The July 31st deadline for Major League Baseball teams to make trades without first passing players through waivers is fast approaching. With that, the Tampa Bay Rays will have their fair share of rumors, and they also will likely be making a deal or two over the next few weeks. Unfortunately, the Rays are in the cellar of the AL East, and that means they are more likely to trade away big league players than acquire them. Without further ado, here’s a preview of how things could shape up for the Rays heading into this.
Who could be on the move?
As we have all heard, David Price seems the most likely Ray to be traded. His salary will increase once again next year, and he is set to be a free agent after the 2015 season. His value is higher right now than if the Rays waited until the offseason to trade him, as the acquiring team will be able to make two postseason runs with him. Of course, a Price trade seemed to be a given last offseason, but the Rays never go the offer that they wanted. The same could occur this year, and the Rays could end up waiting until the offseason to deal him. Another big name that the Rays could look to deal is Ben Zobrist. He is a free agent after the 2015 year, meaning his value on the trade market is also at its peak. He will have a big market given his versatility, but the problem is there aren’t many teams that value Zobrist as much as the Rays. I say the chances of him being dealt are less than 50%, though that may not be popular opinion.
Other than Price, the most likely trade candidate seems to be Juan Carlos Oviedo. A free agent after this season, he has dominated in relief this season and would bring a decent piece in return. The Rays will also shop some of their outfielders. Thanks to the emergence of Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer, as well as Mikie Mahtook at Triple-A, the Rays can deal from the outfield ranks and not lose much production. Matt Joyce seems the most likely candidate, as he is a free agent after 2015. Desmond Jennings is also a possibility, as he is entering arbitration next year and will be much more expensive than Kiermaier. David DeJesus is a long shot to be traded, as he is currently hurt and might not be able to prove himself healthy before the deadline. He is probably a more realistic trade candidate in the offseason. One of the three could very well be traded, and there is a possibility we could see two of them dealt.
There are other candidates that are more or less candidates to be traded. Sean Rodriguez is a free agent after 2015, and the Rays could move him if they get a good offer. With Curt Casali and Luke Maile both producing in the minors this year, a catcher may become expendable (including Maile and Casali themselves). Especially if the Rays could find anyone to take on Jose Molina, they’d likely have no problem trading him. The Rays also have a plethora of relievers, so they could deal a big league guy like Cesar Ramos or Joel Peralta, or a Triple-A guy like Jeff Beliveau or Adam Liberatore in the right deal. With Yunel Escobar inked long-term, shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee could also be a trade chip.
What are the Rays biggest needs?
Given their losing ways, as well as the fact that their big league roster is pretty much set for 2015, it seems likely that the Rays will only target prospects this year. They are likely to go after pitching in any deal, especially one involving Price and Zobrist. The Rays system currently has some intriguing pitching prospects, but it lacks the marquee starting prospect that the Rays usually have. That could very well change at the deadline. Their backup infielders (namely Logan Forsythe) haven’t been great this year, so the Rays could also target a close to the big leagues infield prospect. Most likely, however, the Rays will simply take the deals that give them the best overall young talent and worry about a logjam at specific positions later.
Despite all of this, don’t expect the Rays to have a fire sale. The Rays believe they still have a team that can win in 2015, and they aren’t about to trade that away. More than likely, we will see some deals that the Rays would make even if they were winning. The only difference is that the Rays will deal them at the deadline rather than waiting until the offseason. All-in-all, it figures to be an interesting deadline for the Rays- let’s just hope that they can come out of it as a better organization.