The Rays As Sellers

The Rays may be in a new position when it comes to this year’s trade deadline. Since their playoff odds have dropped more than any other team’s since the beginning of the season and are now close to 5%, it’s at least hard to see them as buyers. Then again, they haven’t made a ton of in-season acquisitions in their more competitive past, and their team is built for 2015 as much as it was built for this year — it’s likely that their transition from buyers to sellers may come without many big moves.

Add up all their June and July trades over the past five years, and you don’t get much. Despite averaging 90 wins and being competitive most years, they haven’t been very active as the deadline has approached.

Traded for Jesse Crain from the White Sox
Traded for Ryan Roberts from the Arizona Diamondbacks
No June or July trades.
Traded for Chad Qualls from the Arizona Diamondbacks
Traded for Jon Meloan from the Cleveland Indians

If the trend holds, the Rays will send Joel Peralta to the Arizona Diamondbacks and call it a day.

That’s me, having a lark. But there is another reason to believe that this team will remain mostly intact for the 2015 season. Here’s the full list of currently under-contract Rays that will become free agents after the 2014 season:

Juan Oviedo
Erik Bedard

Full stop. If you subscribe to the belief that only things that aren’t nailed down should be sold, then there isn’t likely to be a big trade in the Rays future.

Then again, there is the fact that the never-ending cupboard of major-league-ready starting pitching prospects seems to be drying up. In the past, there’s always been a Chris Archer, an Alex Cobb, a Matt Moore, a Jeremy Hellickson to call up. The current rotation has already called up Jake Odorizzi, who’s struggling to find a second workable pitch after his new splitter. Behind him, you’ve got Alex Colome struggling to find the plate and Enny Romero, who’s just struggling, period. And behind them, you have to go down to A-ball to find your starters.

No matter if you’re a fan of Romero and Colome, you’d be hard pressed to argue that they are the same quality of past Tampa young arms. In fact, now that Odorizzi is up, there isn’t a single Ray farmhand that was in Baseball America’s top 100 this year.

It could be time for a re-stocking trade.

If you open up trade candidates to those that are free agents in 2016, you get a more interesting list:

David Price
Grant Balfour
Ben Zobrist
Matt Joyce
Jose Molina
Sean Rodriguez

None of the group is going to be as expensive as David Price, and for Tampa that might matter. They’ve traded away other starting pitchers in the same situation, choosing major-league ready packages for James Shields, Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir and Jason Hammel. There’s precedent, and now there’s a situation ripe for a deal.

It’s not likely the rest of the list will get the Rays the multiple major-league ready arms they might need, so David Price is the prize. Who could pony up?

We’re looking for a strong farm system on a contender. Using John Sickel’s farm system rankings, the best fits are the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, and San Francisco Giants. Get any lower on the rankings, and you’re asking too much from largely barren systems like the Nationals’ and Yankees’.

In-division trades happen, but in this case seem unlikely — the Rays would like to compete again in 2015. So take those teams out, too. And an organization like the Cardinals’ hardly seems like it needs pitching. Shake up the contenders again, and you get the Rockies, Dodgers, Giants and Rangers. The Rangers and Rockies are down to close to 10% playoff odds, so you might be looking at a west coast standoff for the services of Price.

The Rays may have to swallow hard and trade in their division, though, if a package of ready arms is what they seek. The Giants have Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar, but both are struggling and Crick doesn’t seem ready. Add to that the fact that Brian Sabean spoke repeatedly of the young arms that the Cardinals have stocked up, and he may not want to let go of his own. The Dodgers have Zach Lee and Julio Urias, but Urias is a teenager and Lee doesn’t really have the upside you’d expect from a cornerstone in a Price trade.

There are reasons that a Price trade hasn’t happened yet, in other words. History suggests that it will happen, especially with the Rays as sellers this year, but that it’s likely to happen in the offseason. Even if a Price trade does happen in the next couple of months, it’ll be mostly business as usual for the team, and may not be accompanied by much other selling. This is a team that tries to keep its cost-controlled core intact while always building for the immediate future, and most of their team will return in 2015.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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9 years ago

Matt Joyce in Detroit, platooning in LF with Davis. YES, PLEASE

9 years ago
Reply to  Reginald

That would require us to have good prospects.

9 years ago
Reply to  DUMBrowski

I don’t think the cost would be all that high for a platoon corner OF who is a free agent after next season…

9 years ago
Reply to  DUMBrowski

Matt Joyce for Robbie Ray

9 years ago
Reply to  DUMBrowski

Devon Travis for Joyce

9 years ago
Reply to  Bill

Yup, that’s what I was thinking. Travis is blocked in Detroit and could be a nice replacement for Zobrist in 2016

9 years ago
Reply to  Reginald

Would rather see Zobrist at SS for the Tigers

jim S.
9 years ago
Reply to  John

As a Rays’ fan, I can tell you that Ben is not a very good fielder at short. Maybe a 2 on a scale of 1-10.

AC of DC
9 years ago
Reply to  jim S.

Per FG, in 1560 Innings at Short, he has compiled a total of -10 DRS, -3.2 UZR, and -2.8 UZR/150: not ideal, but hardly on the bottom rungs (#46 of 79 players w/1000+ Inn. at SS in the same timeframe, sorted by UZR). He’s a better 2B than SS, but who isn’t?