If there is one almost certainty with the Tampa Bay Rays, it is that they should have pitching. With the reigning Cy Young award winner in David Price, and solid options following with Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore, the top four starters are seemingly set. To fill out the rotation, the Rays have four candidates vying for that final spot, giving them rotation depth that most teams could only dream of.
Likewise, the plethora of starting pitching on the Rays is likely to attract suitors. Recently, reports have come out that the Colorado Rockies, a team that is seemingly in constant need of pitching help, have inquired on Jeff Niemann, amongst other pitchers. Prior to getting hit by a line drive which fractured his leg, he had been off to a solid start. Despite a 2-3 record, he had posted a 3.38 ERA and had 30 strikeouts in 34.2 innings of work, and appeared to be on his way to potentially posting his best season in the majors.
But what could the Rockies give up in order to get Niemann? As it stands the biggest hole for the Rays may be at catcher, which is a position where the Rockies could potentially trade some depth. With Wilin Rosario seemingly entrenched as the starter, the Rockies have 36 year old Ramon Hernandez as a backup catcher and first baseman, who has been mentioned as someone that the Rockies are likely to attempt to trade. Hernandez has been a solid bat over his career, yet slumped badly last season, producing only a .217/.247/.353 batting line with 5 home runs in 184 at bats. He also 32 times against only 6 walks, which may be a sign that his age is catching up to him.
However, he may be worth a gamble for the Rays. As Hernandez is in the final year of his contract, and is roughly the same price as Niemann, the Rays will not have to worry about a large increase to payroll or any future obligations. Also, since Niemann is under control until after the 2014 season, the Rays may be able to get a mid-level prospect in any potential deal as well. In Hernandez, the Rays could have someone that can start majority of the games behind the plate, fill in occasionally at first, and potentially provide an adequate bat in the lineup.
One of the interesting storylines throughout Spring Training will be how the end of the Rays rotation shakes out. Depending on how the candidates for that final spot perform, the Rays may have options to make a move that can solidify their lineup. Given the interest that presently exists in Jeff Niemann, he may end up on the move.