Will the Rays be buyers or sellers come the Trade Deadline July 31? Unless they fall to dead last in the AL East, there’s absolutely no way the Rays are going to sell. Tampa Bay currently stands just a game out of playoff position, and if we’ve learned anything from the past season, it’s that the Rays are a team definitely capable of overcoming that.
Just because the Rays will be buyers at the deadline, however, doesn’t mean they won’t sell off any major assets. James Shields is one name that could be on the trade market in the next couple of weeks, regardless to the Rays’ position in the standings.
Due to his contract situation, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that Shields has been mentioned often in recent trade rumors. The Rays have a pricey $9 million option on the the 30-year-old right-hander next season, so if they don’t trade him away this month, they could lose him to free agency in the offseason. The Rays have three pitchers—Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Wade Davis—who could all replace him in the rotation, and the Rays would likely bolster their offense with some major-league ready talent as well as some prospects.
With Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce healthy in the lineup the Rays’ offense is much better than it than it’s been in the past month, but some disappointing performances from other bats in the lineup so far this season give the Rays a good reason to deal an arm for a bat. The Rays definitely see themselves competing this October, and they likely could be active at the deadline to give themselves the upgrade they need. There are a handful of teams out there that would love to add Shields to their rotation, the question will be how much the Rays are willing to deal him.
Shields is not the only arm that could be used as trade bait to bring in a bat. Alex Cobb and prospects like Chris Archer, Alex Torres and Alex Colome are other possibilities.
The Rays are reportedly seeking a young catcher and [relief] pitching. They’re also looking at shortstops and likely a corner outfield/DH right-handed power bats such a Alfonso Soriano, who has been all over trade rumors in the past month and could be a possibility for the Rays. The Rays could really use somebody like him who could platoon with both Matt Joyce and Luke Scott, who are both left-handed hitters.
The Rays are in it to win in 2012, and signing Soriano would really help the short-term cause.
After Shields, B.J. Upton is the next big name to be subject to trade rumors this year. There’s been Upton trade talks every July for the past three years, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out this year as he becomes a free agent after the season. Assuming the Rays won’t become sellers by July 31, however, it seems unlikely that they’ll trade him.
Over half the season is in the books for the Rays’ minor league affiliates. Tampa Bay’s top prospects have had a decent season so far, as some have farmhands have exceeded expectations while others have failed to meet them.
Thanks to good performances by some lower-level pitching prospects, the farm’s stockage of arms has become even stronger in 2012. First-round draft picks from the 2011 Draft Taylor Guerrieri, Blake Snell and Jeff Ames have all pitched well in their brief amount of time in pros.
Offensively, the Rays’ organization has not had too much production this year. Most of the team’s intriguing bats have been in Single-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery, which features Josh Sale, Hak-Ju Lee, Drew Vettleson and more.
Up in Triple-A Durham, two starting pitchers—Chris Archer and Alex Cobb—have made important contributions to the Rays this season filling in for injuries. There hasn’t really been any other notable big-league impacts from the minors this season, but there definitely could be more on the way.
Let’s take a look at the Rays’ organizational leaders, breakout prospects, excelling prospects, disappointments and a re-ranking of the top 10 overall prospects.
- Batting Average: Ryan Garko (.326, AA Montgomery)
- RBI: Henry Wrigley (61, AA Montgomery)
- OBP: Luke Maile (.432, Low-A Hudson Valley)
- HR: Henry Wrigley (16, AA Montgomery)
- Hits: Ty Morrison (100, AA Montgomery)
- Slugging Percentage: Henry Wrigley (.555, AA Montgomery)
Pitching Leaders (30 innings pitched minimum)
- ERA: Felipe Rivero (2.35, A Bowling Green)
- Strikeouts: Chris Archer (98, AAA Durham)
- Opposing Average: Enny Romero (.208, A+ Charlotte)
- Wins: Ryan Carpenter (A), Matt Torra (AAA), Jake Floethe (A) and Roberto Gomez (A) all with 8
Potential Breakout Prospects
- Ryan Brett – Brett has played very well in his first year in full-season ball, and is clearly on the road to a breakout year. The five-foot-nine second baseman is hitting .320 with 18 XBH and 27 RBI this season for Class A Bowling Green. He’s also been terrific on the bases, collecting 32 stolen bases through his 86 games.
