Tampa Bay Rays Possible Player Moves Before the Trade Deadline

May 17, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
May 17, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s a little over two months until the July trade deadline and, during that time, the Tampa Bay Rays will have to decide whether they will be buyers or sellers.

Currently, the Tampa Bay Rays are playing .500 baseball and so the glass is either half empty or half full. Sometimes, they waste too many early leads, play sloppy defense and strike out way too often. Other times, such as the past nine games, they play solid baseball against some of the best teams in the American League. Even if they play winning baseball, they will probably make some trades

No matter how they are playing, the Rays have typically been sellers not buyers at the trade deadline. They always have players such as David Price they know they will lose to free agency and they want to get as much return as possible for their talent. Sometimes players returning from injuries create a surplus at a position. Given those circumstances, three front line players that could be moved.

The first is Alex Cobb. He will be eligible for free agency in 2018 and will command a pretty penny as a top of the rotation starter. Cobb appears to be healthy and is pitching well. To date, he has a 4-3 win/loss record and a 3.67 ERA in 56-innings.

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While his signature change up is not back in top form, his fastball and curveball have been very effective. I would see the Rays receiving at least one top prospect in return for Cobb’s services.

The next most likely trade bait is second baseman Brad Miller. When Matt Duffy returns to full health, either shortstop Tim Beckham or Miller will be out of a starting job.

Despite an occasional misplay in the field, Beckham has been a pleasant surprise and has shown good power at the plate. He is currently third on the team in home runs and tied for second in RBIs. He could shift to second base and form a double play combination of Duffy and Beckham.

Miller, on the other hand, is having a terrible year at the plate and in the field. Last season, he hit 30 home runs and drove in 81 runs. This year he has hit two home runs and driven in 14 runs in 132 at- bats.

Strangely, he leads the team in walks and has a .350 OBP. His offensive game will probably come around in the second half of the season and would offer a contender a strong bat and a multi-position fielder. Miller will be a free agent in 2019, Beckham in 2020 and Duffy in 2021.

Next up is always the ever changing catcher position. It appears that Wilson Ramos will be able to handle some catching duties by the end of July and that will leave either Derek Norris or Jesus Sucre without a job. Norris has been a poor defense catcher with an okay bat. Sucre has been a good defensive catcher with a better than expected bat.

That probably leaves Norris as the odd man out. The Rays probably won’t get much in return for Norris but having two good receivers behind the plate is probably worth the trade alone. Both Ramos and Sucre are under contract for 2018.

And then there is the status of Rickie Weeks and Peter Bourjos. Somebody has to go when Duffy is activated and Weeks or Bourjos looks like the logical choice. While they have hit a little better lately, they still have a total of 66 strikeouts in 131 at-bats and that’s not good.

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The Rays won’t get anything for either player but having someone in the lineup that doesn’t strikeout every other at bat is a positive move.

Finally, there is the possibility that if the Rays tank in the next two months they could move Logan Morrison and Colby Rasmus. They were both signed to one-year deal and probably won’t be back next year.

However, at the present time there are not major league ready replacements at Durham and they are currently solid contributors to the team

The Rays would probably get solid prospects from the Cobb and Miller deals. Obtaining a young major league ready left handed pitcher for the bullpen in one of the deals would not hurt. The Rays have plenty of AAA minor league starters to replace Cobb and we have already talked about replacements for Miller and Norris in Beckham and Ramos.

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It all fits into the Rays short and long term game plan and leaves them with choices whether the glass is full or empty at the end of July.