The Top 5 Tampa Bay Rays Most Likely To Be Traded Prior To 2012
It is no secret that the Tampa Bay Rays are one of the smartest organizations in baseball. With a roster that is constantly in flux, they have managed to make the playoffs three out of the past four seasons despite sharing a division with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. That’s an accomplishment most organizations only dream off.
As they prepare for the 2011 offseason, there are once again significant questions hanging over them. Despite success on the field, they have failed miserably in the stands. Unable to draw a crowd, the Rays are constantly forced to develop young talent while trading away their high-priced stars. A year ago saw Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena leave via free agency, while Matt Garza was shipped out via trade.
Who could be dealt away this season? Let’s take a look at the five most likely candidates:
5. James Shields – Starting Pitcher
I find it hard to believe that the team would move one of their aces at this point, but his name was bandied about around the trade deadline so there clearly is the potential for a deal, at least if they are overwhelmed.
Maybe it wouldn’t be that shocking, as in order to keep him the team will have to pick up a $7 million option (with $21 million in option for the subsequent two seasons). Considering the payroll handcuffs, it’s possible their hand is forced.
He’s coming off a career year, with a 2.82 ERA and 1.05 WHIP to go along with 225 strikeouts. He’s always had exceptional control and 2011 was no different (2.35 BB/9). True, he benefited from a little bit of luck (.258 BABIP, 79.6 percent strand rate), which could easily lead to a 2012 regression, but not enough to be overly concerned about.
He has proven to bring the triple threat of skills to the table with control, strikeouts and a good groundball rate (46. percent in ’11). He’d be nearly impossible to replace in the rotation, though the Rays may ultimately decide the price is too great. At the very least, we’ll be hearing his name in numerous trade rumors this winter.
4. Joel Peralta – Relief Pitcher
It is not a sexy name, but Peralta posted a 2.93 ERA and 0.92 WHIP out of the Rays’ bullpen in 2011. He’s arbitration eligible for the first time and, while his price tag likely won’t be exorbitant, the Rays could easily opt to save the money here and allocate it elsewhere on their roster.
The 35-year old right-hander had struggled prior to 2010, but over the past two seasons has emerged as a trustworthy option out of the bullpen. He’s struck out 110 batters while walking just 27 over 116.2 innings. Again, he won’t bring back a huge return but the cost conscious Rays could be forced to save wherever possible.
3. Wade Davis – Starting Pitcher
This one is a little bit out-of-the-box, especially with Davis set to earn just $1.5 million in 2012 and $2.8 million in 2013. However, it’s obvious that the Rays need to open a spot in the rotation for Matt Moore somehow. True, you can never have enough starting pitching, but the Rays treasure chest is overflowing and they have holes that need to be filled elsewhere.
An NL team could easily look at Davis and see the potential that is there if they get him out of the AL East. How much better would his 4.45 ERA look if you removed his performances against the Blue Jays (4.28 ERA over 33.2 IP), Orioles (5.55 ERA over 35.2 IP) and Yankees (9.64 ERA over 4.2 IP) look?
It wasn’t poor luck that was the culprit, as he posted a .280 BABIP and 72.1 percent strand rate. He just failed to generate strikeouts, with a 5.14 K/9. Considering his 8.74 K/9 over his minor league career, this is just another number that endorses how a move to the NL, and leaving the DH behind, would benefit him.
I could easily see a team like the Mets come calling and it’s very possible the two sides can come to an agreement. Regardless, if it’s Davis, Shields or someone else, I would bet that a starting pitcher is moved at some point this winter.
2. Kyle Farnsworth – Relief Pitcher
The team holds a $3.3 million option, which is far from unreasonable. However, they could easily decide to capitalize on an asset that could fail to replicate his 2011 success.
Farnsworth, with a career 4.25 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, posted a sparkling 2.18 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. The major difference was his pinpoint control. Earlier in his career it was routine to see BB/9 of 4.00 or worse, but he posted a miniscule 1.87 mark in ’11. Granted, the number has been trending down, but it seems like a long-shot that he can replicate that type of mark.
They have potential replacements on the roster, including Jake McGee (who was a pitcher many thought was an option for the closer’s job prior to Spring Training). Look for Farnsworth to be pitching in a setup role for another organization in 2012.
1. B.J. Upton – Center Fielder
This is the most obvious answer to the question as to who the Rays will move prior to 2012, isn’t it? It has nothing to do with his talent, as we all know he’s a potential perennial 20/20 center fielder (though everyone would like to see him strikeout less).
The fact of the matter is that he is eligible for arbitration and, after earning just under $5 million in 2011, could be in line to earn over $7 million next year. With Desmond Jennings capable of sliding over to center field, that’s a number that just doesn’t seem to fit into the budget.
With many teams craving this type of talent in center field (aka the Washington Nationals), the Rays will get top dollar in exchange for a talented player. It just makes too much sense.
It’s not a surprise that the Rays are going to have to make some moves, as the always do. Who do you think they are going to part with this year? Any thoughts on what they may be able to get in return?
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