Ever since the offseason began, there has been a big discussion surrounding the Rays on whether they would trade their surplus of pitching for a bat. The Rays have been looking to trade a starter for a while now, but apparently haven’t found a deal.
During the winter, the Rays really had three roster holes they needed to fill; catcher, first base and DH. Somewhat surprisingly, they turned to the free agent market for their needs. The Rays snagged veteran backstop Jose Molina, signed left-handed slugger Luke Scott to be their DH and brought back first baseman Carlos Pena.
The front office got the job done, but were there better options on the trade market?
The fact is that the Rays have eight legitimate starters for 2012, and probably more in 2013. James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, Alex Torres and Alex Cobb could all make an Opening Day MLB rotation on most other teams, while prospect Chris Archer will definitely be in that mix soon. The Rays offense is weaker than their outstanding starting pitching, so it would make a lot of sense to trade at least one starter for a hitter when you have three ‘extra’ starters.
The Rays clearly possess the necessary pieces in order to construct a deal, but who could they have traded for during the offseason. Three names immediately come to mind: first baseman/outfielder Yonder Alonso, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and catcher Yasmani Grandal. The two best prospect first basemen in all of baseball and a top prospect catcher were all traded this winter on deals the Rays could of very easily made.
In the deal that sent Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal to the Padres, San Diego only gave up their No.1 starter (Mat Latos) in exchange for both of them and two more arms (Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger) from Cincinnati. With the starting pitching the Rays have, there were plenty of ways the Rays could have traded for both Alonso and Grandal if the Reds were looking for just one good arm to add to their rotation.
As for Anthony Rizzo, he was traded to the Cubs in exchange for minor league pitcher Andrew Cashner. Looking at who Chicago gave away for Rizzo, there’s absolutely no way that Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, or Alex Torres could not bring this future star first-baseman to Tampa Bay.
This trio’s big bats seem like they would have been a perfect addition to the Rays’ roster, but how would they actually fit on the team? If Luke Scott and Carlos Pena were never signed, we can assume that Alonso and Rizzo would be able to play DH and first base for the 2012 season. With Rizzo being the better defensive first baseman, he would likely man first while Alonso would be the DH.
As for Yasmani Grandal, he would be the backup catcher behind Molina and would get a significant amount of playing time. Looking at the Rays’ catching situation behind Molina, they probably wish they had him now.
The Rays would obviously have to choose either the Rizzo/Alonso combination or the Pena/Scott combination (or possibly a mixture), so which would be the better decision? There are plus sides and negative sides to both decisions. With the Scott/Pena combo (which is having a great start to the season by the way) the Rays have now, there is a bit of a long-term concern. Pena will be a free agent after the 2012 season, and Scott will be a free agent in 2013.
If the Rays signed both Alonso and Rizzo to long-term deals, they would have better security at the DH and first base positions. We know how Andrew Friedman loves to lock up young talented players long-term, which is the main reason why I think this would have been a good deal for the Rays. However, I believe that the Rays’ offense may be a bit better short-term with Scott and Pena in the roster.
It’s too early in the season to say anything for sure, but Scott and Pena have much more experience and have proven what they can do at the big league level. The short-term aspect is why I think the Rays chose Scott and Pena. They’ve made it very clear they’re going for it all this season.
What I find the most surprising in the Rays’ search to trade a starter is that they still haven’t made a deal to bring in a catcher to backup Molina. Not surprisingly, the Rays are still searching for a backup catcher. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Tampa has been pushing to acquire Oakland’s Kurt Suzuki, but Billy Beane isn’t very interested in Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis.
The Rays will most likely sign somebody eventually, but it may not be via trade. Ivan Rodriguez is one free agent catcher that the Rays pursue. If the Rays don’t decide to turn to free agency for their catching needs, who could they trade for?
Ryan Hanigan and Travis D’Arnaud could be two future possibilities. Hanigan—who the Rays have already discussed acquiring—has a questionable future in Cincinnati because of the emergence of top prospect catcher Devin Mesoraco. D’Arnaud—who’s also a top prospect catcher—may not have a future in Toronto because J.P Arencibia, who has established himself as the team’s starting catcher there. The Blue Jays have already discussed trading him, which is why I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rays go after him.
The Rays have waited to find the right deal to trade some of their young pitching talent, but I think they’ll find some better opportunities as the trade deadline nears. It’s still too early in the season to conclude that the Rays have been over-hesitant to trade away their pitching surplus. What matters is what the front office decides to do in the future, and I think we’ll see the trade many have been anticipating once the deadline arrives.
Since the offseason began, rumors have swirled about the possibility of the Rays trading away some of their excellent starting pitching. With Matt Moore appearing to join Tampa’s rotation this season, it looks like the Rays will have a surplus of starters in 2011. Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann, will for the fifth spot in the rotation in the spring, are two players that could very possibility be traded before deadline this summer. Last year’s ace James Shields has also been in the discussion, as teams have been interested in his services for a while now. Although the Rays have filled in their main roster holes via free agency this offseason, it’s still pretty likely that the Rays will seek a trade. Most of the offseason’s action is over, but the trade possibilities have not exactly faded. Recently, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Rays’ president Matt Silverman said he isn’t finished looking to trade away a starter. Considering how much sense it makes for the Rays to trade away pitching in exchange for offense, it’s no surprise that the front office is mulling this over. When a team lacks hitting and has a surplus of pitching, a trade is the obvious solution. Let’s take a look at eight possible deals that could get the Rays to trade away starting pitching. The bats on the trade market are limited, but there still are some intriguing possibilities for the Rays.
