ST. PETERSBURG -- Despite a slow start to the season, the Rays are in prime position to make a second consecutive playoff appearance in 2020, and they could be in the market for some help at the Trade Deadline.
Though the Rays sit near the top of the American League standings, it hasn’t been easy for them. Tampa Bay has 10 pitchers sidelined due to injury with Yonny Chirinos, Brendan McKay, Andrew Kittredge, Colin Poche and Jalen Beeks all out for the season.
High-leverage relievers Nick Anderson, Oliver Drake, José Alvarado and Chaz Roe are also sidelined, as is Opening Day starter Charlie Morton. Through the injuries, the Rays have had a “next man up” mentality, but the depth is starting to run thin.
When the season started, it appeared that the Rays would have enough pitching to carry them through a 60-game season, but things haven’t gone according to plan. That’s where the Deadline comes in.
An important wrinkle to this year’s Deadline is that teams can only trade players who are part of their 60-man player pool (assigned either to the big league team or the alternate training site). Clubs are permitted to include players to be named later in trades, however. Additionally, scouts have not been allowed to attend games in person, so all assessments of prospects have been done based on provided video and data and past knowledge.
Let’s take a look at what the Rays might do at the Deadline.
Buyers, but at the right price. Because teams are only allowed to trade players from the 60-man player pool, the Rays will likely only include a top prospect in a deal if they’re receiving a player that would be under control for multiple seasons. Tampa Bay has a chance to win the World Series in 2020, but the club is not entirely going to change its business model in order to acquire a player for 25-30 games.
What they want
With all the injuries, the Rays will be in the market for pitching help -- both in the bullpen and in the rotation. Preferably, Tampa Bay would like to trade for a pitcher that is under team control for at least another season, but it could be a little more flexible due to the quality of pitching prospects that are in the organization, as well as the starting rotation in the Majors (when healthy).
If the Rays trade for a pitcher on an expiring contract, don’t expect them to give up much. But if Tampa Bay decides a pitcher can help it win a World Series this season and in the next couple of years, things could get pretty interesting.
What they have to offer
Because the Rays have a deep farm system, they have a couple of position player prospects to use to land an arm. The team already traded infielder Lucius Fox for outfielder Brett Phillips on Thursday, but infielders Kevin Padlo, Taylor Walls and Esteban Quiroz could be pieces for whom opposing teams could look to trade as all three could potentially play in the big leagues as early as this season and definitely in 2021. Outfielder Josh Lowe could be another option, but a team would have to make it worth it in order for Tampa Bay to part with him.
Chance of a deal
90 percent. It may not be a splash, but the Rays will be one of teams that makes a lot of phone calls over the next week, making it hard to envision a scenario where they don't add pitching help to the active roster.