Tampa Bay Rays: The White Sox may hold the keys to the AL East title
By Austin Reimann
The trade deadline is approaching and the Tampa Bay Rays are expected to be active as they attempt to chase down the first place New York Yankees, and the White Sox may hold the keys to a division title.
The Tampa Bay Rays won 14 of their first 18 games, staking an early 5.5 game lead in the East. Now nearly three months later they find themselves 6.5 games off the pace set by the New York Yankees.
After an electric first half finale with the New York Yankees in which they split a tightly contested four game set, the Rays have their eyes set on a second half run and a division title. But, they need reinforcements if they want to catch the Bronx Bombers who have beat the Rays 9 of 13 times this season.
The Rays and Yankees will play each other 6 more times in 2019 with a four game set coming soon after the break and a pair of potentially pivotal games in September.
Tampa Bay’s bullpen has been mired in blown saves and inconsistency and could use a consistent reliever while the lineup is in need of a bonafide run producer. The White Sox, sitting at 42-44 are 12.5 games off the pace in the Central and 7 games behind the second Wild Card spot, are positioned to be the perfect trade candidate for the Rays.
Slugger Jose Abreu is on pace to hit nearly close to 40 bombs and drive on 100 runs (again) and reliever Aaron Bummer is having a breakout campaign and is under team control through the 2024 season. Why not kill two birds with one stone?
Jose Abreu’s 2019 stats:
21 HR // 66 RBI // 118 OPS+
An all-star in 2019 and for the third tine in his career, Abreu would lead the Rays in HR, RBI, 2B (22), and hits (96). He would give the Rays the true cleanup hitter they have lacked all season while playing first base everyday.
Adding Abreu to a mix that already includes Tommy Pham, Yandy Diaz, and former White Sox slugger Avisail Garcia would solidify their lineup from the right side.
A two-time Silver Slugger, Abreu has been one of the league’s best run producers since his rookie season in 2014 during which he drove in 107 runs. In 2019, the Rays rank 16th in average, 19th in runs, and 22nd in homers and slugging percentage. The slugging first baseman would be a welcome addition in a lineup that has struggled to score runs.
Aaron Bummer’s 2019 stats:
33.1 IP // 34 K // 1.89 ERA (3.20 FIP) // 244 ERA+ // 9.2 K/9 // .930 WHIP
Drafted in the 19th round of the 2014 draft, Bummer made his debut in 2017 and exceeded his rookie status in 2018. This season he has been dominant out of the pen for the Sox and could slide right into a set-up role for the Rays.
Even more appealing than his sub-2.00 ERA is that he won’t be arbitration eligible until the 2021 season, giving the Rays 4.5 seasons of team control, including the rest of 2019. With this much control his price tag will be higher, but if the Rays are serious about their intentions to make it to October this season and in those that follow, Bummer would not only help this season but in the future.
Abreu is the likeliest White Sox player to be traded and it is hard to say if the White Sox would be interested in shipping off Bummer and his years of control, but if they are then this duo seems like a no brainer for the Rays’ front office.
The asking price will be steep for the pair with Abreu being one of the games premier sluggers –albeit a rental– and Bummer having a breakout campaign with years of team control remaining. As the trade deadline approaches, we should get a better idea of what prospects the Rays are willing to part with.
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But, if the price is right the Rays need to the pull the trigger sooner rather than later. Both Abreu and Bummer would fill two of the Rays’ biggest needs and position them to compete for an AL East title.