The Rays trade rumors have focused on their wealth of SP, something every single MLB team covets. What everyone wants to know is this: will they hang onto it until the season begins, or will they deal from an area of strength?
It made the point that the Rays are an entirely different operation than most MLB teams. They know how to target, draft and sign, and develop pitchers. They do it as well as the best in MLB, and they do it often. That’s also what makes Rays trade rumors so interesting to chat about.
Without considering Alex Cobb who will be recovering from injury for the first half of the season, the Rays have 8 strong starting options. If we take Chris Archer out of that equation, it leaves 7 names that may interest other teams. Here’s what the Rays depth looks like today (all data from Fangraphs and MLBTR’s Arbitration Projections):
[table id=27 /]
If we sum up the 6 starters expected to be in contention to begin the year from table above, we can note the following things: the Rays are paying $15,731,667 for SP Fangraphs values at $108,100,000. Looked at another way, they are paying $1,200,000 for every 1.0 WAR value from their SP. Both of those numbers are extremely impressive, and are the envy of the majority of MLB.
The other thing you can note from the table above is that the Rays have a few big guns knocking on the door. Snell, Guerrieri, and Faria in particular are going to be ready to chip in at some point in 2016. Cobb will also be returning, assuming everything goes as planned, late in 2016, providing the Rays with options and security.
The truth is that depending on the returns the Rays are looking for, any of them could be made available in trade, as voiced today by Jayson Stark of ESPN:
"“don’t sleep on the Rays. They have tremendous pitching depth. And they have no fear of using it to address other needs. So if you’re familiar with their work, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear other teams report that they’re trying to be “opportunistic” by seeing what kind of offers they can get on the likes of Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi and pretty much everyone on their staff except Chris Archer. It’s what they do. So in a week that figures to be overflowing with trade rumblings, they figure to be right in the middle of several of them.”"
What Stark fails to consider is that the relief options the Rays are dangling may mitigate the need to trade any of the starting pitching depth they’ve gathered. Some of the better SP options the Rays have, notably Cobb, Moore, and Smyly, threw a limited number of innings – or none – in 2015.
That’s also why I tend to believe that if they do trade SP(s), it may include Moore and/or Smyly. At the end of 2016, it would leave the Rays with Archer, Cobb, Odorizzi, and Ramirez leading the charge along with the best young option they decide to reward. With Moore making the most in 2016, he may be the most likely one to be dangled in trade.
I can’t emphasize how hard it is for a team to do what the Rays have done. They have a rotation filled with sub 4 ERA guys that can dominate in any game and minimize the work the pen has to do.
The following two trade partners have been mentioned over the last week, and I place them in order of those I predict may be most apt to making a deal happen with the Rays.
Joe Maddon knows Rays pitching extremely well. Whether they consider trading for pen pieces or another starter, he likely knows enough about them to share his opinion with Cubs GM Jed Hoyer.
Considerations: The Cubs seem to believe in Javier Baez and his bat, and so they need to find a spot for him on the field. While it’s doubtful that they’ll deal someone like Kyle Schwarber, they could consider trading Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan. Even after adding John Lackey, they seemingly need to add one more starter. And with their pen being a little thin overall, they could be looking to add strength at the back of it.
Considerations: The Astros were absolutely stunned when Colby Rasmus accepted their qualifying offer. As a result, they’ve decided to dangle Jake Marisnick on the trade market to see if there were any takers. So far, there are none, but the word was that they were most interested in McGee and/or Boxberger. Some of the more interesting pieces the Rays could consider trading for include 1B prospect A.J. Reed, 1B Jon Singleton, and 3B Colin Moran.
The winter meetings are taking place now (Dec 6th to 10th). You can find the agenda here if you’re interested in what goes on at this event. You know the Rays are there, listening, considering, and possibly getting ready to act on trade options. It’s a great time to be a baseball fan, and we only hope they make the decisions that will bring the Rays back into the playoffs in 2016.
Keep your eyes glued to this and other sites and to your sources on twitter as the events unfold. It’s going to be a great week and I’m optimistic the Rays will improve through a transaction or two.