In the midst of trade whispers and rumors on this, the second day of the 2017 Winter Meetings, the Tampa Bay Rays made a small trade on Monday, acquiring INF Joey Wendle from Oakland for a player to be named later, putting the roster at 38. Beyond that, Rays manager Kevin Cash was first up in the media room Monday morning, while GM Erik Neander acknowledged the team is open to “anything and everything” in the pursuit to reduce payroll.
Here’s your recap of the second day of Winter Meeting’s action.
Rays Acquire INF Joey Wendle
A second baseman by trade, Wendle also has spent a handful of games at third base and shortstop. He comes with the reputation as a standout defensive player with some versatility.
Grinder-type player, high baseball IQ, Rays GM Erik Neander said. He’s worked to really put himself in the position where his defense is today. … This is a guy when balls are hit in (his) vicinity, somehow, some way he’s finding a way to get to them more often and he’s completing plays at a really high rate.
The 27 year-old Wendle was designated for assignment by the Athletics on December 7 after they signed hurler Yusmeiro Petit. The infielder spent most of the 2017 season with Triple-A Nashville where he slashed .285 BA/.327 OBP/.429 SLG/.756 OPS with eight homers, 67 runs, and 54 RBI. In 2,791 career minor league plate appearances, he has performed to a .288 BA/.338 OBP/.453 SLG/.791 OPS slash line.
Wendle has spent parts of the last two seasons in the majors, hitting .266 in 36 games — including 14 plate appearances in Oakland last season, where the southpaw hitter batted .308 with a .973 OPS.
Unless he, again, is designated for assignment, Wendle will compete for a spot on the big league roster in Spring Training, although he does have an option remaining, so he can be sent to Triple-A Durham.
Kevin Cash’s Media Presser
The Rays skipper was the first to speak with the media Monday morning, and he shared some rather interesting comments:
— “I know there’s a lot of chatter about our players, Cash said regarding trade speculation surrounding veterans like Chris Archer and Evan Longoria. “I view them as being very special to our current roster and a big part of us having success at times last year and going forward … When you have good players, people are going to ask about them. … How that shakes out, I have no idea what will take place.”
— “Maybe a little bit on hold but nothing major, Cash said about preparing for the upcoming season … This should be an interesting meeting simply because it’s been quiet and now the chatter will really come on.” Cash also conceded that he has yet to see a major trade occur involving the Rays during the meetings during his tenure.
— “I think we’re going to have a bunch of guys from our farm system, namely in Triple-A, come in and compete (including some who started),” Cash said on the subject of restocking the bullpen. “… We’ve got to find guys that are very capable of consistency and having success in those middle innings.”
— On planning to pull starters more early in games: “There is going to have to be constant selling. … At the of the day it’s about winning games and if we feel we can get a better matchup earlier in the ballgame why wouldn’t we use it? It’s going to be constant communication.”
— It could be time to rethink starting pitching:
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) December 11, 2017
— “There’s going to be opportunities where if we’re really versatile with that utility role, a guy that can play infield and outfield, it might allow us to carry an extra reliever at times during the season,” Cash said on the possibilities of having an eight-man bullpen, if the team has a utility player who can effectively play the infield and the outfield.
— “Speed is a big part of the game, Cash said about relying more on speed. “Power is what everybody is paying for. We had a pretty powerful lineup this past year, that’s tough to repeat. with that comes inconsistencies – speed doesn’t really go away.”
— Speaking of speed and Mallex Smith: “I’m really looking forward to him coming into spring training. … Just kind of take the reigns off and let’s see what he can do, whether it’s bunting, whether it’s stealing, we want to see what he can do. We know how talented of a player he is.”
— “You look at what Jake Bauers and Willy Adames did in Triple-A at a very, very young age. I personally kinda like the fact that they got off to slow starts and you look at where their season ended up it was really impressive. From all reports … they really matured throughout the year. Both guys like to play a lot. They want to come up to bat in that big spot. They’re going to get to play a lot in spring training. … Solid guys.”
— “We’re all open to a new stadium, but as for where it’s located….we need to concentrate on playing baseball.”
— “It’s got a chance to be a really special group,” Cash said on the strength of their up the middle defense. “And you take the second base situation, how that shakes out between Matt Duffy’s health, Brad Miller rebounding a little bit, Daniel Robertson did a tremendous job there up the middle. We know what KK is, he’s special. Hech, we saw him for two months and I don’t know if there was a better defensive shortstop that I’ve ever seen on a nightly basis. Wilson Ramos, I was really excited about the way he finished. … We saw how big of an impact he can be in our lineup. Up the middle defense is special and we feel that we’re very strong.”
You can hear Cash’s presser in its entirety below:
Erik Neander Arrives at the Meetings
Citing the convenience of being able to drive 1-1/2 hours to the greater Orlando area, Erik Neander arrived at the Winter Meetings Monday morning, unlike the majority of general managers who arrived Sunday.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) December 11, 2017
Neander said they had productive discussions, although they are not close to any deals.
Still more talk and not as much action at this point, but we’ve got a lot to think about in terms of how to get our team to the level of quality that we feel like we need to be at, he said. Still considering a lot of different possibilities and directions, and that’ll probably be the case as we go forward throughout the winter here as we keep an open mind.
Alex Colome Discussions Are Heating Up
Bob Nightengale (USA Today) tweeted this morning that St. Louis (as expected) and Colorado are aggressively pursuing Rays closer Alex Colome.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 11, 2017
Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) indicated the Cubs and Mets also have interest. Colome’s projected $5.5-million salary and three years until free agency make him a hot commodity.
…Other Trade Whispers
Topkin also noted that Tampa Bay is receiving predictably high interest in starting RHP Chris Archer by the Braves, Brewers, Twins, Cardinals, and Cubs. There also is some chatter that the Angels could emerge as a potential partner in an as of now hypothetical deal for 3B Evan Longoria.
It is true, any trade discussions involving either Archer or Longoria are touchy, and filled with emotion. Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) was quick to remind us all to take a calm, steady approach to the rumors surrounding the two franchise touchstones.
Hi @neilsolondz, quick question. Is there any indication the #Rays are actively pursuing trades of Evan Longoria and Chris Archer — as they appear to be with Alex Colome — or does it seem like they are just actively listening in to offers to see if anything sticks? Thanks!
— X-Rays Spex (@XRaysSpex) December 12, 2017
To me this year is no different from any other in terms of way #Rays operate. If there’s more rumors about a player it may mean there’s more interest in that individual
— Neil Solondz (@neilsolondz) December 12, 2017