Tampa Bay Rays: Cannot Stand Idle at the Trade Deadline

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 21: Justin Wilson (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 21: Justin Wilson (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The postseason is in their sight and if the Tampa Bay Rays want to make this a reality for the first time since 2013, they cannot stand idle at the trade deadline to address the glaring needs of the bullpen.

There is no question that the Tampa Bay Rays are a much better team all-around from a year ago. Their mantra heading into the season was to be contenders for the postseason and they are on track in accomplishing that goal.

President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman along with GMs Erick Neander and Chaim Bloom did a good job at addressing the need for outfield depth, getting a frontline catcher and utility role players. However, they failed in addressing the bullpen.

As the calendar closes in on July 31, teams have already begun making their moves to acquire their needs with the majority of those being relief help. Quality arms in Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, David Robertson and David Phelps have already changed zip codes, with a handful of others such as Justin Wilson, Brad Hand and Pat Neshek among others remaining – the catch though is that they are somewhat unaffordable in terms of what their respective teams are asking in return.

The Rays are not the type of team that can afford to acquire players that are free agent bound at the end of the season – rentals are for the big spenders and the big spenders are usually on target for a deep postseason run, along with the ability to sign the rental player. On the contrary, the Rays can be that team if they are seriously willing to change just a bit if the acquisition can help now and maybe in the future as well.

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The Rays are looking for an impact reliever, preferably a left-hander and are also charting the waters for a right-handed bat. If a left-handed reliever is not available or for the right price, the Rays are certainly going to look at right-handers to help the bullpen.

Enter lefty reliever Justin Wilson from the Tigers, who is economically and control wise affordable and his the impact reliever that the Rays need. His salary of $2.7 million is on mark and he is under control via arbitration through 2018.

Wilson has pitched in middle relief, setup and closer roles and has been very successful in pressure situations. Bottom line, he is dependable no matter what role he is given or when he enters the game and fits the Rays need for now and the future… however, it could cost the Rays a big return in the way of prospects, which is what the Tigers are seeking.

Playing the GM, I would make Wilson my top priority as his criteria fits all of the Rays needs including the most important being the financial end of things. I would not however give up the farm for his services. The Astros, Red Sox and Brewers are also seeking Wilson’s services and all of the teams have the prospects that it would take to get him.

The Padres are said to be asking a “steep price” for Hand who currently owns a 2.20 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 49 innings. Hand can pitch multiple innings, has no problems facing lefties or righties and is being targeted by half the league or more. He also has two years of team control after this season through the 2019 season.

On the rental side of the equation is 36-year-old Philadelphia Phillies Pat Neshek a free agent following the season. Like Hand, Neshek has been outstanding for the Phillies posting a 1.12 ERA with a 3-2 record in 40.1 innings pitched (43 appearances). Over this span, he has 45 strikeouts, has walked just five and among NL qualified relievers Neshek has the second lowest ERA.

Philadelphia is also seeking a “steep price” for Neshek and has sent their scouts to the Rays minor leagues and as well, the Rays have gone to Philadelphia. Along with the Rays, the Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs and Nationals (despite just adding Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle) are also interested.

Since the Phillies want a heavy return, the Rays may have the return needed, but would not be willing to give up the “high” prospects for a rental and in as much as he could certainly help now, I would not give up high prospects for a pitcher that I doubt could be re-signed at an affordable salary as his current $6.5 million would only increase next season.

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Another reliever that the Rays are showing interest in is current Miami Marlins closer AJ Ramos who is controllable through 2018 via arbitration. However, he comes with a very high price tag, $6.5 million and despite his controllability, definitely not pocket change for the Rays.

This season he has posted decent numbers, 3.76 ERA in 38.1 innings (39 games), along with a 4.90 BB/9 and a 10.8 K/9 rate. Record wise he is 2-4 with 19 saves (2 BS). Along with the Rays, the Rockies, Red Sox, Cubs, Diamondbacks and Brewers are all interested, despite having closers – but he is another late inning reliever to bridge the gap for their closer.

Although the Rays took a gamble when they acquired Sergio Romo from the Dodgers over the weekend, he is not the impact reliever sought. However, he is a veteran pitcher with outstanding career stats – unfortunately, this season his numbers are the worst of his career.

“I think any time a guy who throws mid to upper 80s, when they hit a rough patch, it’s easy to say he’s toast, he’s done. The way that we look at it is we think what he brings to the table, the ability to miss bats, a lot of that’s still there,” said Rays GM Erik Neander.

I would speculate that some of the prospects asked for by many teams in return are way too much, but I feel the Rays can afford to give up some prospects without losing any of their top tier prospects.

Bottom line, the Rays cannot stand idle at the trade deadline. They must be aggressive and make the necessary moves to help now by spending within their means. With a farm system that is deep enough to sustain such trades, with the plethora of prospects available the time is now.

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