Tampa Bay Rays: Will They Buy or Sell at the Trade Deadline

Jun 19, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA;Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer (22) massages pitcher Alex Cobb (53) back in the dugout against the Cincinnati Reds at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA;Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer (22) massages pitcher Alex Cobb (53) back in the dugout against the Cincinnati Reds at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Although the trade deadline is still weeks away, the question arises as to whether or not the Tampa Bay Rays will be buyers or sellers.

The rumor mill heat level is building, with speculation that the Tampa Bay Rays will not be selling as they are currently in contention for the postseason. However, there always remains the possibility that if given the right return, a player or two could be moved.

The return must be significant, one that will not only help the team now, but for the future as well. This was significant last year when they traded Matt Moore to San Francisco for Matt Duffy, however Duffy has been sidelined all season so the results are mute, but he is under team control for four more years.

Two key names from the rotation though still popup at least weekly in the rumor mill – Alex Cobb and Chris Archer. Nick Carfardo of the Boston Globe a few days back said that Cobb, who is a potential free agent at season’s end is the most likely starter that the Rays will trade. Archer on the other hand has been a fixture in the rumor mill since last year, mainly because of his pre-2016 performances and his team-friendly contract.

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There are a couple of factors regarding Cobb’s situation – first, salary wise as he is currently working on a $4.2 million deal, which is almost at the breaking point for the Rays and secondly, how he performs between now and the trading deadline. However, the real key is whether or not the Rays continue to hang in contention.

With the loss of Matt Andriese from the rotation at least until mid-August, and the uncertainty of how the Rays will go about a Blake Snell return, trading Cobb will only thin out the rotation even more than where it is right now.

This is Cobb’s first full season back since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2015 and he has finally begun showing pre-TJ surgery form. With each start this season, Cobb has shown more progression in his pitches, specifically with his command and he has also pitched later into games.

Against the Reds on Tuesday, Cobb (6-5, 4.05) pitched into the seventh inning giving him his third straight start of pitching six or more innings and as well allowing two or less earned runs. He has also thrown seven quality starts over his last ten – that after having none over his first five starts.

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Archer has returned to his pre-2016 form, pitching to a 5-4 record with a 3.75 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 15 starts. As in the past, he is on the radar of many teams looking to upgrade their rotation; among those are the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees and trying another go at it could also be the Houston Astros.

The enticing factor with Archer, besides his pitching is his team-friendly contract that he signed in 2014 which was a six-year, guaranteed $25.5 million deal with club options/buyouts in 2020 ($1.75 buyout) and 2021 ($250,000 buyout) maxing out the total deal to $43.75 million over eight-years. His salary break breakdown, from this year $4.75 forward is $6.25 (2018), $7.5 (2019), $9 million (2020) and $11 million (2021).

With the Rays (38-36) holding down sole possession of third place in the AL East 3.0 games back of the Boston Red Sox, and holding down the second Wild Card spot, reaching the postseason remains strong and in reach as of today.

As for being sellers, in my honest opinion I do not see the Rays trading Cobb or Archer at the trade deadline. I do feel that Cobb is most likely to be dealt during the off-season, as potential suitors would be more opt to seeing his final results in order to signing him to a contract versus trading for him as a “rental” with no chance of signing him.

Archer on the other hand, because of his contract and the fact that the Rays are likely to have the available funds to keep him around at least for another year or two. This is due to the fact that the Rays will have expiring contracts to players that the Rays are not likely to re-sign.

However, that is not to say the Rays will not trade one or more of their positional players or even a reliever. I would speculate that the Rays will listen to offers on Erasmo Ramirez and Matt Andriese, along with the possibility of adding Brad Miller, Corey Dickerson and even Logan Morrison.

As for the Rays being buyers, I doubt they will as they have already added Trevor Plouffe to help fight the woes against left-handed pitching. Plus, the depth that they added during this past off-season and the just about ready for prime time minor leaguers the Rays are set.

According to FanGraphs season to date projections, the Rays have a 9.7% chance of winning the division, a 23.7% chance of winning a wild card spot, a 32.3% chance of winning the division or making a wild card spot and a 19.7% chance of making the divisional series.

However, their percentages of winning the ALDS, advancing to the ALCS and winning the World Series fall very short.

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Under these projections, in my honest opinion I would not trade Cobb or Archer as they would be too valuable of a loss given the circumstances and the opportunity of returning to the postseason.