The past several hours, Rays fans have heard that their team was in the midst of discussions for a trade. They also had no idea who those discussed were centered around. Now we finally may have an idea. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports mentioned that the Rays were interested in the Mariners’ Mike Morse, while John Arguello of ChicagoNow.com has heard that the Rays are a possible suitor for David DeJesus. Are either players real fits for the Rays and players that they could actually acquire?
Morse, 31, just came off the Mariners’ DL after dealing with a quadriceps and is having a solid year in his final season as an arbitration-eligible player. Morse has a .246/.307/.445 line (115 OPS+) with 9 doubles, 11 homers, and 23 RBI in 231 plate appearances. Morse has been excellent against left-handed pitching, managing a .304/.364/.594 line, albeit in just 77 plate appearances, but has just a .218/.279/.373 line in 154 plate appearances against righties. The gap between righties and lefties is much closer for Morse in his career as he has managed an .873 OPS against lefties and .810 against righties. Morse would fit in as a big power bat against left-handed pitching at designated hitter and in the corner outfield spots. But where does he fit in on the Rays current roster?
Against right-handed pitching, the Rays have plenty of options: Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, and Kelly Johnson. Against lefties, though, Joyce is unplayable and the Rays haven’t used Johnson too often, and Sean Rodriguez has been their starting left fielder. His OPS against lefties is just halfway-decent at .740, and using him simply as a left fielder against lefties is a big waste of his value. He could have much more value on another team that would use utilize him more often at shortstop. The Rays could use an upgrade from Rodriguez in left field, and they could also hope to flip Rodriguez to a team that would take more advantage of his talents. All this being said, are we looking at a Morse for Rodriguez swap? I’m not sure if that really makes any sense. Rodriguez has two more years of team control while Morse is a contract-year player. Would the Rays really give up Rodriguez for a marginal gain against left-handed pitching? You’re looking at two players who are only hitting lefties, and Rodriguez has exponentially more versatility, so his value is higher. I think we would be looking more at a three-team deal or two separate trades where the Rays acquire Morse for a halfway-decent prospect and then Rodriguez is dealt to another team for a prospect, but what are the chances of that materializing? Would the Mariners give up Morse and a prospect for Rodriguez? That sounds unlikely.
Peter Gammons described the talks between the Rays and M’s as “I’m not sure that’s ever going to end up in fruition,” and that seems to make sense. The Rays could use Morse, but they don’t really have a spot for him unless they engineer a trade for Rodriguez or the Mariners add a prospect to the trade, and I don’t the Rays are going to bend over backwards to acquire an injury-prone contract-year player who only hits lefties. The Rays have interest, but they’re not going to go crazy for him, and the chances are that he heads to a different team.
DeJesus, 33, is in an outfield in a similar situation as Morse since he’s coming off an injury, specifically a shoulder strian, but that’s about all they have in common. DeJesus is a lefty-hitting outfielder who has been the Cubs’ centerfielder this season, and he’s had a nice season when healthy, managing a .268/.327/.452 line (110 OPS+) with 18 doubles, 6 homers, and 24 RBI in 248 plate appearances. DeJesus has been great against right-handed pitching, managing a .282/.340/.492 line (121 sOPS+) in 212 plate appearances and just a .182/.250/.212 line in 36 PA’s against lefties. DeJesus is more of a gap-to-gap type of hitter than a big home run threat, but his ability to hit righties and play centerfield makes him an interesting player. DeJesus is making $4,250,000 this year with a $6.5 million buyout for next season, certain not dirt-cheap but the type of deal the Rays could potentially before. But where does DeJesus fit in with all the Rays’ lefty-hitting outfielders?
If the Rays acquire DeJesus, they would have to be dealing either Joyce or Johnson in the deal. You can cross Johnson off the list because he’s a better player and is a contract-year guy that is of no use to the non-contending Cubs. But would the Rays be willing to deal Joyce for DeJesus? Joyce has more power, but he and DeJesus are very similar players becuase of their talent against righties and ineptitude versus lefties. DeJesus adds an ability to play centerfield, but Joyce is younger and has another year under team control. It’s hard to say that DeJesus has more value than Joyce simply by virtue of the team control factor, so once again we would be talking about DeJesus and more for Joyce. But unless the Cubs are extremely enamored with Joyce–something we have no reason to believe is true–it’s hard to see them giving up a prospect to facilitate a deal.
DeJesus and Morse are very different players, but the bottom line is the same: the Rays don’t have room for either of them unless they make another deal or get the Mariners or Cubs to chip in a prospect as well to net Rodriguez or Joyce. The Rays may have interest in both of them in theory, but it seems unlikely that either trade will come together.