Every winter the national media writes from the same template: “The Rays have to trade a starting pitcher for more offense.” And outside of the Matt Garza deal, in which the Cubs gave the Rays an offer they couldn’t refuse, and the occasional ho-hummer (e.g. Jason Hammel for Aneury Rodriguez), the Rays go into the season without making a trade and are content to hoard their starting pitchers.
But as the Hot Stove season heats up, this winter feels a little different. There just seems to be a little more chatter about the Rays and their starting pitchers. Maybe it is wishful thinking from other teams. Or maybe it is more media with sources in the front office (something that has been very rare in years past). Or more likely, this is the winter the Rays have finally decided that pitching is not enough to win and that they need a little more offense.
And in the last couple of days we have seen a couple of more signs that the Rays are indeed planning on moving a pitcher for the best deal rather than holding out for the perfect deal. The first is this quote from Joe Maddon about trading a starter (via Marc Topkin)…
“I’ve come to grips it may happen …. hope it doesn’t happen.”
If you want to read between the lines, it sure sounds like Maddon met with Andrew Friedman and was told that there is a good chance one of his starters is not going to be back next year.
And if the Rays weren’t sure before, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says the market for Zack Greinke might put them over the top. One agent told Heyman that Greinke might get as much as $185 million as a free agent. And if that happens, the teams that don’t sign Greinke could turn their attention to the Rays’ starting pitchers, who might be better options than overpaying for lesser free agents.
When the off-season started I would have said there was a 10% chance the Rays trade a starting pitcher. But as we enter December, I can now say that I will be surprised if all of the starting pitchers are back for the 2013 season.