Trades That Could Improve the Rays Lineup in 2015
By David Egbert
The Tampa Bay Rays’ 2014 season officially ended last Sunday with a loss to the Cleveland Indians. It was a disappointing year and certainly not what anyone expected. The team has now been turned over to GM Andrew Friedman to sort out what went wrong in this nightmare of a season. Friedman says the baseball gods were against the Rays and all this team needs is “a little tweaking.” Maybe he is right and we should join him in saying that this group of players, particularly on the offensive side, can’t be that bad two years in a row. Given that premise, let’s see what position player tweaks might be needed.
Before you tweak, you must determine which position players are the keepers for this Rays lineup. You can start with Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and James Loney. Although each had their down moments, they are the heart of the team. Yunel Escobar and Ryan Hanigan had rough years but you won’t find better players at their positions for the money they are making. Young players such as Kevin Kiermaier, Wil Myers, Brandon Guyer and Nick Franklin contributed and look like they have a future. You have decent core and now here is how I would fill in the blanks. Note that a prospect or two might be needed in any of these proposed deals to make them more feasible.
Trade Desmond Jennings and Sean Rodriguez to Atlanta Braves for Evan Gattis: The Rays lineups desperately needs more power and that is Gattis’ game. The Atlanta catcher is a lousy defensive player and that doesn’t make in the National league. He would fit perfectly as the Rays’ DH and has the versatility to play an occasional game in the field. His 162 game average over two years in the big leagues is a .256/.317/.493 slash line with 33 home runs and 89 RBI. He is also under team control until 2019.
Atlanta is looking for an athletic outfielder that can play center field and a second baseman to platoon with lefty hitting Tommy La Stella. Jennings would be the rare above-average centerfielder that gets dealt with team control remaining. The only thing that could squash this deal is if the Braves saw Jennings as the second coming of B.J. Upton!
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Trade Alex Colome, Nate Karns, and Cesar Ramos to Colorado Rockies for Charlie Blackmon and Kyle Parker: The Rays need a leadoff man badly and Blackmon fits that bill. His 2014 slash line was .288/.335/.440 to go along with 28 steals and 19 home runs. You can certainly take all of that with a grain of salt Coors Field, but he was still a very good player, proving himself against right-handed pitching and also being serviceable against lefties. While he is under team control until 2019, the Rockies can give up thanks to their outfield depth if an offer like this one.
Kyle Parker is a promising outfield/first base prospect out of Clemson. He currently ranks as the Rockies eighth best prospect and scouts say he will hit for average and power. He would start at Triple-A next year and, combined with Mikie Mahtook, would give the Rays good outfield depth. Colorado is desperate for pitching and Colome and Karns are major league ready starting pitchers. As much as I hate to lose pitching prospects, the Rays have several of them and you have to give up talent to get talent.
Trade Logan Forsythe and Jose Molina to New York Yankees for Francisco Cervelli: The Rays need a better backup catcher. Ryan Hanigan was a good player when he was healthy, but that only amounted to eighty games. That would have worked if Jose Molina hadn’t totally run out of gas. The Rays need a catcher that can start more games than a typical backup. Cervelli has also has an injury plagued career, but when he is healthy, he’s a good hitter and a decent catcher. He’s under team control until 2017.
The Yankees are desperate for middle infielders and Forsythe is solid if not spectacular, especially against left-handed pitching. The Yankees were interested in him before the Rays acquired him, and this would be a chance for them to buy low on him and see if he can rebound. Molina, meanwhile, could provide them with an occasional start while tutoring their younger catchers. The Rays could even put in some money for Molina’s contract (as ironic as that would be) to make it easier for the Rays to release him in favor of John Ryan Murphy if they so choose.
These three deals offer the Rays a leadoff hitter, power in the middle and a solid backup catcher. It also leaves Matt Joyce, David DeJesus, and Jeremy Hellickson in limbo. One of Joyce or DeJesus would probably be traded for as much value as the can get in return. With Colome and Karns gone, the Rays would probably hold on to Hellickson until the trading deadline to cover for Moore and also hope his value will increase.
We can only hope that Maddon and Friedman are right and that the grand scheme for 2014 was correct and all that is needed is a few deals to change up the offensive machinery. If that’s the case, the Rays will be right back in the hunt next season. If they are not correct, there will be more than a little bit of tweaking to the Rays lineup in 2016.