- Taylor Guerrieri – Guerrieri has been the talk around the Rays’ lower-level minor league affiliates this season. Due to a minor injury, he’s started just three games this season with Hudson Valley (A-), but he’s only allowed one run in 13 innings pitched. Another positive sign is that he’s struck out 14 batters in those 13 innings.
- Drew Vettleson – Vettleson has been a huge offensive force with Bowling Green in his first year of full-season ball. He’s posted a .288/.350/438 with 43 RBI and eight homers. If Vettleson can keep up the good numbers, he’ll definitely move up the Rays’ top prospect ranks.
- Blake Snell – Selected in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft, Snell is on his way to a breakout season in 2012. In his five starts so far with Rookie League Princeton, Snell has posted a 3-0 record with a 0.40 ERA and a 10.3 K/9. It’s very early to make any conclusions, but the dominant numbers are hopefully a sign of something good to come.
- Jeff Ames – Snell’s draft mate, Jeff Ames, has also been excellent in his first five starts of the season. He’s 2-0 with a 1.12 ERA and a 8.6 K/9 thus far with Hudson Valley. Like Snell, these numbers are taken from a small sample size, but we hope Ames can stay on this track and breakout in 2012.
- Felipe Rivero – One of two Rays selected to the All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City, Rivero has made the most out of his promotion to full-season ball in 2012. In 16 starts for Bowling Green, he’s gone 6-7 with a 2.35 ERA and a 7.8 K/9. Rivero’s another young talented arm in the Rays’ system who’ll likely emerge as one of the organizations top pitching prospects soon.
- Alejandro Segovia – Segovia could become the Oscar Hernandez of 2012 in the Rays’ system. Like Hernandez, Segovia was an internationally signed catcher who was never heard of until starting to breakout in the minors. In his first year in full-season ball, he’s hit .246/.365/.538 with nine homers and 25 RBI. The power that he’s displayed is what has gotten people’s attention, and it could possibly lead him to a breakout year.
- Josh Sale – After a very disappointing 2011 season in Rookie League ball, Sale has bounced back with a solid start to his 2012 season with Bowling Green. He’s put up a .267/.389/.504 line with eight homers and 25 RBI in his 41 games with Bowling Green. As long as the power keeps coming for 21-year-old slugger, he’ll be moving up the ranks relatively quickly.
- Justin O’Conner – O’Conner’s 2012 story is similar to Sale’s. After two very disappointing seasons from 2010-2011, O’Conner has finally put up the numbers he’s capable of with short-season Hudson Valley this year. The Rays’ top catching prospect (entering the season) is hitting .292/.326/.506 with 10 RBI and two homers through 21 games.
- Todd Glaesmann – Yet another Bowling Green Hot Rod having himself a nice season, Glaesmann leads the team in RBI (49) and home runs (12). He has also put up a line of .283/.339/.476.
- Luke Maile – Picked in the eighth round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Rays, catcher Luke Maile has had a good start to his pro debut with Hudson Valley. He’s hitting .292 with 10 RBI and has posted an impressive OBP of .432.
- Jeff Malm – Another good bat from Bowling Green, Malm is enjoying his best season yet in the Rays’ organization. He’s hitting .284/.374/.493 with 10 homers and 42 RBI.
Other Excelling Prospects
- Derek Dietrich – Dietrich has enjoyed a solid season after being promoted to Class A+ Charlotte. He’s currently hitting .274/.342/.461 with nine longballs and 47 RBI.
- Mikie Mahtook – Mahtook is having a nice 2012 season with Charlotte as well, hitting .287/.350/.410 with 17 stolen bases and 35 RBI through 83 games. The power is the only thing the Rays would likely to see him improve on, as his home run total of four is a bit lower than expected.
- Henry Wrigley – Wrigley has been absolutely raking the ball in the minors this season. He’s played with both Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham this year, and has collected 61 RBI and 16 homers to go along with a strong .313/.364/.555 line.
- Ty Morrison – Morrison has slowly but surely progressed in the minors, and may be having his best season yet in 2012. He’s posted a .287/.357/.391 line with 38 RBI and 23 stolen bases for Charlotte and Montgomery this season.
