torres, and MLB-ready starters like Davis and Cobb, the Rays have the opportunity to do so.
Acquire Asdrubal Cabrera or Jason Kubel
The shortstop position has been a weak area for the Rays for two years now, and picking up a star shortstop like Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera would be a very nice solution to the problem. The 27-year-old is one of baseball’s best offensive shortstops, posting a wOBA of over .330 and a wRC+ of over 110 for the past two seasons.
The Indians are looking for three to four— preferably four—prospects in exchange for him (per the Cleveland Plain-Dealer). The Rays have the pieces to make a deal like this happen, and Cleveland could really use some young starting pitching talent.
Over in Arizona, Justin Upton has been the main talk in Diamondbacks trade rumors so far this offseason, but now sources are saying that they may be shopping OF Jason Kubel instead. According to Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com, the Rays are one of multiple teams that could be a possible suitor for the veteran slugger.
Kubel had himself a very nice 2012 season, posting a .352 wOBA while hitting 30 homers and 90 RBI. Not only would Kubel add depth to the Rays’ outfield, but he would also be a perfect fit for the DH role.
Sign a catcher
One big area of need to address on Tampa’s roster is without a doubt at the catcher position. The four catchers that the Rays used this this year combined for an RBI total of just 65 without one reaching a wOBA as high as .290. Defensively, the four weren’t very good either.
The two main catchers on the roster (who were the team’s two catchers in 2012 as well) are Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton. Molina had a poor season offensively last year, but did well throwing out baserunners and framing pitches, essentially helping out the pitching staff throughout the year. The main problem with Molina is that he’s 37, and can’t really provide the Rays with many innings.
Therefore, the team’s backup catcher is a crucial role. Lobaton is in that position right now, and he’s not the kind of guy the Rays would [or at least should] like playing 65+ games for them. Lobaton posted a .222/.323/.317 line last year with very little power while throwing out just 16% of would-be base-stealers.
Whether it’s via the trade market or free agent market, the Rays really need to sign a backstop this winter.