Tampa Bay Rays Rumors: Contract Offers, Dodgers Eying Forsythe

Potential free agent signings, additional trades could be on the horizon for the Tampa Bay Rays.

With the recent trade of Richie Shaffer to the Seattle Mariners, the Tampa Bay Rays are seriously interested in bringing back Steve Pearce, as they are now in need of a right-handed platoon partner for Brad Miller at first base and as a designated hitter according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  However, the Rays would only consider do this if Pearce is healthy.

Pearce underwent successful elbow surgery in September to repair the flexor mass tendon with a recovery period estimated to be between four to six months. There is an outside chance that he will not be ready and could see his recovery linger well into Spring Training.

Last January, the Rays signed Pearce to a one-year deal and spent the first half with the Rays before traded to the Orioles at the trade deadline. While with the Rays, he was excellent slashing .309/.388/.520 with 10 home runs in 232 at-bats.

However, the success did not follow him to Baltimore hitting .217/.329/.400 with three homers in 70 at-bats. With the Rays, Pearce spent time at first, second, third and designated hitter last season.

His added versatility, and the fact that he crushes left-handed pitching where he hit .309/.411/.616 in 2016 would be an asset to the lineup.

However, that versatility has another team interested in his services as the Toronto Blue Jays are also in pursuit per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, they project  Pearce to receive a 2-year, $10M deal, but that is contingent of his health.

With the departures of Justin Turner and Chase Utley via free agency and their trade of Howie Kendrick, Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers are now interested in Logan Forsythe.

The Dodgers have already inquired about the availability of Detroit’s Ian Kinsler and the Twins Brian Dozier, which would required multiple prospects in return – however, Kinsler is due $11 million in 2017, with a $12 million option for 2018 with a $5 million buyout, plus he wants an extension for waiving his no-trade clause.

The Tampa Bay Rays acquired Forsythe and Brad Boxberger before the 2014 season by current Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Jesse Hahn and Alex Torres and per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Dodgers had approached the Rays at the trade deadline this past summer.

It is a no-brainer as to why the Dodgers would take an interest in Forsythe and that is his affordability. Forsythe is due $7 million in 2017 before an $8.5 million option with a $1 million buyout in 2018 kicks in, and it likely cost the Dodgers in a return (prospects).

Forsythe has been outstanding for the Rays and has established himself as a high-end second baseman since 2015. In 1,182 plate appearances since then, Forsythe has batted .273/.347/.444 with 37 home runs and 15 stolen bases, and his 6.8 fWAR during that span places him ninth among the league’s second basemen.

In 127 games last season for the Rays, he hit .264/.333/.444 (113 OPS+) with 24 doubles and 20 home runs and combined to hit .273/.347/.444 (119 OPS+) with 37 home runs in 2015-2016.

There has been no indication from the Rays that they are open to dealing Forsythe at this time or under pressure to do so, despite having Willy Adames and Daniel Robertson waiting patiently in the on-deck circle.

In addition, there is some interest in the Rays signing free agent outfielder Eric Thames.

According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN both have reported that Thames has drawn interest from not only the Rays, but also the San Diego Padres and Oakland A’s.

He previously played for the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners from 2011-12 and has been playing in Korea since 2014. In his two-years in the majors, Thames hit .250/.296/.431 with 21 home runs in 684 plate appearances.

However, his time in Korea with NC Dinos has shown a big power increases as he’s hit at least 37 home runs in each of the previous three seasons, including 47 in 2015, giving him a combined 124. Additionally, he has slashed .348/.450/.720 in 1,634 plate appearances and added 64 stolen bases on 78 attempts. MLB Trade Rumors projects a two-year, $10-million deal.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that the Rays have made an “initial” offer to free-agent catcher Jason Castro and are “right in the thick of things” among several teams, per agent Castro’s agent Fred Wray of ISE Baseball.

This past season with the Houston Astros, Castro slashed .210/.307/.377 with 11 HR, season but was considerably better against right-handed pitching (.757 OPS) than lefties (.478 OPS).

Castro is considered one of the best “pitch framers” which is right up the Rays alley, however over the past few years they’ve had “pitch framers” in Rene Rivera, Hank Conger, Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina and they bombed offensively leading to their eventual departures.

Contract wise, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes  that Castro will sign for at least three years, though Wray told Topkin that it was too soon to determine the length of contract.

Projections could reach $15 million for two-years or $20 million or more for three-years, which is way out of the Rays’ reach… however; if the price is right Castro could be paired with either Luke Maile or Curt Casali. Castro lost his arbitration case and made $5 million in 2016.

Rays Stingers

Rays beat writer Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that of the six pitchers added to the roster, three have the potential to help this season, Ryne Stanek, Jaime Schultz and Austin Pruitt all have options as rotation depth or conversion to relief work.

In trading Taylor Motter, it looks as though Tim Beckham could be part of the roster for 2017 because of his offensive contributions – his 1.3 wins above replacement was their seventh best in 2016. There had been speculation that Beckham could be on his way out of the organization after a September fallout with the Rays. Both players were not part of the September call-up due to performance and disciplinary issues.

Buster Olney of ESPN writes that numerous top brass members of opposing teams speculate that Chris Archer or Drew Smyly will definitely be traded and that Alex Colome is another possibility.

Speculation on my part is that Smyly is the most likely candidate based on financial reasons only. He won his arbitration case last year and despite the Rays having success in winning their arbitration cases over the years, it is Smyly’s last year through the arbitration process and either way, win or lose he has become too expensive and there are more than enough qualified pitchers waiting in the wings.

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I do not however see Colome being traded – at least not at this time. He is not arbitration eligible and has four more years of team control, and is not a financial burden. In addition, he is way too valuable and though he moved into the closers role following Boxberger’s injury I’m not so certain that automatically be penciled in. I think he will compete with Boxberger during spring training, although it is his job to lose and Boxberger’s to win.

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