Ahead of the Winter Meetings, Juan Toribio of MLB.com touched on the Rays’ prospect depth up the middle… Will the Rays part ways with any of their highly touted prospects this winter?
As teams around the league are becoming increasingly hesitant to ship off their top prospects, the Tampa Bay Rays are in a unique position to add impact players to their 2020 roster. After swinging a five player deal with the San Diego Padres which included sent Tommy Pham to the west coast in exchange for Hunter Renfroe, and top-100 prospect Xavier Edwards, the Rays’ farm system is overflowing with talent. More specifically, they have an abundance of young talent on the mound and in the middle infield.
The question facing the Rays front office is this: Could they be persuaded to move some of that talent in exchange for an impact player or two this offseason as they look to bolster a roster that won 96 games last season?
In Juan Toribio’s article setting the stage for what should be an interesting Winter Meetings for the Rays, he mentions top prospects Vidal Brujan and Shane Baz among others that may draw interest in trade talks:
"Teams looking to improve their organization depth will surely be reaching out to the Rays about some of their prospects. Tampa Bay has a lot of prospects that it could add in a potential trade, if it believes it can improve the current and future of the Major League club. Infielders Vidal Brujan and Lucius Fox will be attractive options, while pitchers Joe Ryan and Shane Baz could also get some interest."
The thought of moving top prospects like Vidal Brujan and Shane Baz may come as a surprise, but with a ton of talent in the middle of the infield and on the mound at both the major and minor league levels, both players may be deemed expendable assets by the Rays.
Vidal Brujan is MLBPipeline’s 39th overall prospect in baseball and Shane Baz is ranked 94th. The Rays newly acquired prospect, Xavier Edwards, is a ranked 72nd. Both Edwards and Brujan are speedsters, but Brujan is closer to the show than Edwards, making Brujan a bit more valuable in trade talks.
With Wander Franco, Lucius Fox, Vidal Brujan, Greg Jones, and now Xavier Edwards all competing for a future in an already crowded big league infield, the Rays can afford to ship one of them away (No, obviously not Wander) in exchange for impact players at the major league level.
On the mound the Rays big league staff already includes Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, who are both under contract through the 2023 season and Brendan McKay who is under team control through the 2025 season. With three of the starting five rotation slots likely filled for the foreseeable future, players like Shane Baz could also be deemed expendable.
The Rays system is stacked with arms, especially of the starting pitcher variety. Matthew Liberatore, Shane Baz, Shane McClanahan, Brent Honeywell, JJ Goss and others will all be fighting for spots sooner rather than later at the major league level.
While it hasn’t necessarily been the Rays model in years past, it shouldn’t be out of the question for the Rays to finally consider utilizing their farm system in hopes of raising a World Series banner.
Now of course, for the Rays to part ways with any of the aforementioned players, the return would have to be of considerable talent. Players like Wilson Contreras and Mitch Haniger come to mind as the most obvious targets.
With these thoughts in mind, it shouldn’t be shocking if the Rays dip into their pool of prospects to improve their 2020 roster, but at the same time it wouldn’t be shocking if they chose not to either.