The Tampa Bay Rays will have a busy offseason ahead of them. For the first time since 2007, they will not end with a winning record, and it will be the third time in that span that they will not make the playoffs. This offseason, Andrew Friedman will need to do a little tinkering in hopes that he can help the team get back to their winning ways. One of the biggest things to address is thinning out their surplus of outfielders and getting maximum value in return. Maximum value–those are the key words. The Rays will no doubt be listening to everything that comes their way because you just never know.
A main thing the Rays will need to consider is speed. Not just speed, but the type of speed that can cash that speed into stolen bases. Ben Zobrist currently sits second on the team in steals, and while he’s a great all-around player, that should not be the case. Desmond Jennings currently holds the team lead with 15 and, for a team that doesn’t hit many home runs, that just simply isn’t good enough. Kevin Kiermaier could be that guy and we could dream of him leading off someday as well. Though, that is very unlikely, though, gives his .315 OBP, low walk rate, and paltry 5 stolen bases in 9 attempts.
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Aside from Jennings, the best stolen base option among the Rays’ outfielders might be Brandon Guyer, who swiped 6 of 7 bases this year and has a history of stealing more in the minor leagues. What we keep forgetting about Guyer, however, is that he is about to turn 29 years old. Guyer was fine this year, but can we really expect him to be much better than this? More critical than his lack of stolen bases may be his paucity of power, and that may limit him to a fourth outfielder role moving forward. There might be teams interested in Guyer, but it’s doubtful that the Rays can turn him into very much.
Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce are the most likely candidates to be playing somewhere else next year. Of course, we have been saying that for a couple years now and it has yet to happen. Joyce, after 4.5 full seasons with the team, still hasn’t hit 20 home runs, and his slugging percentage has actually gone down the last three years. His on-base percentage is a career-high, but as a player who can’t play against left-handed pitching and defensive limitations, it really hurts that he does not hit more home runs.
Desmond Jennings, meanwhile, drives you crazy because he has become a solid hitter the last three years but never a force. That being said Jennings still possesses a lot of value. At 27, he is entering his prime and not very expensive. A team could look at him and think a change of scenery could help him take that next step. Joyce is in the same boat. He will probably never be able to hit left handers with any efficacy, but that probably won’t scare a team off a relatively inexpensive hitter capable who can be a middle-of-the-order hitter against righties.
We should also mention David DeJesus, another outfielder that has pretty good value associated with him. If he can stay healthy, he is an outfielder capable of leading off and playing all three outfield positions. Given that he will make $5 million next season, though, he looks most valuable for the Rays in their uniform.
Then, there is Wil Myers. The chances of the Rays trading him are probably slim to none thanks to his potential and how poorly he played this season. If the Rays put Myers on the market, there would certainly be interest–every team in baseball can dream of fixing him and getting an All-Star outfielder for their efforts. But the Rays are the team that is more cognizant of that than anyone, and they will hope to get Myers back on track in 2015.
Ultimately, when you look at it, the usual suspects are the leading trade candidates, Matt Joyce and Desmond Jennings. They are talented enough to prompt interest yet have featured enough inconsistency and limitations that the Tampa Bay Rays can be fine without them. Andrew Friedman will have quite the balancing act on his hands this offseason as they hope to receive a legitimate return in a deal while keeping their outfield strong for next season, and we will have to see what moves he makes with that in mind.