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2016 MLB Trade Deadline Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

A look at what the Rays will do in advance of the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As we approach August 1, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.
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Tampa Bay Rays: 33-46, 5th in the AL East

It’s the second season of the post-Andrew Friedman era in St. Petersburg, and the Rays are already out of playoff contention despite some high hopes heading into the season. Significant injuries to Kevin Kiermaier, Logan Forsythe and Brad Boxberger paired with struggles from Chris Archer, Matt Moore and Drew Smyly have caused a perfect storm of shortcomings for the Rays, who were hoping to contend on the basis of a young, effective pitching staff.

Though their 11-game losing streak is over, it appears too late for the Rays to turn things around and make a serious run for the playoffs in a division with four teams playing at .500 or better. With that said, they’re likely to do what they have always done: trade controllable starters in an effort to rebuild.

Despite the struggles from Archer (4.76 ERA), Smyly (5.33 ERA) and Moore (4.67 ERA), all three pitchers will almost certainly draw strong interest over the next month as teams look to deal for them while their values are low.

What moves have they made so far?

Tampa Bay has already made two small trades this season— both involving players who were designated for assignment. First, the Rays shipped Jhan Marinez to the Brewers for cash considerations in May, then acquired outfielder Oswaldo Arcia from the Twins late last month for a player to be named later.

Neither move will have a significant impact on this season, though some view the pickup of Arcia as a shrewd deal that could pay off in the future.

Are they buyers or sellers?

The Rays are clear sellers in advance of the trade deadline, and will primarily draw interest from clubs looking for starters or relievers.

Interestingly, none of Tampa’s major-league pitchers are free agents after this season, meaning the team shouldn’t be in a rush to deal them. While some contenders (like the Athletics with Rich Hill and the Phillies with Jeremy Hellickson) must move quickly to redeem value for their rental starters, the Rays have the option of waiting until the offseason (or next summer) with a stock of young, controllable arms who will be heavily sought after.

The Rays, according to a major-league source, are not actively trying to move anyone in advance of the deadline but are well aware of the weak pitching markets that will exist both this summer and in the offseason. Pitching will be at a premium considering the lack of aces available both now and this winter, causing Tampa to wisely explore a variety of possibilities.

Who could they trade?

A blockbuster deadline deal involving the Rays is considered unlikely at this time, as the chances of a move involving Archer, Forsythe or veteran third baseman Evan Longoria were described by a source as “slim” over the weekend.

For starters, Moore, Smyly and righty Jake Odorizzi could likely be had for the right price before the deadline, as Tampa appears willing to listen on all three. Moore is already drawing interest from multiple teams, including the Rangers, with Odorizzi already being linked to the Marlins. Odorizzi has also drawn interest from the Dodgers and Giants over the past year, according to a source. Los Angeles may be in the market for a pitching addition, even after acquiring Bud Norris on Thursday. Smyly is available, and the Rangers have liked him in the past.

All of the team’s potentially available starters are under team control: Smyly through 2018, Odorizzi through 2019, Moore through 2019 on a team option, and Archer through 2021 on an option.

No relievers appear untouchable in trade talks, according to sources, though it would take a haul to get Alex Colome, who has posted a 1.76 ERA as the team’s closer and is controllable through 2020. Xavier Cedeno and Erasmo Ramirez have posted solid seasons, and the Dodgers were looking hard at Ramirez before the Norris trade.

For position players, the Rays appear especially willing to move Steve Pearce, according to a source. Pearce has had a quietly solid season (.322/.393/.540) and is a free agent at the end of the year, providing a potential option for teams looking for offense. First baseman Logan Morrison has struggled, but is also a pending free agent and could be moved.

Predictions

Despite their position in the standings, it appears the Rays will only be cautious sellers. It makes sense, considering that there’s no rush to deal any of the four controllable starters.

If Tampa Bay is blown away by an offer for Moore, Smyly or Odorizzi in the next month, they should pull the trigger. If not, they may be wise to hold onto all three of them in hopes they regain some value in the second half of the season and position themselves for the offseason trade market. The Rays will hold a power position this winter if they have four available, controllable arms; the free-agent market is expected to be dreadful.

Pearce appears likely to be dealt, and the Rays would be smart to do so considering his strong season. Though he is a native of nearby Lakeland, the team could always re-sign him again in free agency this winter (albeit at a price higher than the $4.75 million they paid for him last offseason). A couple relievers could also go, and they’ll draw interest.