On Monday, the Tampa Bay Rays will make their second move of the trade season, with their first being designating Juan Carlos Oviedo for assignment. When Joel Peralta returns from the disabled list, someone from the roster will have to leave, whether via an option down to Durham or a designation for assignment. Who will it be and what could it tell us about future Rays moves?
If the Rays wanted to maintain depth and do a straight reliever-for-reliever swap, they could send down Jeff Beliveau. Beliveau has pitched very well in his time with the big league team this season, going 6 innings allowing no runs on 6 hits, striking out 6 while walking none. However, he has thrown a combined 42 pitches the last two days, meaning that he is unlikely to be available tonight. Beliveau looks like a solid middle relief option for the Rays thanks to his good command of his high-80’s fastball and nice break on his curveball, but with Peralta coming back, the Rays would lose something by keeping Beliveau over a fresher arm. Is that really worthwhile, though? Sending down Jeff Beliveau looks like the most conservative move the Rays could make, but considering that he fits well as a lefty specialist in their bullpen, there has to be some better move they can make.
Other players the Rays could option include Kirby Yates and Cole Figueroa, but both players make even less sense to send down than Beliveau. Yates has emerged as a reliable middle reliever for the Rays, managing a 2.15 ERA and an 18-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 16.2 innings pitched. Figueroa, meanwhile, may be the weakest player on the roster, but he provides a left-handed bat off the bench and gives the Rays a good balance of pitchers and position players. If the Rays were going to send him down, it would be in favor of another infielder, not a pitcher like Joel Peralta.
That brings us to the players the Rays could choose from to designate for assignment. One option that Rays fans have been clamoring for is Grant Balfour, but that move won’t happen because Balfour isn’t a lost cause yet and the Rays won’t simply eat his contract until that is the case. Balfour looked very good in his appearance on Saturday, and the Rays will give him a chance to prove that he can sustain that. Erik Bedard, though, is on less table footing.
Since being pulled from the rotation after his start on July 3rd, Bedard has made a grand total of one appearance for the Rays, pitching the ninth inning of the Rays’ 10-3 win on July 12th. Cesar Ramos makes Bedard redundant on the roster as the player the Rays trust more in long relief situations. However, the Rays see something in Bedard that may not necessarily be the case for Ramos–he is a pitcher capable of filling a rotation spot when one opens up. If the Rays trade David Price or suffer an injury to another starter, Bedard could enter the rotation and be a serviceable fifth starter.
However, it is not as though the Rays desperately need Bedard even in that scenario because of the availability of Alex Colome and others at Triple-A. It doesn’t appear to make sense for the Rays to keep Bedard, and it is amazing that he has lasted this long. Who would have thought that Juan Carlos Oviedo would get designated for assignment before Bedard did? The only reason to think that Bedard will be sticking around is that if the Rays haven’t gotten rid of him for all this time, now doesn’t appear to be any different. If the Rays do follow that logic and keep Bedard, though, it will have to creep into everyone’s minds that a Price trade could be imminent. Unless the Rays are about to place a starter on the DL, there isn’t another sensible explanation.
With Joel Peralta coming back today, the Rays face an interesting decision that just might tell us something about their future plans. If the Rays truly do keep Erik Bedard, a useless player on their roster at the moment, instead of a solid reliever in Jeff Beliveau, they will be making their team weaker for now and setting up for a possible Price trade. Even if Price is eventually dealt, however, the Rays are still trying to win games during their series with the Milwaukee Brewers, and it would be a shock if they kept Bedard over Beliveau.