Yesterday we presented our updated Trade Value Index (TVI). With a little over a week until next Thursday’s trade deadline, rather than take a look at the players the Rays may target we will take a look at the players most likely to be sent packing should Andrew Friedman and Co. decide to pull the trigger on a deal.
Gerry Hunsicker, Rays’ Senior VP for baseball operations and Friedman’s guru, has made two of the best deadline deals in recent memory. In 2004, Hunsicker landed Carlos Beltran and 6 years earlier he traded for Randy Johnson. While the Astros failed to reach the World Series in either year, both Beltran and Johnson were key figures in Houston’s playoff runs.
On the other hand Friedman sounds more like a guy that is willing to sit on the talent in place.
Keep in mind all of the “rumors” in the media recently are 99% speculation. They have a simple formula and the Rays always fit the formula. The media looks at a player and picks the teams still in contention that would view that player as an improvement. Then they decide which teams have the stronger farm system. The Rays will almost always satisfy both criteria.
The problem is the Rays are not like most ball clubs and are in the process of redefining success for small-market clubs. We feel that the Rays are more likely to follow the blueprint of the Angels who rarely make in-season deals and prefer to hold on to their homegrown talent.
That being said, there is still a chance the Rays will swing a deal for a mid-level player such as a middle reliever to add depth to a staff that has suffered a number of injuries. There is also a need for a right-handed hitting outfielder as the Rays have struggled against lefties this season and possibly a utility infielder that is an upgrade over Ben Zobrist and can serve as a backup shortstop.
So if a trade is made, which players are most likely to be used as bait…
Jason Hammel 3:2
Any deals involving pitchers will almost certainly involve Hammel to open a spot in either the bullpen or the rotation (with either Edwin Jackson or Andy Sonnanstine moving to the bullpen). Hammel can still bring the heat with a mid-90s fastball, but do any teams still think he can be a starter?
Jeff Niemann 2:1
While other teams will certainly ask for David Price, Wade Davis or Jeremy Hellickson, Niemann is the piece of value that the Rays would prefer to trade. While certainly Niemann’s star shines less brightly these days, he is still young, and very big and he has a lot of upside.
Jonny Gomes 3:1
Like Hammel, any deal for a right-handed hitting outfielder will almost certainly involve Gomes going in the other direction. Nobody doubts Gomes’ power or his intensity, and if given regular playing time, he could be a solid DH or outfielder for another team.
Fernando Perez 7:2
Perez has loads of talent but he still struggles with strikeouts. The Rays have no room in center with BJ Upton but could Perez play right field in ’09 and be the Rays leadoff hitter? Or is he expendable? Like Niemann, Perez is one player we can see the Rays using as trade-bait.
Ben Zobrist 5:1
Whether as a utility infielder or a starting shortstop, Benny Boo Boo has proven that he can be a major leaguer. He will never be an all-star, but there are plenty of teams out there with worse options plaing short or second.
Mitch Talbot 5:1
Talbot would not be the key player in a trade, but he could be the arm that puts a deal over the top. He is a bit of a tweener. He has shown flashes of brilliance, like his performance in ’06 SL playoffs, but he has been very up-and-down since moving to Durham. There is some upside and there does not seem to be a future for him with the Rays.
Dale Thayer 7:1
Thayer who seemed destined to be a career minor leaguer, has blossomed this season in Durham with a 1.43 ERA and 57Ks in 50.1 innings with only 17 walks. With Jeff Niemann and Juan Salas also in Durham as bullpen insurance, Thayer is certainly expendable. He is also Rule 5 eligible this winter, so now may be a good time to move him.
Eric Hinske 7:1
Hinske is a free agent at the end of the year, and with Gabe Gross and a healthy Cliff Floyd, Hinske is certainly expendable. But he has also been one of the Rays better hitters this season. Would the Rays risk moving an offensive contributor with the offense struggling a bit?
Juan Salas 8:1
If the Rays don’t trade for a relief pitcher, Salas is probably the next guy up from Durham when somebody is needed. He has pitched well for Durham, with a 2.12 ERA and 38Ks in 34 innings with only 8 walks. Might somebody be enticed by the comparisons of Salas’ cutter to Mariano Rivera’s?
James Houser 8:1
Like Jeff Niemann, Houser is another name that the Rays will counter with when teams ask for one of the big pitching prospects. He is a tall lefty with some upside. Could be more tempting than a Mitch Talbot.
Justin Ruggiano 8:1
Ruggiano is similar to Mitch Talbot in that he is a bit of tweener. He posts good numbers in triple-A and could be serviceable as a 4th outfielder in the major leagues, but does he have a future with the Rays? Again, would not be the key player in a trade, but he could be the bat that puts a deal over the top.
Joel Guzman 10:1
Won’t be 24 until November, and while he has a ton of power and a very good glove with plenty of positional flexibility, he still strikes out way too much (88 in 355 ABs this year) and his OBP is embarassing (.271). He will also be out of options in ’09, so a move now or this winter may be necessary. Might somebody else be tempted by the talent?
Shawn Riggans 10:1
To us, this is the most intriguing name on the list. Riggans can hit. He still has plenty of room for improvement behind the plate and he is not that young (even for a catcher; 28 in a few days). The Rays also have Mike DiFeLice in Durham. DiFelice will be on the team in September no matter what happens, but would Maddon prefer DiFelice on a potential playoff roster? There is also John Jaso who was recently promoted to Durham and could make Riggans even more expendable.
Reid Brignac 10:1
Have the Rays soured a bit on Brignac? We can’t see Brignac being traded, especially until Tim Beckham shows that he is a major leaguer-in-waiting. And there is also that open right field slot in ’09. Could the Rays give Brignac a shot at RF in spring training? Still, no matter what the plans are, teams will ask for Brignac. Will the Rays bite?
Dan Johnson 12:1
Having a huge season since being demoted to Durham. Unfortunately, he has shown little or no power in the majors and has very little positional flexibility for a guy that is better suited for a bench role. Still, he has big league experience which a NL contender might value.
Al Reyes 15:1
A free agent at the end of the year, but has been struggling with injuries which make him more valuable to the Rays than to any suitor.
Chris Mason 15:1
Would anybody want him?
Gary Glover 20:1
Grant Balfour 50:1
Another name that is very intriguing to us. If there is any inkling in the Rays front office that this recent run by Balfour is a fluke, then now is the time to trade the power righty and sell high. But everything we have seen indicates that Balfour is the real-deal and maybe he just needed to find some confidence which he has plenty of right now.