Insider: Bailey, Pudge Highlight Rays Rumors

The hot stove continues to simmer for the Tampa Bay Rays although there are no immediate indications of anything being close to completion. The rumors surrounding free agent Josh Willingham are still swirling, and the interest between the club and Johnny Damon remains mutual. There continues to be talk of trades involving a starting pitcher, but a deal of that magnitude may take time to develop in a market that is still taking shape.

In the meantime, here are some additional rumblings surrounding the Rays…

Jon Heyman, now of CBS Sports, reports that Ivan Rodriguez is working out in Miami and hopes to continue his playing career next season. Heyman speculates the New York Mets and Rays could be among the teams interested in the 40-year-old. The Rays had interest in Rodriguez in 2009, but the recent addition of Jose Molina makes it unlikely the club bring in Pudge as well.

Though Rodriguez can still throw out baserunners with the best of them, he has not had an above-average offensive season since 2006. At this point in his career, he offers many of the same attributes as Molina, who is five years younger and well versed in the American League East. At the winter meetings, the team seemed content with the current group of catchers including  Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos. If that were to change it would be for a clear upgrade; one that Rodriguez does not appear represent over the younger, cheaper option already on the roster.

The Rays will travel to Texas next week to watch free agent Joel Zumaya pitch, but the search for relief help does not end there. Ken Rosenthal reports the Rays and Boston Red Sox are two of the teams interested in Oakland A’s closer Andrew Bailey. The A’s are shopping some of their young talent in an effort to get even younger and more cost-controlled.

Bailey, 27, won the American League rookie of the year award in 2009 on the strength of a 1.84 ERA and 26 saves. In the two seasons since, he has saved 49 additional games with a 2.28 ERA in 90.2 innings. Last year, he posted a career-worst 3.24 ERA, but was largely the same pitcher he was in previous years according to advanced metrics. For his career he has a struck out a batter per inning with above-average marks in walks and home runs allowed. He is a relatively neutral pitcher in terms of batted balls and goes to work with a mid 90s fastball, a cutter, and a breaking ball in the mid-to-upper 70s.

The A’s are seeking a considerable return for Bailey, who has all three years of arbitration eligibility remaining. In addition to the cost of  a trade, his next team will pay him a sizable raise over the $465,000 he made in 2011. With 75 career saves, a 2.07 lifetime ERA, and a rookie of the year award to his credit, he could make between $3 and $4 million in 2012. From there, he should his number rise in each of his remaining arbitration seasons. Bailey’s talent is certainly intriguing, but his price in both trade pieces and dollars is likely too rich for Tampa Bay’s blood.