One subtlety that we often forget about is that there is often a lag between when a signing is reported and when it is officially announced. We know that Asdrubal Cabrera will be under contract with the Tampa Bay Rays next season, but the Rays have not confirmed the move and thus have not yet given Cabrera a spot on their 40-man roster.
There is a high probability that Cabrera hasn’t been officially announced as a Ray yet because of the holiday season. We first heard about his contract with the Rays on December 30th, and it makes sense that he wouldn’t take his physical until January 2nd. As of right now, the delay in signing Cabrera means nothing, but what if there is still no news in a few days?
The Rays could be waiting to officially make Asdrubal Cabrera a part of their team because doing so too early might force them to lose a player unnecessarily. In the case of a Ben Zobrist deal, though, that would not be much of a consideration. It is hard to believe that the Rays would execute a Zobrist trade and not receive another 40-man roster player in return.
We talked the other day about how Zobrist could be dealt to the San Francisco Giants, and while Kyle Crick would not need a roster spot, a player like Andrew Susac would. If the Washington Nationals made a play for Zobrist, meanwhile, A.J. Cole, who is on their 40-man, would likely headline the Rays’ return. There are some top prospects who didn’t need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft in 2014, but the Rays certainly won’t eliminating players like Susac and Cole from consideration just to save a marginal player on their roster.
If Cabrera still isn’t signed in a few days, however, that could be a harbinger of a Yunel Escobar or David DeJesus trade. Either one would yield a significantly lesser package of prospects if dealt, and like we saw in the Jeremy Hellickson trade, it is possible that they would send back only prospects who didn’t require a 40-man roster spots. If Cabrera’s signing has been announced in a few days, a deal involving one of those two might be happening. For the rest of this piece, though, we’ll act under the assumption that no trade is in the wings.
If we eliminate the possibility of a deal for now, the Rays’ decision is simple: they need to designate someone for assignment to make room for Asdrubal Cabrera on their roster. Glancing at their 40-man roster, the names that stick out as being possible DFA candidates are Steve Geltz, Tim Beckham, C.J. Riefenhauser, and Mike Montgomery.
Following the Wil Myers trade, the Rays elected to designate Brandon Gomes for assignment and saw him pass through waivers and head to Triple-A Durham. That is the Rays’ dream scenario in this case: clearing a roster spot without actually losing a player. After Gomes went unclaimed, it appears to make sense for the Rays to DFA Geltz next in hopes of the same thing happening.
That sounds great, but the issue here is that Geltz has been designated for assignment in March of 2013 and would be able to elect free agency if he passes through waivers again. Nevertheless, the Rays may simply have to bite the bullet and let him go.
The reason the Rays would hesitate designating Geltz for assignment is his stuff. His fastball averaged 93.78 MPH in his big league time in 2014, and he also throws two decent secondary pitches in his slider and splitter. However, his command issues put him clearly behind a pitcher like Kirby Yates and the Rays simply have more important assets to keep. Geltz isn’t a real candidate to make their roster and other three players have bigger places in their team’s future.
There are a few reasons for pause in the decision between Geltz and Yates. Yates doesn’t throw quite as hard and finished the season poorly. However, Yates’ command and slider are significantly better, and he was pitching well for a while before his rough finish. With that in mind, it’s difficult to believe that Geltz will be kept over him.
In terms of the other DFA candidates, it would be embarrassing for the Rays to designate Beckham, their former number one overall pick, for assignment. More importantly, Beckham would make their 25-man roster if the season started today so it makes little sense to risk losing him. Riefenhauser, on the other hand, saw his stock fall in 2014 thanks to struggles following an oblique injury. Nevertheless, he is still a lefty with a good slider and a player they would likely be claimed off waivers.
That leaves Montgomery, but the truth is that Riefenhauser would likely be DFA’d before Montgomery for one simple reason: starters can also relieve. Montgomery is a 25 year old who still hasn’t pitched in the big leagues, but he showed signs of progress as a starter at Triple-A and should at least be a bullpen option. It would be shocking if the Rays kept Geltz while letting Montgomery go.
If a trade is not about to happen, it appears that the Rays will make Steve Geltz the next player they DFA in order to give Asdrubal Cabrera a spot on their 40-man roster. Geltz being the one to go seems like a foregone conclusion, but the possibility will make things more interesting as we find out what the Rays will decide to do.