Mar 14, 2013; Sarasota, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeff Niemann (34) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Could the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays Make a Trade Involving Jeff Niemann?

Recently, it was reported that the Texas Rangers are searching for help in their starting rotation. Amongst the teams that the Rangers have been connected to are the Dodgers, the Tigers, the Astros and the Orioles. However, one team that they have not been linked to as of yet are the Tampa Bay Rays.

While the Rangers had previously been connected to the Rays as a potential landing spot for David Price, it is highly unlikely that he is moved at this point in time. However, the Rays go have a plethora of options for their rotation, with enough starting pitching that a promising arm such as Chris Archer will be starting the year as a member of the Durham Bulls. Including Archer and Jake Odorizzi, who was also sent to Durham, the Rays have eight starters that may be major league caliber at this point.

Meanwhile, the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation is down to Jeff Niemann and Roberto Hernandez, with the loser of the battle expected to serve as the long reliever and spot starter. Right now, Niemann has pitched better, sporting a 1-1 record with a 2.13 ERA, with nine strikeouts against three walks in 12.2 innings of work. Hernandez has been solid, aside from his most recent start, and has a 3.60 ERA and twelve strikeouts in his fifteen innings of work.

Niemann, however, has been mentioned in trade rumors, with the Colorado Rockies in particular listed as a potential trade partner. But with the Rangers being in the market for help in the rotation, is it possible that they could look at Niemann as an option? As the Rays do have plenty of pitching depth, they could potentially move Niemann and still be in solid shape with their rotation. For the Rangers, the back end of their rotation is fairly unsettled, and the thought that Alexi Ogando may be better off as a reliever would only further deplete their rotation.

As the Rangers have what is considered a deep farm system, ranked third by Keith Law of ESPN and considered a top five or six system according to most sites, they would likely have something that could entice the Rays. Niemann likely would not command a top prospect, but he may be able to pull a middle tier prospect that could fill in a hole in the Rays own solid farm system. A potential target to look at may be Jorge Alfaro, a 19 year old catcher miles from the major leagues with a lot of power and a strong arm, but horrible plate discipline (186 strikeouts against 25 walks in his career). However, if he can refine his approach, he could become a solid catcher.

Even though things have been quiet recently in regards to trade winds that had been swirling around Jeff Niemann, there are still plenty of teams looking for starting pitching. While it is likely that he starts the season with the Rays, Niemann could be a target for those teams still searching for rotation help.

Tags: Jeff Niemann Tampa Bay Rays Texas Rangers

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