- Ryan Garko – The former major leaguer never had a hard time hitting Double-A pitching with Montgomery ever since being signed by the Rays. Garko’s hitting .326/.425/.470 with six homers and 30 RBI, and surprisingly has not been called up to Durham yet.
- Omar Luna- Luna has hit well with Montgomery this year in his sixth season in the Rays’ organization. He’s hitting .311/.357/.375 with 46 RBI and 18 stolen bases.
- Leslie Anderson – Anderson has probably been Durham’s best hitter hitter all season long this year. He’s hit .308/.361/.449 with nine homers and 37 RBI so far this season, and has yet to earn his first promotion to the majors.
- Enny Romero – Romero joined Felipe Rivero as the only other Ray to be selected to the Futures Game. He’s spent the 2012 season in Charlotte, and has gone 3-3 with a 3.04 ERA in 14 starts for the Stone Crabs.
- Tim Beckham – Beckham has been a disappointment on and off the field ever since he was drafted by the Rays first overall in 2008. Many thought 2012 would finally be the year that Beckham would break into the big leagues, but he was hit with a big setback earlier this season. Beckham served a 50-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. On the field, he hasn’t been so great either. He’s currently hitting .233/.321/.336 with two homers and 15 RBI for Durham.
- Alex Torres – Torres entered the season unanimously considered one of the Rays’ top 10 prospects, and has yet to find his groove this season with Durham. He hasn’t had a hard time striking out batters, but he owns a 3-4 record with a high 6.84 ERA.
- Wilking Rodriguez – A shoulder injury ruined Rodriguez’s 2011 season, and he has never been the same since. He’s struggled so far in Charlotte, posting a 4-0 record with a 5.56 ERA.
Re-Ranking the Rays’ Top 10 Prospects
- 1) Taylor Guerrieri (RHP, A-)
- 2) Chris Archer (RHP, AAA)
- 3) Hak-Ju Lee (SS, AA)
- 4) Enny Romero (LHP, A+)
- 5) Drew Vettleson (OF, A)
- 6) Josh Sale (OF, A)
- 7) Alex Colome (RHP, AA)
- 8) Mikie Mahtook (OF, A+)
- 9) Felipe Rivero (LHP, A)
- 10) Ryan Brett (2B, A)
The first half of the Rays’ 2012 season was a tale of injuries. The Rays were simply a team that could not catch a break in the first half, battling through injury after injury to keep themselves afloat in the tough AL East division.
‘Disappointment’ could be a word used to describe the first half of the year, but considering all the adversity and misfortune surrounding them, the Rays’ could have been in a much worse position then they are now at the All-Star break. Fourteen players have spent time on the disabled list this season, including seven out of the nine hitters in the starting lineup [and Jeff Keppinger], two starting pitchers and 2011′s closer (Kyle Farnsworth).
The Rays got off to a hot start in the first quarter of the season, but then quickly faded in the second quarter as their numerous injuries started to catch up with them. The were hit with a huge blow when team leader Evan Longoria went down with a hamstring injury, and have obviously not been the same team offensively or defensively ever since. Then Matt Joyce—the team’s second-biggest run producer—hit the DL nearly three weeks before the All-Star break, weakening the offense to an even worse situation.
At the end of the day, the Rays aren’t exactly too thrilled with where they’re at in the standings at the midseason point, but they have to be pretty satisfied with their position considering the fact that they currently stand only a half-game out of a playoff spot. There’s still plenty of regular season ahead of us, and if anybody can make a second-half turnaround, it’s the Rays.
Let’s take a look at some surprises, disappointments, numbers and team awards from the first half.
Team average: .232 (28th in MLB)
Team on-base percentage: .314 (22nd in MLB)
Team wOBA: .305 (22nd in MLB)
Team runs per game: 4.22 (16th in MLB)
Team errors total: 71 (2nd highest in MLB)
Team ERA: 3.73 (10th in MLB)
Number of players that have landed on the DL: 14
Fernando Rodney has not only been the Rays’ most pleasant surprise of the 2012 season, but he has probably been the most pleasant surprise in all of baseball. Rodney has arguably been MLB’s best closer and reliever after the first half of the season. He’s 25 out of 26 in save opportunities and has posted a sparkling 0.93 ERA, earning him his first ever All-Star selection.
