ST. PETERSBURG -- The Hot Stove League will be drawing to a close in the next several weeks, so now is the time to make a bold prediction for the Rays.
Here goes: The Rays will make a blockbuster trade, using one of the team's coveted starters to acquire an impact player for the future.
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Why should there be any credence to such a contention? For starters, such a move makes sense.
The Rays addressed two needs in the offseason by signing catcher Wilson Ramos to a two-year deal that could be worth as much as $18 million. Then news broke Monday that they had signed Colby Rasmus to play left field.
Both moves should be perceived Tampa Bay fans as good news. Teams that don't intend to be contenders don't make such moves.
Next, as absurd as this sounds, the Rays have too much starting pitching.
If Spring Training began today, Tampa Bay would have the following starters popping mitts on the back fields of the Charlotte Sports Complex:
Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, Alex Cobb, Blake Snell, Matt Andriese and Chase Whitley. Add to that list the likes of youngsters Jacob Faria, Christopher Guerrieri, Jaime Schultz, Austin Pruitt and Chih-Wei Hu.
Of that group, Archer, Odorizzi, Smyly and Cobb make the most money, and teams needing another starter would like nothing better than to have any one of them in their rotation.
But who would the Rays get in return in said hypothetical deal? That answer is hidden behind the front office's cloak of silence.
Just don't think for a minute the Rays will settle for what they get in return. For example, according to MLB Network's Peter Gammons, the Astros wanted Archer, but Tampa Bay turned down an offer that included Houston's top two pitching prospects, Frances Martes and David Paulino, and its second-ranked overall prospect in outfielder Kyle Tucker, along with two additional prospects.
The Rays have an opportunity to look to the future and bring aboard an impact player, much like Benjamin Zobrist, Archer, Smyly, Steven Souza Jr., etc., were brought aboard in the past.
Who is available? The Rays will never say. But Tampa Bay fans can play the "what if" game for the remainder of the Hot Stove League season. Just look at the teams hoping to land one additional starting pitcher, then look at MLB.com's list for that organization's top prospects. Would a prospect the likes of Corey Seager be available? Or an Addison Russell? Gary Sanchez?
Anything can happen, but experienced Rays fans know that the unforeseen player would likely be the player Tampa Bay acquired in the predicted blockbuster.
Now is the time to make a deal.