Every season, the Tampa Bay Rays are part of the conversation when contending teams are looking for starting pitching. Sometimes they make a deal. Sometimes they are left empty-handed.
At this time last year, much of the trade talk around here centered around starting pitcher Alex Cobb. He was in his final year with the Rays with little or no chance of signing a contract extension. The Rays were flirting with playoff aspirations, so trading him would have stung a bit.
We all know the outcome at the deadline last season. The Rays stood firm on what they required in return and came away with nothing. Well, they got a compensation pick, the 31st pick this year, which they turned in to USF LHP Shane McClanahan. And, by all indications, he will not sign with the Rays and return to college. I’m not going to dwell on that. The Rays also had the 32nd pick and selected high school offensive stud Nick Schnell. He could easily have been the pick ahead of McClanahan.
Going back to Cobb, we’ll never really know what the Rays left on the table. But, we do know how Cobb has done so far after holding out too long and signing a too big contract with Baltimore. His 2-10 record and 6.53 ERA pretty much speaks for itself. Of course, he’s playing for a very bad Orioles team, but he isn’t helping things.
Tampa Bay Rays pitching tend to underachieve elsewhere.
In the same breath, we could probably discuss Jake Odorizzi in this same conversation for deadline trades last season. While not as immediately necessary, he was reaching his peak in trade value. Again, the Rays held out. All off season, he was viewed as the most likely to go. The Rays seemingly waited as long as they could, trading him to Minnesota during spring training. In return, the Rays got 21-year-old shortstop Jermaine Palacios. He comes with a lot of speculative upside, but it seemed like the Rays would have received higher level prospects in return for Odorizzi. In the end, it seemed like the Rays settled for the best they could get at an undefined deadline.
Again, Odorizzi hasn’t supported his value through the first half of this season. His 3-6 record and career-worst 4.57 ERA are, at best, underwhelming.
Before Cobb and Odorizzi, pitchers like David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore filled up the rumors pages. To a lesser degree, Drew Smyly and Nate Karns did the same. To begin with, let’s toss out David Price. Some could argue he, too, has under-performed after leaving Tampa Bay. But, the Rays seemingly did quite well in that one, getting Smyly and Willy Adames in return.
Hellickson and Moore also have pitched their best years of their careers for Tampa Bay. Smyly turned into a respectable starter with the Rays, was traded, and got injured. And Karns? He wasn’t as highly regarded and has maintained the expected tolerable performance level.
What do the Rays do this season with the deadline approaching?
That brings us to July, 2018. Up until his injury, Chris Archer has led a lot of the talks. You would expect the Rays to want quite a haul for him. Is that warranted?
On Monday night, it was reported that several teams had scouts in Miami to watch Nathan Eovaldi pitch. What would the Rays want and expect for him? I’ll go out on a limb and guess it’s more than the teams are willing to give.
I’m not necessarily criticizing the trade tactics of the Rays. I’m more questioning the results of these pitchers after they leave Tampa Bay. But, can you remember a time when the Rays were burned by a pitcher who went on to better days? Many have started their careers here to high praise. It hasn’t translated well elsewhere.