Absolutely nobody would have guessed the 35-year-old reliever—who was way past him prime entering the season—would have such an incredible year and become one of the team’s most valuable player, let alone the closer. Coming into spring training Rodney made it clear that he would fight for the closer role, and many simply laughed at his optimism. I think it’s well-known now that Fernando has gotten the last laugh.
Elliot Johnson has quietly been a somewhat productive hitter for the Rays this year. Johnson had very low expectations coming into the season, which he has definitely exceeded thus far.
He has posted a line of .275/.339/.386 with 22 RBI, a .328 wOBA and a 1.1 WAR. The stats don’t seems so great at first glance, but all four of the numbers listed are actually above the league average at the shortstop position. He has the third highest batting average on the team, and his fourth in wOBA and wRC+. As sad or funny as it is (depending on how you look at it), Johnson has been one of the Rays’ most consistent offensive players night after night.
Defensively, however, Johnson has struggled mightily. He owns a .960 fielding percentage at short with a -4.5 UZR and a -1 DRS.
Jeff Keppinger has been an excellent contact hitter for the Rays this season, and is the only Ray to hit over .300 so far (excluding Evan Longoria). His impressive .310/.362/.411 line and .339 wOBA is a surprise to most.
Keppinger hasn’t been exactly the team’s most productive player, but he is probably the most consistent base-hitter on the team.
Jose Molina stats pretty much tell the whole story for his disappointing 2012 season: A .190/.255/.321 line with four home runs and just 13 RBI. The Rays obviously signed him for his defense, but they never would have thought that he would create such a huge whole in the lineup like he has.
Defensively, Molina has done a pretty good job doing what he does best, throwing out baserunners. However, he hasn’t done well blocking balls, as he’s allowed three passed balls while rookie Jose Lobaton hasn’t committed a single one.
Luke Scott has not gave the Rays the production they expected when they signed him to a two-year deal worth $11 million last winter. He’s posted a very weak .205/.260/.409 line with 11 HR and somehow 42 RBI so far as the Rays’ DH this season.
His .205 ISO and RBI total of 42 suggest that he’s still hitting for power, but the 34-year-old slugger simply is not getting on base or hitting the ball enough. Scott’s 0-41 stretch that he had early this month pretty much sums up his first-half frustration.
Desmond Jennings has a pretty heavy burden being the Rays’ leadoff hitter ever since Opening Day, and has not exactly put up the adequate offensive numbers to be affective in that No. 1 spot in the lineup.
He’s posted a low .298 OBP with a poor .231 batting average. He’s also walked only 8.0% while putting up a high strikeout percentage of 21.3. Being the team’s biggest baserunning threat, getting Jennings on base is crucial for the Rays’ overall offensive success.
As long as Jennings continues to put up on-base percentages at .300 or under, the Rays are probably not going to be scoring too many runs.
1) Ben Zobrist
Ben Zobrist has not been the Rays’ best player by any means, but he has been the most valuable. He hit just .249 with 11 homers and 37 RBI, but he did post an impressive .371 OBP and .353 wOBA. Besides getting on base well, a big reason for his a high value is his ability to stay off the sidelines.
Out of the entire starting lineup, only he and Carlos Pena avoided the DL. With a team with as many injury issues as the Rays, just being on the field game after game is crucial for the team.
2) Fernando Rodney
I mentioned it earlier in the article; Fernando Rodney is likely baseball’s most dominant closer right now. I was very close to putting him atop the team MVP list over Zobrist, but Zorilla’s higher WAR gave him the edge.
To know that you’re chances of winning the game are extremely high every time you enter the final inning with the lead is really a special thing. The Rays have had that privilege in 2012 thanks to Rodney, who is really the reason the Rays have not completely fallen out of the AL East race right now.
3) David Price
As expected, David Price has lead the Rays’ talented rotation this year. The All-Star southpaw has had a great first half of the season, posting a 11-4 record with a 2.82 ERA and 105 strikeouts through 111.2 innings pitched. The numbers say it all for Price, who has lived up to all the expectations thus far in 2012.
