There aren’t many quality catchers in baseball. There are certainly more capable pitchers around. We also know that the Rays have pitching depth- although injuries and utter collapses (cough Alex Torres cough) can easily destroy that. But here’s a crazy idea: why don’t the Rays add a starter so they trade a different starter for a catcher?
Wait, what are you talking about, Robbie? Well the first option would be a free agent. Roy Oswalt is expected to sign soon. Could the Rays make a run for him? Well, only if money isn’t the key point for Oswalt’s decision. If the Rays could convince Oswalt to sign for only a couple million dollars because he is the perfect fit as the veteran presence in a rotation of youngsters, that would allow them to trade Wade Davis and move Alex Cobb to the bullpen. It’s unlikely that Oswalt would be willing to sign within the Rays price range and then there’s the factor of Cobb needing to struggle and oh, by the way, then Jeff Niemann would have to be traded when he returned from the DL, pending another injury. (UPDATE: Oswalt has signed with the Rangers.) But the idea isn’t as crazy as it seems.
The Rays are going to have a surplus of infielders. Currently they have Carlos Pena, Sean Rodriguez, Elliot Johnson, Will Rhymes, and Drew Sutton on the roster plus Ben Zobrist who has been playing the outfield of late. And then you have Evan Longoria, Jeff Keppinger, and Brandon Allen set to come off the DL. What are the Rays going to do with all those infielders?
Some of them have trade value. Sean Rodriguez can play capably defensively at shortstop, third base, and second base with a solid bat. If say Sutton continues to hit, what will the Rays do with Rodriguez? Allen has no real place on this ballclub but has nice power. Maybe they could flip him for something? Jeff Keppinger is a nice player but lacks the versatility and defensive abilities of the others. Could he be trade bait as well?
The Rays could swap one of these guys (or even more than one) for a pitcher? Some of these guys are going to be designated for assignment no matter what. Why not get something for them? If the Rays could swap Rodriguez for a decent middle reliever, maybe they can put Davis on the block, which would not be that bad, especially when Kyle Farnsworth is ready to return. The argument could be made that Davis has more value as a trade chip as opposed to a middle reliever.
Does it make any sense for the Rays to do this? I would doubt it. The Rays are not about to sign Roy Oswalt or any other significant free agent starter. The Rays may need to trade some of their infielders, but it makes more sense for them to trade them either for low minors prospects with some potential or why not trade them directly for a catcher? And if the Rays want to trade Davis, it’s unlikely that they’re going to do anything crazy beforehand. But with the Rays, you never know.