The Toronto Blue Jays are one team that would love to add to their starting pitching this offseason. Toronto’s rotation had their struggles last season, which is why a trade for Wade Davis could possibly light up their eyes. Most of what the Jays have to offer is down in their farm system. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria are two young players that should interest the Rays. Both are part of Toronto’s top 10 prospect list in 2011 (according to MLB.com). Blue Jays’ top prospect and former first-round pick Travis d’Arnaud is one exciting young prospect. The 22 year-old hit .311 with 78 RBI’s in 21 homers in Class AA New Hampshire last season. With impressive skills both offensively and defensively, d’Arnaud has the potential to be a successful big league catcher. A good backstop is something the Rays will be needing in the future, as their 36 year-old acquisition Jose Molina was only signed for a one-year deal. Because of the emergence of the young J.P. Arencibia, it is possible the Jays will think about trading d’Arnaud soon. According to sources, the Philadelphia Phillies have actually discussed obtaining d’Arnaud earlier this offseason. Adding prospect shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria to the mix would really make a great deal for the Rays here. Shortstop is another area of need for the Rays, which should make Hechavarria pretty attractive. The 22 year-old Cuban-native batted .305 with 57 RBI’s and 20 stolen bases in the minors last year (AA and AAA).
Possible Trade: Wade Davis to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for minor league C Travis d’Arnaud and minor league SS Adeiny Hechavarria
Although the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t made any big moves for starting pitching in recent years, they may have the pieces to put together a potential deal with the Rays. Young outfielder Jose Tabata and former All-Star relief pitcher Evan Meek should be able to get the Rays to discuss a four-player swap. The Pirates would get Jeff Niemann and prospect starter Alex Torres, who went 9-7 with a 3.08 ERA and 156 strikeouts last year during his season with AAA Durham. Tabata would be a great guy for the Rays to pick up, as he seems to have a bright future in the MLB. However, it’s very unlikely that the Pirates would give away Tabata, especially after the huge contract extension he received this August. The 23 year-old leftfielder had a rather dissapointing 2011, after a pretty impressive rookie season. Tabata batted .299 with 121 hits and 19 stolen bases through his 102 games in 2010. He saw a decline last season, batting .266 through his 91 games. Still, Tabata is a talented player who could easily develop as a star in the big leagues. Make no mistake, this is one guy the Rays would love to have in leftfield. The Rays have done a lot of work this winter continuing to build their young bullpen. Right-handed reliever Evan Meek is somebody the Rays would love to add to their ‘pen, even if it’s worth giving up a prospect like Torres. Meek’s career stats include a 3.08 ERA and 7-7 record through four seasons (160.2 innings pitched).
Possible Trade: Jeff Niemann and Alex Torres to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for LF Jose Tabata and RP Evan Meek
Here’s a trade that’s a great idea for the Rays, as well as a win-win for both sides. Ryan Hanigan is exactly what the Rays need. He’s a catcher who’s consistent, has a high on-base percentage, and a very reasonable salary. Hanigan owns a career line .275/.371/.368. It’s nothing special and he doesn’t produce many runs, but his good defense and ability to get on base is something that must attract the Rays. As for Cincinnati’s point of view; they definitely get their end of the deal here. Alex Cobb is an underrated pitching prospect, and he’s proved that he can succeed at the big league level. Cobb went 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in his brief MLB stint last season. He also went 5-1 with a terrific 1.87 ERA at AAA Durham. This is a move the Rays need to continue to pursue. If the Rays want Ryan Hanigan, the chances of them working out a deal is not bad at all. The Reds will probably not be too hesitant to send their veteran catcher to Tampa, as they may have a franchise catcher in the making. Reds’ top prospect Devin Mesoraco could possibly take over the catching spot pretty soon, potentially making Hanigan a possible trade piece for Cincinnati. Interestingly, Hanigan was almost dealt to the Rays earlier this offseason. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Rays discussed trading for Seth Smith (who was on the Colorado Rockies then) and then sending him to Cincinnati in exchange for Hanigan. Even before that, ESPN’s David Schoenfield mentioned his name in article about trades he thought were reasonable. So if Hanigan does end up in Tampa Bay, nobody should be too surprised.
