The Rays have plenty of starting pitching. Yet getting into the discussions for pitchers in high demand as the trade deadline approaches such as Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, and Matt Garza could be a very beneficial move for the Rays.
In a deal for an elite pitcher on the trade market, there are going to be plenty of prospects involved. But the question is going to be whether the prospects the prospective acquiring teams have are the right prospects for the trading teams. When that isn’t the case, you may have something that a team that wouldn’t normally be involved in the trade talks may need, and that gives you two franchises to combine for the pieces needed to trade for one of these topflight starting pitchers. The Rays would love to be the facilitator under the right circumstances. I talked about this specifically with ex-Ray Matt Garza and catcher Geovany Soto back in February.
The conditions for the Rays to be involved in a trade like this are as follows:
1) A team involved in talks would have to possess a catcher or a player/prospect of some kind that the Rays feel would be the perfect fit for their organization
2A) A division rival for the Rays (i.e. Yankees or Orioles) would have to be on the verge of acquiring one of these topflight pitchers and a team who fits the first criteria would have to be involved in the talks and willing to up their offer to swoop in and acquire the pitcher themselves
2B) The potentially acquiring team is begging for the Rays to join the deal and the Rays see an opportunity to acquire the player in question for the first criteria at little cost
Andrew Friedman and the Rays would love to control all the dealings in baseball, but they’re not going to get involved in a trade like this unless it provides them with worthy benefit in the form of a needed player and an opportunity to prevent a key player from heading to a rival or the opportunity for a steal of a trade. I could see a trade like this happen if a team dangles a big league catcher or an upper-levels catching prospect and if the Phillies (Hamels), Cubs (Garza), or Brewers (Greinke) want upper-levels pitching prospects/big league starters in a trade (which the Rays have plenty of- Chris Archer, Alex Colome, Wade Davis) or shortstop prospects with upside (take Tim Beckham and Brandon Martin) and a prospective acquiring team doesn’t have them or doesn’t want to trade the ones they have.
What would a trade like this look like? One example that probably no longer applies at all is the example in the link above, which involves the Detroit Tigers. But let’s look at another such scenario now. A rumor has been that the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking to acquire Cole Hamels from the Phillies. The Pirates have taken their top two pitching prospects, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, off the table and don’t have any shortstop prospects of note (Alen Hanson plays there now but has no chance to stay there). The Pirates’ best offer to the Phillies given the conditions they have set for themselves would look something like this.
This package lacks luster. Marte is an excellent prospect but one who still needs a lot of work, Heredia has ridiculous upside but is a 17 year old at Short Season-A, McPherson has the ability to be only a solid starter and missed much of this season with shoulder inflammation, Dickerson is just a decent first base prospect, and Grossman doesn’t have any standout tools. Now watch what this deal turns into when the Rays enter.
Philadelphia Phillies trade LHP Cole Hamels to the Pittsburgh Pirates and RHP Brody Colvin and OF Kyrell Hudson to the Tampa Bay Rays. Pirates trade OF Starling Marte, RHP Luis Heredia, and 1B Alex Dickerson to the Philadelphia Phillies and C Tony Sanchez and RHP Zack Von Rosenberg to the Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa Bay Rays trade RHP Chris Archer and SS Tim Beckham to the Philadelphia Phillies and INF Sean Rodriguez to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Now the Phillies are getting a group of four high-upside guys in Marte, Archer, Beckham, and Heredia to go along with Dickerson, and Archer could be in the big leagues this season while Marte and Beckham should not be far behind. They have a chance to get four above-average big league players, including a superstar or two, to go along with a solid first baseman. They do give up a couple of risky players with upside in Colvin and Hudson, but they have plenty of those at pitcher and outfielder. The Pirates save themselves McPherson and Grossman and trade away Von Rosenberg, a pitcher who doesn’t exactly have the highest upside but still comes with risk, and the only player they would have any qualms parting with would be Sanchez. But if Tony Sanchez, currently the owner of a .254/.329/.384 line in 2012 was the only thing holding up the Pirates from getting Cole Hamels, they wouldn’t hesitate to trade him. They also get a player who could start at shortstop for them in Rodriguez from the Rays. The Rays, meanwhile, trade from a positions of strength and receive the upper-levels catching prospect they desperately need, two lower-levels pitching prospects to add to their pitching depth and who could flourish if the Rays can teach them changeups, the organizational specialty, and a high-upside outfielder, which the Rays can’t get enough of. The Rays don’t exactly give up nothing in this trade, but they don’t give up any players who they really need for the future and get a player who could play a big role in the future of the team in Sanchez to go along with three other noteworthy prospects. Especially if a division rival was looking to acquire Hamels and appeared to have a chance, the Rays would jump at the chance to be part of a deal like this.
Will the Rays be part of a trade for one of these high-profile pitchers? Right now it seems to be relatively unlikely. But if the right circumstances arrive and Andrew Friedman and the Rays see the right opportunity, they won’t be afraid to pull the trigger.