Tampa Bay Rays: Change Trade Approach at Winter Meetings

Kevin Cash and Matt Silverman address the media at the 2015 season-ending press conference - Sports Talk Florida
Kevin Cash and Matt Silverman address the media at the 2015 season-ending press conference - Sports Talk Florida /

Maybe the Tampa Bay Rays should change their approach and make some deals at the Winter Meetings instead of waiting. Here’s a look of what may happen.

The Tampa Bay Rays usually use baseball’s winter meeting to lay the groundwork for trades and signings later on in the off season. The theory is that as spring training approaches, other teams will get desperate to fill holes in the lineup and low level free agents will get nervous about having a job in February.

The results will be better deals and cheaper free agents for the Rays. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t work. Let’s take a look at what might happen if the Rays changed their approach this year and made some deals at the winter meetings.

The first positive move might be to immediately shore up the catching position by signing Welington Castillo. He was scheduled to earn about $6 million dollars through arbitration and was non tendered by the Diamondbacks.

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Admittedly, Castillo is a bat first catcher and not a pitch framer that the Rays love. However, he has a .255/.318/.416 162 game slash line with 17 home runs and 73 RBIs and that would look much better than the Mendoza line catchers that the Rays have had for the past few years. I would think that a two-year deal at around $12 million would make this happen.

Castillo may be the short-term answer to the Tampa Bay Rays catching problem but he is not a long-term solution. That solution may lie in Philadelphia where the Phillies have three talented young catchers.

They include Cameron Rupp at the major league level, Jose Alfaro at Double-A and Andrew Knapp at Triple-A. Alfaro and Knapp are top 15 prospects.

The Phillies are rebuilding and need pitching. They would probably take one of the Rays top 15 pitching prospects for Knapp and this would give the Rays a decent selection of close to major league ready catching prospects.

The next need is a quality bat in the form of a first baseman/DH/left fielder. My choice would be C.J. Cron of the Los Angeles Angels.

Cron is a solid all around hitter who bats well against left and right-handed pitchers and has good strike out to walk numbers. He has a .267/.308/.760 162 game slash line with 23 home runs and 83 RBIs.

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Also, Cron is under team control until 2017 and the Angels are looking for pitching and second base help. I think a deal sending Drew Smyly and Tim Beckham plus a top 10 pitching prospect (not Brent Honeywell) could get this done.

If this trade falls through, my next choice for a hitter is Derek Dietrich. Dietrich is the left-handed version of Steve Pearce and in his first full season with the Miami Marlins delivered a .279/.374/.425 slash line.

Dietrich hits from the left side of the plate and plays second base, third base and left field. He also would be a perfect DH in a left/right platoon and is under team control until 2017. I think a straight up trade for Smyly would get the deal done.

The last Rays’ need is back-end relief pitching and I don’t see that issue being solved at the meetings. The cost of relief pitchers is going through the roof and I’m afraid the Rays will have to solve this problem through a combination of internal relievers, prospects and minor league signings. As the Rays found out in 2016, that is always a risk but is probably the only way to go.

Whether it is better to deal early and get the players you want or wait and get the players that are less expensive in terms of money and talent is an open question.

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I prefer the former, as you are more likely to come up with solid talent that fits a team’s game plan. We’ll have to see which way the Rays go in this off season.