Both Carlos Pena, who turned down arbitration today, and Casey Kotchman are currently on the market. The Rays have mentioned that they’d prefer to have a lefty at first. Who will they sign? Any thoughts?
According to a Seattle Marniers team press release, the Rays have traded John Jaso to the Mariners for RHP Josh Lueke and a player to be named later, or cash considerations.
Jaso, 28, hit .224/.298/.354 in his first full year as the Rays second catcher behind Kelly Shoppach who, as you may recall, is now a free agent after Tampa Bay chose not to exercise his option a little more than a month ago.
Lueke, 27, was acquired by Seattle in the 2010 Cliff Lee deal, and posted a 6.06 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 25 appearances last season. I’m not too certain how I feel about Lueke’s, ahem, moral judgement, or lack there of. Strike that, I’m quite certain that I’m not psyched in any way, shape, or form about Josh Lueke’s lack of moral judgement by virtue of his 2008 entry into the annals of scummy human actions.
I can only imagine that this trade was the best possible means of getting rid of Jaso, without including him in a package deal. Nevertheless, to say that Lueke is not really the typical Rays player is akin to saying that water is wet; that is to say it’s stating the obvious.
All of this comes of the heals of the rumored signing of former Blue Jays catcher, Jose Molina. It’s been reported that the Molina deal is imminent, and the Rays are waiting for a clean bill of health to make that acquisition official. Dare I say a deal to re-obtain Shoppach on the cheap may be in line?
*December 7 Update*
To clarify, Matt Mangini was not acquired in the John Jaso trade. As per an update from the St. Petersburg Times Rays beat writer, Marc Topkin,
“The player to be named in the John Jaso/Seattle trade will not be named as a product of the Rule 5 draft.”
The Rays have signed three more players to minor league contracts: Juan Miranda, Matt Mangini, and Ricky Orta. Miranda, 28, looks particularly interesting. Miranda spent a good amount of the 2011 season with the Diamondbacks and posted a .717 OPS (on-base plus slugging) in 202 plate appearances. Mangini was acquired from the Mariners, though it’s (as of now) unknown whether he is the unspecified player that the Rays would receive in return from the John Jaso trade. You can see Miranda, Mangini, and Orta’s current statistics below.
Hooray for the Winter Meetings! The latest rumors coming out of Dallas surround 32-year-old LF Josh Willingham, and the Rays potential interest in signing him. Fox Sports baseball analyst tweeted earlier today that,
“while the Rays are not close on Willingham, they’re one of three to four finalists.”
As of the two o’ clock hour, nine teams including the Twins, Red Sox, Indians, and Reds, have also called on the free agent left fielder. The Pirates, too, have been connected to him.
Willingham had a .246 BA/.332 OBP/.477 SL batting line, including a career high 29 home runs in 563 plate appearances with the Athletics in 2011. A utility player of sorts, Willingham spent 823 1/3 innings in left field, in 2011. Of note also, he has experience in right field, and first base and designated hitter could be options as well. According to his agent Matt Sosnick (in an October tweet), he would probably sign a 3-year deal.
Though the Rays could be just doing their due diligence, the prospects of the Rays putting an offer on the table is interesting to say the least, especially if there is a legitimate chance that they do not re-sign 1B Casey Kotchman, or trade CF BJ Upton.
Willingham made $6 million last year, and though Tampa Bay is expected to increase their payroll, (if just slightly, somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million), a contract similar to Johnny Damon’s 2011 contact could be expected; a contact in the neighborhood of $5-$6 million with incentives.
*Tuesday, December 6th Update*
In a tweet by Fox Sports analyst, Jon Morosi noted that,
Yesterday the Rays mentioned that they would have to be “overwhelmed to move” Bossman Junior. However, an anonymous team source for the Nationals said that they are “fixated” on leaving the Winter Meetings with a new center fielder. Could the Nationals “overwhelm” the Rays with some sort of trade package? Could this news be indicative of more than just talks with the Willingham camp?
We here at Raysbaseball.co speculated a bit back, that there could be the potential of a trade involving John Jaso, Jeff Niemann, and Reid Brignac in order to make room for Matt Moore, and to supplement the roster.
Whether Tampa Bay attempts to re-sign Shoppach on the cheap or whether they look for a catcher on the market, fails to be seen at the moment. In any case, it’s probable that the Rays would send catchers Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos back to AAA Durham to mature in a not so expedited fashion.
It’s fair to assume that Niemann and Brignac would be included in some type of package deal since neither seem to hold too much trade equity on their own. More on this as it becomes available.