Who knows what the Rays will decide to do in the days leading up the July 31st MLB trade deadline. Will they acquire players to bolster a pennant chase? Will they try to get maximim value for their players in trades? Right now, just a little more than a weak before the deadline, we still don’t know what they’re going to do. They may be buyers, they may be sellers. They might do a little bit of everything. Maybe they trade a well-known for prospects, maybe they acquire major league players. Maybe news of significant progress for Evan Longoria in his injury recovery changes things. Maybe a team offers the Rays a deal they can’t refuse for a player that we’re not expecting for them to trade and they pull the trigger, leaving the baseball world in a state of shock. Maybe the deadline comes and goes and we’ll have to wonder where all the discussions went and why nothing happened. Andrew Friedman and the Rays are going to keep everyone guessing until the last possible second.
Who are the Rays’ trade assets? Let’s go through the list.
CF B.J. Upton– The always enigmatic centerfielder will be a free agent following the season and the Rays will have a lot of trouble offering the 12.5 million dollar qualifying contract it takes to receive draft pick compensation when he leaves as a free agent. An acquiring team will hope that he signs an extension and then has a Curtis Granderson-eque breakout- we know he has the ability. Trading Upton isn’t necessarily indicative that the Rays are are selling thanks to Ben Zobrist, who can slide into the outfield with Reid Brignac or a player acquired in a trade moving into an infield starting role. We talked more about trading Upton here.
SP James Shields– Shields hasn’t been nearly as good as he was in 2011, but he remains a durable and dependable starter and a potential source of stability that teams would love to add to their rosters. Shields has team options for the next two years at 9 million and 11 million dollars respectively, not a huge figure, but a figure that the Rays don’t pay for players very often, certainly making a trade of Shields a possibility. But there’s no rush and the Rays will only pull the trigger if a team offers the right package of players. A Shields trade isn’t necessarily proof that the Rays are giving up on 2012 either because they could call up Chris Archer and Jeff Niemann will eventually be off the DL if Archer doesn’t succeed.
RP Fernando Rodney– Rodney has broken through in 2012 after years as an inconsistent reliever, and now he’s the dominant closer that every team would love to add to its bullpen in some capacity. The Rays hold a team option on Rodney at just 2.5 million dollars for 2013, which is an absolute steal by any standard. Trading Rodney would almost definitely implicate the Rays as sellers because they have no real reason to trade him.
RP Wade Davis– Davis’ mostly-brilliant performance in 2012 in the bullpen has opened up the rabbit hole in terms of his upside, with teams dreaming of him being a closer or a good major league third starter in the future. Davis will be a sought-after commodity for all sorts of teams needing either bullpen or starting pitcher help. Davis is signed to a team-friendly extension and the Rays will only move him in the right deal. Davis is a wild card as his trade value has reached crazy heights this season and the Rays may be look to take advantage of that. Given his current role as a middle reliever on the team, trading him would not term the Rays as sellers, especially if they acquired a catcher in the deal.
Other players who could be traded (without anyone having a heart attack): RP Kyle Farnsworth, SP Jeremy Hellickson, SP Chris Archer, SS Reid Brignac
What do you think the Rays will do?