Even with the Winter Meetings over, rumors continue to swirl surrounding a potential three- four-, or even five-team deal including the Rangers, Diamondbacks and some combination of the Indians, Mariners, and the Rays. Several players involved could be stars- Justin Upton and Asdrubal Cabrera have been brought up in the talks, as has Rays right-hander James Shields. What would the Rays get in return for being a part of the trade? A player who has been mentioned repeatedly as a player the Rays could receive is the Rangers’ Mike Olt. Olt would not be the only player the Rays received, but he would likely be the key to them being involved in the deal. How interested should the Rays be in acquiring him?
Olt, who turned 24 in August, had a huge season at Double-A before getting promoted to the big leagues, posting a .288/.398/.579 line with 17 doubles, 28 homers, 82 RBI, and 101 strikeouts against 61 walks in 95 games and 421 plate appearances. He hit just .152 in 40 big league plate appearances after called up in August, missing most of September with planar fasciitis in right foot. Olt stands out most for his power that allowed him to lead the Double-A Texas League in home runs despite playing in just 95 of the 140 games in the season. Olt gets his power more from tremendous strength than anything else but still has solid bat speed and has a very patient approach. However, while Olt is patient in the batter’s box, his pitch recognition is below-average as he swings through too many breaking balls, especially with two strikes. The sample size was very small, but it’s no coincidence that Olt had just one extra-base hit and a 13-5 strikeout to walk ratio during his time in the major leagues in 2012 as he has to do a better job identifying breaking pitches and which fastballs to drive. But Olt has the work ethic to rectify most of his current problems and could slam 35 homers annually when it’s all said and done. Also, given his pitch recognition issues and lack of great bat speed, Olt will likely always strike out a little too often, but his great power and patience should compensate for the fact that he may not hit for a great batting average. Defensively, Olt features a strong arm and great reflexes at third base despite being a slow runner, and he features the arm, athleticism, and hitting profile to play right field, left field, and first base quite capably as well. Olt would not play much third base for the Rays thanks to Evan Longoria, but they would not have a problem at all getting him into their lineup. However, Olt cracking the Rays’ lineup might not be immediate if they acquire him as he would probably be best served spending most of 2013 at Triple-A so he can work on his pitch recognition after skipping over the level in 2012. At the end of the day, Olt has clear risk surrounding him and might not be able to make an immediate impact for the Rays, but he has great potential and could certainly be the Rays’ first baseman of the future. The Rays have had two All-Star first baseman, Fred McGriff and Carlos Pena, and if the Rays acquire Olt, he could be the third.
Mike Olt is exactly the type of player the Rays would like to headline a trade for Shields, whether in a crazy multiple-team trade or a straight deal, but the Rays have to get a couple other prospects in addition to him, say a pitcher and either a shortstop or a catcher. (Could a package of Olt, Cody Buckel, and either Leury Garcia or Kellin Deglan (or maybe both) be enough for the Rangers to net Shields without involving any other teams?) Olt is no Wil Myers who might be able to be traded for Shields all by himself, but he is a great place to start a potential Shields deal as a player the Rays would be very excited to acquire knowing that he could fill a major position of need and play a big role for them in coming seasons. Simply the fact that Olt’s name is being brought up as a player the Rays could acquire elucidates the fact that the potential benefit of the Rays being involved in the discussions for one of these blockbuster deals is quite high and it will be interesting to see if a trade will come together.