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Tampa Bay Rays: FanSided Faux Winter Meetings 2017

By Althea Pashman
PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 27: Outfielder Randal Grichuk
PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 27: Outfielder Randal Grichuk /
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The real MLB Winter Meetings begin next month but here at FanSided MLB Division, we had our own Faux Winter Meetings and the Tampa Bay Rays did their due diligence to improve the roster with trades and free agent signings.

Rays Colored Glasses Editors Note: This is fake news and not breaking news but a FanSided Faux replication of the MLB Winter Meetings. This is a fantasy journey, involving all of FanSided MLB team websites that as a FanSided Division decided to put together to keep our readers amused and to arouse tête-à-tête. This is all a mock-up of what the Tampa Bay Rays could do during the real MLB Winter Meetings next month. Again, this is not real… so sit back and enjoy what we here at Rays Colored Glasses are doing at our FanSided Faux Winter Meetings.

It is no secret that the Tampa Bay Rays face many challenges, mostly due to their financial situation. They also compete in one of the toughest divisions in all of baseball. However, they have their off-season “honeydew” list your truly, Althea Pashman, Rays Colored Glasses site expert has put on her Faux General Managers Cap (ala Rays GM Eric Neander) confidently to fulfill the “honeydew” wish list to improve the Tampa Bay Rays.

The real MLB Winter Meetings begin next month (Dec. 10-15) but here at FanSided, our Faux Winter Meetings lasted just three days (Nov. 27-29). FanSided Faux Winter Meetings has all the fixings of the real MLB Winter Meetings, as we followed MLBs Collective Bargaining Agreement to the best of our ability. We have a commissioner, a super agent (ala Scott Boras) and 29 FanSided MLB Baseball contributors and site experts that are the Faux General Managers.

Here at Rays Colored Glasses, we entertained numerous trades and even made some over the the three days, doing our due diligence to improve the Tampa Bay Rays roster. Since a reduction is payroll is one of the top priorities, many tough decisions are forthcoming as numerous veterans are available in order to shed salary.

The off-season “honeydew” wish list for the Tampa Bay Rays includes acquiring via a trade or free agency a right-handed hitter, left-fielder/DH, 1B/DH, bullpen and catcher that are major league ready/Triple-A. Rays Faux GM has made available: Jake Odorizzi, Brad Miller and Corey Dickerson and would listen to offers for Alex Colome, Chris Archer and others.

Rays Faux Winter Meetings Recap

Talks between the Atlanta Braves and the Rays came up very short as the Braves did not have the players we coveted.

Milwaukee inquired about Archer, but was not willing to meet the price the Rays were asking. Yes, it was steep as the asking was for major league ready players, preferably a right-handed hitter (LF/DH) and or first baseman, and or a set-up man plus Triple-A catcher prospect (ready for the majors).

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St. Louis and the Tampa Bay Rays worked out a trade after ongoing discussions for Alex Colome and Chris Archer after gauging what the Rays wanted in return, a deal was struck. Numerous offers were discussed, for Archer and Colome on a player-for-player straight up trade. From the start, Rays Faux GM wanted outfielders Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty – regardless.

When St. Louis wanted both players, catcher Carson Kelly entered into the equation. There would be no deal unless Kelly was included, which he eventually was. So, off went Colome and Archer to the Cardinals for Piscotty, Grichuk and Kelly.

Piscotty and Grichuk filled the Rays needs for right-handed bats. Both have power and flexibility of not only playing the corners, but also center as well as adding outfield depth along with DHing.

The reasoning behind acquiring Kelly is that he is on the 40-man roster is insurance if Wilson Ramos sustains an injury and is the only catcher in the Rays system with Triple-A experience. Kelly will have the opportunity to compete for the backup catchers spot, although he is likely headed to Triple-A Durham.

He was ranked third in the 2017 pre-season top 20 ranking for St. Louis and in 68 games for Triple-A Memphis this past season, Kelly’s line was .283/.375/.459 with 10 home runs, 41 RBIs, 40 strikeouts, 33 walks in 244 at-bats.

Kelly received a September call-up where he played sparingly appearing in 34 games. In 69 at-bats, Kelly’s slash line was .174/.240/.217 with 11 strikeouts, five walks, and six RBIs.

San Francisco and the Rays partnered up for a mega eight-player trade with the Rays dealing Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi and Jose Alvarado and in return received Joe Panik (2B), Hunter Strickland (RHP), Austin Slater (OF), Steven Okert (LHP) and Kelvin Beltre (INF).

