Caught in the web of trade rumors are Desmond Jennings, Steve Pearce, Erasmo Ramirez, Jake Odorizzi, and most notably Chris Archer and Matt Moore.
Among all the reasons this doesn’t feel good, after an offseason where Silverman appeared to have put together a solid team on paper, things just haven’t clicked for the ball club. In all fairness, the team has been plagued by injuries and bad luck.
Take the Rays’ batting average on balls in play (BABIP) for example. While the average Major League BABIP sits at .304, Tampa Bay has posted the seventh worst BABIP in the bigs at .288. Then there’s BaseRuns, which according to FanGraphs is a way to take a team’s performance into account without considering the sequencing to calculate expected runs scored and runs allowed. BaseRuns takes those numbers and generates the expected wins and expected losses. According to BaseRuns, the Rays are one of the unluckiest teams in baseball, and they should be at 49-50 on the season (as of Wednesday). With this in mind, the Rays really aren’t as bad as their record may suggest, and therefore shouldn’t go into complete fire-sale mode.
It also is to say, that much like the 2011 Athletics who went on to win 94 games the following season, the Rays are incredibly close to being a relevant team once again. However, in order to shake the Devil Ray blues, Silverman will have to figure out a way to acquire one or two consistent impact bats, as well as cheap bullpen help. Though some of those pieces will come be available on the free-agent market — or via off-season trades — going into the 2017 season, he’ll likely have to net a player or two at the trade deadline.
I’d imagine there are a few ways to look at the situation:
- Cross your arms, say “NO!” and get incredibly upset over the turn of events.
- Take the perspective, that while you may not see your favorite on the field or in the dugout, a positive — in players the Rays may get in return — could come of this.
- If you’re anything like me, you’ll both grieve and see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Where do we go from here?
First, if I was Silverman, I would maintain the bulk of the roster. Like I mentioned above, the team is close to being competitive — something Jake Odorizzi reiterated:
I think we’d all like to stay and keep what we have together, Odorizzi told Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times). We know what we have as a starting staff. We haven’t really shown it too well this year, but we have the ability to do something special once we are all kind of ourselves. So I guess we’ll see come Aug. 1 if we’re still here.
Evan Longoria added:
Hopefully we don’t do anything too big, I love the pieces that we have, and I think that with the proper additions we can be a real competitive team for some years to come with the pitching and the offensive pieces that we have.
Even Silverman hinted at the same thing:
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 27, 2016
That is, hold onto players like Logan Forsythe, Kevin Kiermaier, and Brad Miller* among others. Too, I’d hold onto Longoria and Chris Archer; both of whom are franchise players. A deal involving one or the other (or both) would be tantamount to a fire sale.
Who then might get dealt?
Odorizzi, Matt Moore, or Dew Smyly could be swapped for offensive or relief help. Taking the weak pitching market into consideration, the Rays should be able to capitalize on the high demand for starting pitching.
To most scouts, Odorizzi is viewed as a steady, mid-rotation addition, and thus may not carry as much trade value for Tampa Bay. Moore, who boasts higher impact stuff that’s favorable to a team making a playoff push, is the most probable trade candidate. Then again, the southpaw comes with a bigger risk in terms of health (having already had Tommy John surgery) and payroll.
Tampa Bay has been connected to the Dodgers, Rangers, Pirates, Marlins and Red Sox among others, with the possibility of acquiring infielders Jurickson Profar or Joey Gallo (Rangers), outfielder Austin Meadows (Pirates), catcher Austin Barnes (Dodgers) and/or some talented young arms who could replenish the farm system.
To be clear, Silverman is in a position of power, and he certainly doesn’t need to make a trade. However, at some point someone will have to be dealt in order to make room for Alex Cobb and Chase Whitley, both of whom are on the cusp of returning from Tommy John surgery, as well as prospects Jacob Faria and Jamie Schultz, who are waiting in the wings at Triple-A.
If in the event Silverman can’t get what he seeks from one of the contenders at the trade deadline, he could always wait until the offseason when all teams are in play.
The team will likely trade Pearce, who signed a one-year deal at the start of the season. The utility player has been a reliable addition to the Rays roster, and it makes sense to strike while his value exists. It would be wise to trade Desmond Jennings, if only to wipe $3.3-Million salary off the books.
And while a discussion of Alex Colome seems to be the flavor of the moment, I would hold onto the All-Star closer. At $522-Thousand per season, he’s a cheap high leverage arm that’s under team control until 2021. Instead, and as much as it pains me to type this, a deal involving Ramirez should be considered. Erasmo can start, slot in as the long-man, and handle high-leverage situations. At an affordable $2.38-Million per year, plus the fact that he’s under team control until 2020, Ramirez’s flexibility makes him desirable even when his -0.1 WAR might not.
Whatever the case, it’s incumbent upon the front office to to look for smart acquisitions if it hopes to shake the Devil Rays moniker any time soon. Silverman acquired Oswaldo Arcia, who has a huge upside, for peanuts. I’d lump the trade for Xavier Cedeño last season in the same category. Both were intelligent moves that could pay dividends, if they haven’t already. Someone at DRaysBay brought up a good point that I feel is worthy to mention here, Billy Beane, GM for the above mentioned Oakland Athletics, signed Yoenis Cespedes and Bartolo Colon before the start of the 2012 season. While neither player is currently on Oakland’s roster, their impact during that 94 win season was huge. Like Beane, Silverman is a smart, savvy GM who is adept at finding the next Cespedes. A few smart moves here and there could easily find the Rays in the postseason next year.
Next up: we’ll take a look at some of the players Silverman may be targeting at the deadline.
*Assuming you can relocate Miller to a different position.