Honorable Mention: Matt Joyce (.279/.387/.512, 11 HR, 34 RBI)
The Rays’ front office has been busy ever since last summer, mulling over possible deals to move their surplus of starting pitching for a bat. They have yet to make that anticipated move, and trade talks are likely just starting heat up again now.
Have they Rays regretted not dealing starting pitching for hitting when they had a chance? I highly doubt so, as pretty much all of the Rays’ struggles this season are because of the numerous injuries that have hit the team. They really could have used better depth offensive-wise, but the starting pitching they decided not to trade away has also come in handy.
If there’s one thing the Rays have learned after [nearly] the first half of the 2012 season, it’s that they can no longer depend so much on the key bats in their lineup to stay healthy and produce consistently throughout the entire year.
That’s exactly why I believe it’s time for the Rays to finally trade starting pitching in order to bolster their lineup. Their offense was anemic in the month of June, and three of the four left-handed power bats (Carlos Pena, Hideki Matsui and Luke Scott) are hitting under .200.
Even with Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce back in the lineup the Rays lack a decent bat off the bench, at least outside of Jeff Keppinger.
So if the Rays do turn to the trade market in search of a bat this month, who could they target? And which arm could they be willing to deal?
Let’s start with the latest name to hit Rays trade trade rumors, Alfonso Soriano. There’s no room in the Rays’ outfield for the 36-year-old left fielder, but he would be an excellent addition as a pinch-hitting bat off the bench. Being a more effective hitter against left-handed pitching than Joyce, the Rays could also platoon and start him against lefties.
Soriano’s .269/.325/.484 line with 15 home runs and 46 RBI isn’t exactly sparkling, but it would definitely give the Rays’ offense a big boost. As you can see from the numbers, he can hit pretty well for power, something that the Rays are in serious need of at the moment. It would be great if the Rays could acquire Soriano before the deadline, especially considering how much of an upgrade he would be as a backup outfielder/pinch-hitter over Matsui.
If the Rays were to trade for Soriano, they probably (and should) deal some of their surplus of starting pitching. Alex Torres is a legitimate option, along with Alex Cobb and Chris Archer. The Cubs are in need of starting pitching, but then again they’re really in need of everything.
Besides Soriano, there haven’t been many specific names come up recently in Rays deadline rumors. There are two specific positions, however, that the Rays are in desperate need of. The production at shortstop—both offensively and defensively—has been extremely low ever since 2011. The other hole on the Rays roster is at the catching position, where the production has been even worse.
The Rays’ two catchers (Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton) are hitting .200 and .214 respectively with very little power. Therefore, there are three [underachieving] names that come to mind who could be on the market this month: Nick Hundley, Kurt Suzuki and Ramon Hernandez
Let’s start with Hundley, who could be the largest possibility for the Rays from the three. Hundley—who agreed to a contract extension with San Diego this spring—is hitting .166 with the Padres this season, and was recently demoted to the minors to make room for top prospect Yasmani Grandal. With Grandal’s emergence, the Padres no longer have much use in Hundley. His awful offensive numbers are definitely a red flag, but he is good defensively and did hit .288/.347/.477 last season.
Oakland’s Kurt Suzuki is another overpaid and underperforming backstop, who has likely been on the Rays’ radar ever since the offseason began. He’s hitting .214/.251/.262 without any homers and just 16 RBI, but he does lead the league in caught-stealing percentage. It’ll be interesting to see if the Rays pursue him for the deadline.
Last but not least, Colorado’s Ramon Hernandez could be a possibility for the Rays at the trade deadline. The 36-year-old catcher has the ability to hit with some power, and is a pretty solid defender. He’s only played 27 games this year due to a hand injury and is currently hitting .215 and has hit four homers. However, he hit .282/.341/.446 last year and threw out 37% of base-stealers.
As for shortstops, there aren’t as many options as there are at the catcher position. However, Marco Scutaro is one name that will likely be available at the trade deadline. His playing time has been so significant this season in Colorado mainly because of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki’s injury issues. Scutaro has hit .285/.336/.385 with the Rockies this year, numbers that should give the Rays a nice offensive upgrade at the position. Also keep in mind that the Rockies would love to bolster their starting rotation, which is another good reason why they could get into some serious talks over Scutaro before the end of the month.