Initially the offer just included Dickerson and Alvarado for Panik, Strickland and Slater, but the Giants rebuffed to include Slater as they thought he was potentially too much to give up in the deal. However, they would include Slater if Odorizzi were part of the deal along with Okert and Beltre and it became a done deal.

The Rays had previous discussions about Strickland prior to last season’s trade deadline, so having the opportunity to acquiring him was key to the deal. Adding Panik will provide the Rays with a solid second baseman (2016 Gold Glove) who defend and can hit.

Panik is arbitration eligible for the first time and though his projected salary of $3.5 million might seem a bit steep, it is within the financial means for the Rays and under team control for two more years.

Strickland will move right into the set-up role as Brad Boxberger heads back to the closers role. This past season Strickland made 68 appearances, with a career high 21 holds while pitching 61. Innings. He walked a career high 29 but also struck out a career high 58 while holding opponents to a .253 average.

Although he is arbitration eligible for the first time, with a projected salary coming in at $1.7 million, he is under team control through 2022.

Drafted as an outfielder, though he has played second base as well, Austin Slater has produced at every level. Ranked as the 6th prospect by MLBPipeline in 2017, Slater’s early season production at Triple-A Sacramento slashing .322/.381/.460 with five homers, 27 RBIs, and 12 doubles in 184 at-bats (50 games) earned him a promotion to the big leagues in June.

Injuries limited Slater’s season – as he sustained a torn abductor muscle 29 games into his major league season, sidelining him for 52 games. At the time of the injury, Slater was batting .290/.343/.430 with three homers and 13 RBIs in 100 at-bats.

Slater would return for five games in September before being shutdown with discomfort in his hip. It was determined that Slater would need surgery and on Sept. 29 in Philadelphia underwent a core muscle surgery (sports hernia).

Overall, on the season with the Giants, Slater finished 2017 with a .282/.339/.402 slash line in 34 games.

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Signed as a free agent was 1B/DH Mike Napoli. Napoli was signed to a 1 yr./$2.5 million deal, along with $1.050 million in incentives . Napoli could receive an additional $500K for plate appearances (500 min), $500K for games played (140) and $50K for an All-Star selection.

Napoli will provide additional veteran leadership to the Rays and is likely to split time with Jake Bauers in a righty-lefty platoon at first base and as designated hitter.

Despite a season in which he hit a career low .193/.285/.428, he did hit 29 homers with 66 RBIs in 425 at-bats, while playing in 124 games. Baseball-Reference has projected Napoli to hit .218 with 25 homers with 68 RBIs.

On the final day of the Faux Winter Meetings, the Rays traded Brad Miller to the Reds for Ariel Miranda (LHP. This was clearly a salary dump for the Tampa Bay Rays and in Miranda, the Rays receive a hard throwing, durable left-hander.

He was the only starter in the Mariners rotation that made the opening day roster to make all of his scheduled starts. On the season, Miranda started 29 games pitching to a 4.90 ERA with an 8-7 record. In those starts covering 158 innings, he struck out 135, walked just 62 but allowed a career high 37 home runs.

In addition, the Rays non-tendered pitcher Chase Whitley and DFA’d Micah Johnson (INF/OF) and would consider signing them to minor league deals if they go unclaimed.

Financially Speaking

When it was all said and done, the Rays accomplished their goal of shedding payroll.

The trades Jake Odorizzi, Brad Miller and Corey Dickerson, reducing their payroll by $17.3 million. The trades of Archer and Colome freed them of $11.9 million, thus reducing the overall payroll by $29.2 million. Add in the trade of Alvarado ($535K) and the non-tender of Whitley ($1.1 million) and the DFA of Johnson ($530K) now reduces the payroll for a grand total of $31.2 million.

The roster additions of  Piscotty, Grichuk and Kelly added $4.565 million, Miranda $540K, Okert, Panik, Strickland, Slater and Beltre added $6.271 for a grand total of $11.376 million.

With a projected 2018 payroll of $82.5 to begin upcoming season, the Rays during these Faux Winter Meetings were able to reduce their team payroll to $62.6 million. Exactly where they wanted to be.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Rookie Roundup: Jacob Faria

Again, please note that this is fake news and not breaking news but a FanSided Faux replication of the MLB Winter Meetings of what could happen with the Tampa Bay Rays. This is a fantasy journey, involving all of FanSided MLB team websites that as a FanSided Division decided to put together to keep our readers amused and to arouse tête-à-tête.

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