Possible Trade: Alex Cobb and C Robinson Chirinos to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for C Ryan Hanigan
Unfortunately for the Mets, they haven’t been able to add to their struggling pitching staff during their miserable offseason. Here’s a four-player deal that would make sense for both sides. The Rays did find their first baseman when the picked up Carlos Pena earlier this month, but it still could be an area of need in the future. Mets’ first baseman Daniel Murphy may not get much attention at all, but he’s a perfect fit in Tampa. The 26 year-old is a career .292 hitter (.320 in last year), and he’s even shown he has some pop in his bat during his three big league seasons. Murphy could be a serious trade target for the Rays in the future, as he probably doesn’t have a future with the Mets. Ike Davis seems to be emerging into a quality baseball player in New York, and it looks as if he’ll become their everyday first baseman. It shouldn’t shock anybody if the Rays pursue this guy in the future. Wilmer Flores, who is one of the top prospects in the Mets’ organization, is another player that I could imagine the Rays would like in the trade package. Being a shortstop, the 20 year-old would be a great addition to the Rays’ farm system. Although Flores hasn’t done that much statistically yet in the minors, scouts seem to be convinced that this youngster has what it takes to succeed.
Possible Trade: Jeff Niemann and Alex Cobb to the New York Mets in exchange for 1B Daniel Murphy, and minor league SS Wilmer Flores
This trade is very simple, yet very effective. I don’t see anything wrong with a Davis-Trumbo trade. Since Albert Pujols is now the first baseman in Anaheim, Trumbo’s future with the Angels is questionable. Trumbo himself has already acknowledged the fact that he may be traded. The question is, would the Angels be interested in one of the Rays’ starters? Right now it looks like their five-man rotation is set to go. However, I think Davis could actually give an already great rotation a boost. The Angels don’t have a solid starter in the fifth spot, and there’s a good chance that Davis can put up better numbers than Ervin Santana (fourth spot) this season. From the Rays’ side of things, Trumbo would obviously be a terrific acquisition. The 26 year-old has all the tools to become a big-time slugger in the majors. Trumbo had an outstanding rookie season, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting. He smacked 29 dingers and drove in 87 runs, showing off some raw power.If the Rays want a long-term first baseman, Mark Trumbo is their answer.
Possible Trade: Wade Davis to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for 1B Mark Trumbo
Mitch Moreland could potentially be another first base option for the Rays. He may not be the same type of player as Trumbo, but he sure does know how to hit. In his first full season last year, Moreland put up a .259/.320/.414 line including 16 homers and 51 RBI’s. He’s also pretty good defensively at first, even though he doesn’t play the position everyday. With catcher Mike Napoli very capable of playing first, it seems likely that he’ll get a lot of playing time their this year. That means that Moreland’s name may soon pop up in trade rumors. It will be interesting to see if the Rangers negotiate with the Rays, as Texas would love to strengthen their starting rotation. Minor League outfielder Jake Skole is the another piece that could complete a trade package for Davis. The first-round draftee excites scouts with his excellent athletic ability. At just 20, he hasn’t done that much yet statistically speaking. Skole batted .264 with nine homers, 62 RBI’s, and 21 stolen bases during his season at Class A ball last year.
Possible Trade: Wade Davis to the Texas Rangers in exchange for 1B Mitch Moreland and minor league outfielder Jake Skole
The Kansas City Royals could really use one of the Rays’ starting pitchers. They actually offered a deal for James Shields back in the Winter Meetings. They might not have what it takes to bring Shields to Kansas City, but they probably could work out a trade for Jeff Niemann. For Shields the Royals offered closer Joakim Soria, their top prospect, and prospect Christian Colon. For Niemann, the Royals could offer Soria and prospect Clint Robinson to make a deal. The Rays would love to add a solid closer like Soria to their ‘pen. The future of the closer role is very questionable, as Kyle Farnsworth will be a free agent after the 2012 season. Soria owns a career ERA of 2.40 and 160 saves (162 game average of 37). He had the worst season of his career last year, but he’s still an effective closer. It wouldn’t be a shocker if Soria is traded, as his name has come up multiple times in trade rumors. First baseman Clint Robinson is one of top position prospects in the Royals’ farm system. The 26 year-old left-handed slugger is putting up huge numbers in minor leagues. Last year in AAA Omaha, Robinson posted a .326/.399/.533 line while blasting 23 home runs and 100 RBI’s. With Kansas City’s young star Eric Hosmer appearing to be their future first baseman, it’s possible that Robinson could end up as a trade piece for the Royals.
Possible Trade: Jeff Niemann to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RP Joakim Soria and minor league 1B Clint Robinson.
The Orioles have been looking to upgrade their starting pitching for a while now, and a trade may be the best way to find their man. Adam Jones’ name immediately comes to mind, who has been subject to trade rumors throughout the offseason. The 26 year-old outfielder owns a career line of .275/.319/.437, and hit 20+ homers and 80+ RBI’s for the first time in his career last season. Jones has great potential in the MLB, and his offensive could really be used in Tampa. There is a question as to how well Jones would suit the Rays, though. Being a centerfielder, it would be interesting see how he would fit in the same outfield as B.J. Upton. However, if Upton is traded at some point in the future, this could become a serious trade possibility. The chances of a Adam Jones trade happening for the Rays are very slim. This is more of a “what-if” trade scenario.
Possible Trade: Wade Davis and Alex Cobb to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for CF Adam Jones