The Rays Will Be Sellers This Summer But To What Extent?
The Tampa Bay Rays open Sunday’s action with the worst record in the Major Leagues at 30-46 record and in last place 12 games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays and 10.5 games behind in the wild card race.
With the season nearing it’s halfway mark and barring an extreme win streak it is certain that the Rays will be sellers as the July 31st trade deadline. Without significant improvement the question becomes to what extent will they alter the roster.
Does Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon believe that the core of the 2014 Rays can bounce back and be a competitive squad in 2015 with a few minor additions or is more of a overhaul of the roster required?
Another variable in the equation is the purse strings for the franchise which are held by Stu Sternberg who had mentioned several times over this past winter that the Rays $80MM payroll is “unsustainable”.
Rays Most Probable Trade Candidate: David Price
David Price will be the Rays biggest trade chip and dealing him will significantly alter the current configuration of both the roster and shrink the payroll in both 2014 and 2015. He is making $14M this year and has one more year of salary arbitration at an projected salary between $16MM-$18MM. Additionally, he is due a $4MM deferred salary payment by October 31st.
There will be a number of teams lined up to acquire David Price. The teams with the financial and farm system to be a match with the Rays are the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and Milwaukee Brewers.
Rays Second Most Likely To Be Traded: Juan Carlos Oviedo
Juan Carlos Oviedo has experience pitching in high leverage situations as he served as the Marlins closer saving 92 games from 2009-2011. He ran into legal troubles involving falsifying his identity (former Leo Nunez) which delayed his 2012 season. When he finally was near ready to return he required Tommy John Surgery which wiped out the remainder of his 2012 and all of his 2013 season.
He has returned in 2014 and is making just $1.5MM with an additional $1.4MM in incentives. If he can continue to improve in 2014 and show the ability to work high leverage innings he will be highly sought after. The team with the most need of a high leverage late inning reliever at this time is the Detroit Tigers.
Rays Third Most Likely Trade Candidate: Matt Joyce
Matt Joyce has one more season remaining before he is eligible for free agency. He is currently making $3.7MM and is expected to earn somewhere between $5MM and $6MM in 2015.
He has never been able to break the platoon mold and only is in the lineup versus right handed pitchers. Even at $5M to $6M in salary in 2015 it is difficult to imagine the Rays moving forward with two players (David DeJesus) earning near the same with overlapping skill sets.
Additionally, Joyce has not shown the power he once exhibited but his high on-base percentage will keep his trade value high. The Rays may be able to move him to a team in need of a left handed hitting outfielder/DH and it would not be a surprise to see him packaged with David Price to one of the aforementioned teams.
Rays Second Most Attractive Candidate: Ben Zobrist
Ben Zobrist is another of the Rays trade candidates and like Price he could bring back significant talent to the roster for 2015 and beyond and could reduce the teams payroll for 2015. He is making $7MM in 2014 and the Rays hold a club option for 2014 at $7.5MM.
Zobrist value lies in his ability to provide above average defense in right field and second base as well as play shortstop or left field if needed. Lacking the power he once displayed he still has great on-base skills and is a switch hitter. The Rays would be best served to have him on the roster opening the 2015 season as he provides depth in so many areas. There is no reason to create more holes on the roster than necessary but a lot of the decision will be based on how much of an overhaul the front office will take on.
Rays Most Difficult To Trade: Grant Balfour
Grant Balfour is having a horrible beginning of the season but if he is able to turn it around between now and July 31st he could be of interest for a number of teams looking for help in the back of their bullpens. He may not provide a player of any significance but moving him will relive the Rays of the remaining balance of his 2014 $4MM salary and the $7MM in 2015. It should be noted that the Rays have deferred $2M of his 2014 and 2015 salary for two years with zero interest.
Rays “Only A Matter Of Time” Trade Candidate: Desmond Jennings
Desmond Jennings is one of the more intriguing trade candidates that the Rays possess. He will be arbitration eligible for the first time this winter and will not be a free agent until after the 2017 season.
As a Scott Boras client the odds of the Rays signing Jennings to a long term contract extension are remote so getting maximum value for him will be the goal.
Many teams will inquire about Jennings this season and over the winter as the centerfield free agent market is soft headlined by Colby Rasmus of the Toronto Blue Jays and players such as Emilio Bonifacio, Franklin Gutierrez, Grady Sizemore, and Chris Young.
The Rays may not trade him at the trade deadline this season although packaged with David Price to the St. Louis Cardinals in a mega-deal would not shock me. It certainly would not be surprising given the lack of free agents at the position to hear his name discussed over the winter.
Rays Recreation Of A Scott Kazmir Deal: Jeremy Hellickson
It is highly improbable that the Rays trade Jeremy Hellickson this year but like Scott Kazmir in 2009 if he were to show signs of life over five or six starts he could find himself on the trade block after July 31st.
Hellickson is another Scott Boras client who is currently making 3.625MM and has two years of arbitration left before he becomes a free agent.
It would not be like the Rays to move two starting pitchers in the same season but depending on the return for David Price and the performance of Hellickson if a team came calling with an impressive package of prospects it woudn’t be earth shattering for the Rays to move on the deal.