Tampa Bay Rays: Will Fill Team Needs with Trades

With a reluctance to spend money on free agents, the Tampa Bay Rays have the assets to trade; the question though is how much will they deal to fulfill their needs.

As always, the rumors fly like birds in a flock heading south from the cold of the north and it looks as if that the Tampa Bay Rays are up front and center once again as the hot stove season is underway.

The Tampa Bay Rays may have restructured their baseball operations department but they did not restructure the way they will acquire players to fill their needs. Financial restraints will once again play heavily on the Tampa Bay Rays as Matt Silverman President of Baseball Operations told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times the club will rely primarily on trades.

Last week in Arizona, the General Managers had their meeting and though the Rays were not involved in any trades, they did however have many inquiries about their pitching, specifically any starters that could be or will be made available for trades.

“The demand is there,” Tampa Bay Rays GM Erik Neander said. “When you have really good players, especially in an area where there is need across the league, I think it certainly plays that way.”

The interest/demand, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times is the Rays’ cost-effective and controllable starting pitchers. That means, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Alex Cobb. In addition, add Drew Smyly who has just about pitched himself off the Rays because of his projected salary via arbitration ($7 million) and possibly Erasmo Ramirez for his $3.5 million projected salary.

For the Rays to accomplish all of their offseason needs, which include a catcher, bullpen help, left-field/designated hitter numerous trades are the way the team will go. Although the free agent market does have players that could fill the Rays needs, they are not affordable.

Pitching is the one valuable asset the Rays have and if they do not ask for the sky, the moon and everything in-between, they should be able to obtain their needs for at least two of their starters.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that the Rays left the GM Meetings with a stronger belief than they had upon arrival that they’ll trade one of Archer, Odorizzi or Smyly this winter. He adds that there’s an “outside chance” that Alex Cobb will be dealt as well.

Neander told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that the opportunity is there for the Rays to make the necessary trades. He is also well aware of the value of the depth that the Rays have with their pitching and is not going to give up any pitcher/player if the deal(s) do not provide a considerable return.

Archer and Odorizzi are the most sought after starters and despite a down year from Archer, the Rays will not under any circumstances give him away, especially now that Jeremy Hellickson accepted the Phillies qualifying offer of $17.2 million. Hellickson removal off free agency makes the market for starting pitchers even weaker.

In regards to Odorizzi, he has made at least 28 starts for the Rays each year since 2014 and posted a career high in innings pitched (187.2) last season going 10-6 with a 3.69 ERA in 33 starts.

In my opinion, a one-for-one trade for Odorizzi would not necessarily give the Rays the return they want, but with another player added could make a deal workable.

Ramirez and Smyly both had inconsistent performances this season and combined salaries are projected at $10.5 million, so from that standpoint, it would be wise for the Rays to trade both.

A trade however is not necessarily because of their performance, but their salary. Both players would be affordable to other teams, just not the Rays.

If you recall, at the non-waiver trade deadline this past summer the Texas Rangers had extensive talks about Archer, Smyly and Odorizzi and though Texas is still looking to add to their rotation, Ken Rosenthal said that the teams are not expected to renew any of those talks.

Alex Cobb right now is controllable and is cost-effective; but he is entering the last season of arbitration and is a free agent after the 2017 season. According to MLBTrade Rumors he is projected to make $4 million, which is the salary earned in 2016.

On the other hand, there is a slight hiccup – his trade value is low because he has yet to pitch a full season since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2015. When he returned to the mound in September, Cobb made just five starts posting a 1-2 record with an 8.59 ERA in 22-1/3 innings. He allowed 22 runs on 32 hits (21 earned), gave up seven home runs with 16 strikeouts and walked just seven.

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Like James Shields, David Price, Matt Moore and others before him, Cobb’s salary will become cost-prohibitive and if a deal can be made for the right price, and the right players, Neander needs to pull the trigger sooner than later.

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