Rays Rumors

Rays Winter Meetings Notes: Baez, Cobb, and Relievers

By Mat Germain
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It’s a busy time at the winter meetings and it looks like the Atlanta Braves – who may or may not be dangling Shelby Miller – are the biggest competition for the Rays in acquiring the young Javier Baez. At the same time, rumors are coming out about the Cubs possibly seeking Alex Cobb as compensation. It also looks like Atlanta may be trying to deal for Jorge Soler vice Baez.

Jesse Rogers of ESPN tweeted the following last night:

My thoughts are that the hold up – on both sides – is the seeking out of what the market still has to offer. With the Braves reluctance to part with Miller, it’s possible they’re trying to push Julio Teheran onto the Cubs instead.

When it comes to the Rays, however, I believe the hold up may be the fact that Cobb’s health is being used by the Cubs as a reason to ask for both a reliever AND a starter in compensation for Baez. I’m not so certain the Rays want to do that, particularly when there seems to be plenty of other options out there. Still, when the Rays target someone, it’s usually for good reason.

So unless the Cubs get blown away by another offer, I would expect a deal to get done – possibly as early as today, as Jesse Rogers indicates above. The Rays sure don’t seem too stressed out about it.

Relievers

Also within the notes of things going on in Nashville, there are a lot of rumors linking teams to Rays relievers. None of them are concrete yet, and your guess is as good as mine at this point. In all likeliness, the Rays may have to wait for a few other dominos to fall before they get a lot of traction on dealing either Jacob McGee or Brad Boxberger.

Mark Melancon and others still dominate the trade talks at this point, but with Aroldis Chapman getting himself into trouble and possibly hurting his pitching hand, there’s a better chance that a deal will take place with at least one of the Rays relievers.

Back to Javier Baez

Here’s a little more about Javier Baez:

Javier Baez was selected in the 1st round of the 2011 draft, 1 pick after Francisco Lindor and 2 picks before George Springer. It was a tremendous draft class, and Baez has the potential to become one of the best of his class.

The first thing people love to bring up when Baez is referred to as a top prospect is the strike outs. We have to remember that in 2014, he was the 2nd youngest player in MLB, and that he improved on the majority of his stats significantly year-over-year.

  • Managed 37 HR and 75 extra-base hits between HiA and AA as a 20 year old, also adding 20 SB
  • Has a total of 78 extra-base hits in 669 AAA AB with a line of .287/.349/.517
  • Contact rate (all pitches) increased from 59% in ’14 to 67.7% in ’15
  • Contact rate (pitches in strike zone) increased from 75.5% in ’14 to 83% in ’15
  • PITCH/fx shows his improved pitch recognition through his swinging at strikes increasing from  57.6% in ’14 to 65.7% in ’15
  • Jim Bowden had this to say about the bat speed Baez holds:

"“The bat speed comparisons to Gary Sheffield are real, he has 80 bat speed on the 20-80 (scouting) scale, as much as anybody in the game,”"

Not only can Baez provide great defensive play at 2B and SS, his primary positions, but he can also play 3B and 1B very well. The Cubs recently had him play CF during winter ball, so if acquired by the Rays, he may be able to take on the same super-utility role Ben Zobrist used to provide the Rays. That would be a strength for the team that it has lacked now for a few years.

Things are heating up in Nashville and if the Rays miss out on Baez, they’re going to move on to their next target(s). If the Rays are able to obtain Baez from the Cubs, it’s almost expected at this point that it will cost both a starter and a reliever. Which those end up being is up for discussion, and there will likely be rounding out pieces involved. If the Rays acquire Baez, it could wind up being the biggest push they make towards making the playoffs in 2016.

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