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2018 MLB Trade Deadline: Are the Tampa Bay Rays going to be buyers or sellers?

The Rays already have a young team, but have some interested pieces they could deal.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

As we approach July 31, 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.

Tampa Bay Rays: 44-44, 3rd in the AL East

The Rays are .500, but they are unfortunately in a spot where a playoff spot in 2018 is unlikely. They are 16 games back of the Red Sox in the rugged AL East and 11 games behind the much-improved Mariners for the second wild card.

That being said, though, the Rays are probably going to be cautious sellers this summer. They already have a pretty young roster, as they are tied for the third-youngest team in the majors with the Reds (27.2 years old) and are only older than the Phillies (26.3) and Pirates (26.9). Despite the amount of youngsters they boast, they also have a few veterans who they could possibly deal in the coming weeks so they can add to their future core of players.

What moves have they made so far?

The Rays made the first big trade of the season on May 25 by trading closer Alex Colome and Denard Span to the now-contending Mariners for pitching prospects Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero.

Three weeks prior to that move, they had completed their February trade with the Diamondbacks by receiving pitching prospects Sam McWilliams and Colin Poche as the players to be named later in the deal in which they sent Steven Souza to Arizona. The Rays also acquired lefty Anthony Banda from Arizona and second baseman Nick Solak from the Yankees since it was a three-way deal that took place.

By adding the four arms, the Rays are building pitching depth in their farm system, something they desperately needed, but they know they have to add more talent that is capable of becoming impact players for them in the majors.

Who could they sell?

Tampa Bay has a number of players of interest to contending teams, according to Bill Chastain of MLB.com. Among them are Nathan Eovaldi, include Matt Duffy, Chaz Roe, Wilson Ramos, Sergio Romo and Chris Archer.

The big name on the list is Archer, who when healthy has been one of the top young arms in the game since debuting for the Rays in 2012. The two-time All-Star, who has drawn interest from the Yankees, Astros, Brewers and Cardinals, has been out since June 2 with a left abdominal strain, but is set to make his return on Monday.

Though he had so-so production (3-4 record with a 4.24 ERA in 13 starts) before the injury, what makes Archer enticing is that he has possibly three more years of control. He is under contract through 2019, but has club options for 2020 at $9 million ($1.75 million buyout) and 2021 at $11 million ($250K buyout), respectively. Archer’s friendly contract can help any contender for the next three and a half seasons. However, the Rays have always had the asking price for Archer incredibly high, so they may not decide to deal him just yet.

Eovaldi has drawn some interest after posting a 3.93 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP in 41 13 innings pitched across seven starts. According to Chastain, scouts and representatives from the Cubs, Phillies, Red Sox and Braves watched the 28-year-old right-hander pitch last Monday against the Marlins. Eovaldi is in his final year of a two-year deal with the Rays after having to miss all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Rays would like to get some nice piece or two in return for him given that starting pitching is always in demand and he had made over 20 starts in four of his five previous seasons before 2017.

Ramos is a big chip for the Rays, as he is in line to become the starting catcher for the American League at the All-Star game after being two years removed from tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee. The 30-year-old catcher is a free agent after this season, but there are contenders who can use him for the next couple of months. One of them is his old team in the Nationals, who have lacked having a top catcher since he departed at the end of 2016 and signed a two-year deal with the Rays. The Astros, Red Sox, Brewers and Diamondbacks also could look into his services. Regardless, he is the one player on Rays’ roster who is performing at the highest level at the right time, so they should try to get whatever they can for him in return.

Duffy, Roe and Romo were all acquired by the Rays just last year. Like Archer, Duffy and Roe are under control for at least the next two seasons, as Duffy is a free agent after the 2020 season and Roe is eligible to hit the market after 2021. Because of their contract situations, the Rays could try to shop Duffy and Roe in hopes of getting solid returns on both of them. As for Romo, he has been the Rays’ closer since Colome was traded, but the 35-year-old has mostly excelled as a setup man during his 11-year career. He also has won three World Series titles (all with the Giants in 2010, ‘12 and ‘14), so his postseason experience would be tremendously valuable to a contender and the Rays would ideally like to sell that in hopes they can get a quality piece or two before he bolts for free agency after the season.

Predictions

The Rays will make a couple of moves before the deadline, as they will deal Eovaldi and Ramos.

Because of the demands for starting pitching, the Rays will be able to swing a deal involving Eovaldi. As for Ramos, the Rays will capitalize on his production this year and send him back to Washington for some prospects.

A deal involving Archer would be huge news, but the Rays will hang on to him for another year so they can see if he will return to form from his injury. They may try to move him in the offseason, when he still may be one of the top arms on the trade market.

Whatever moves they decide to make, they have to be able to show that they can compete with the Red Sox and Yankees, who both have strong cores of young players, for the foreseeable future.