[Note by Tommy Rancel] The final article in a series prepared by Steve Slowinski, who is away on leave
DRB Trade Deadline Handbook: The Ones We Really Want
Same disclaimer as before. Do I know if the Rays are actively considering any of these players? No, I have no inside sources or scoops; instead I'm relying upon my knowledge of the Rays' front office to inform my opinions. The order of this list is entirely subjective and shouldn't be taken as set in stone, nor should you treat it too seriously. Don't debate with me if you think Player X is ranked too high or low - I'm more concerned about if you believe Player X should be considered or not. Please feel free to pose comments, critiques, and especially commendations below.
5. Matt Thornton - RP
- Rest of Season Salary: $1.125M
- Rest of Season Projection: 3.28 FIP, 39 IP
- Contract Status: $3M club option for 2011, Type A or B free agent afterward
- Notes: Thinking of acquiring Matt Thornton makes me giddy. He's one of the best relief pitchers in the game - not to mention one of the best lefty relievers in the game - and he's signed to a very team-friendly contract through next season. While the Rays have been burned in the past by acquiring relievers signed to long-term deals, Thornton is a higher quality pitcher than any reliever the Rays have ever had (including 2008 Grant Balfour). He's posted a 1.72 FIP so far this season, averaging 13 K/9 (!!!) and 2.67 BB/9. He's got filthy stuff, generating a 15% SwgStr%, but he's a 33 year old player on a White Sox team that needs to get younger. He won't come cheap, but the White Sox could use some middle infield help...
4. Luke Scott - DH/OF
- Rest of Season Salary: $2M
- Rest of Season Projection: .357 wOBA, 7.4 wRAA (~0.7 offensive WAR)
- Contract Status: Eligible for arbitration for the next two seasons.
- Notes: From all the play that Luke Scott has gotten on DRB and on Twitter, this seems low for him. However, there are a couple reasons to be cautious when considering him. While Scott has posted an impressive wOBA this year in the AL East (.371) it is a career high number and he is 32 years old. Scott is much more likely to perform near his career level of a ~.360 wOBA, which is perfectly fine for a cheap midseason pick-up. If the Rays were to trade for him, though, what would they do with him after this season? Scott is eligible for arbitration these next two seasons and will likely get somewhere in the range of $5-8M in each of those years, and the Rays don't need another outfielder long-term. Would they decline to offer him arbitration and let him walk, getting nothing in return? Would they attempt to re-trade him? I don't like the idea of having an aging $6M DH/OFer on our roster indefinitely, which is why Scott is placed this low.
3. Paul Konerko - 1B
- Rest of Season Salary: $6M
- Rest of Season Projection: .373 wOBA, 13.5 wRAA (~1.4 offensive WAR)
- Contract Status: Free agent after season, potential Type A
- Notes: The only negative thing about Konerko is the money owed him this season; I don't know the state of the Rays' books, but an additional $6M might be outside their budget unless they're able to offload some contracts in the process or through another trade. If the Rays were able to take his salary on, though, Konerko would be an excellent addition to the team. Although he's 34 years old, he's still hitting the ball well and currently has an insane .420 wOBA. Even if he cools off to a more normal .370 wOBA, he's still one of the best offensive players that the Rays could add and would be a virtual lock to garner Type-A status at the finish of the season, giving the Rays two additional draft picks next year. Yes, please.
2. Adrian Gonzalez - 1B
- Rest of Season Salary: $2.4M
- Rest of Season Projection: .386 wOBA, 19.8 wRAA (~2.0 offensive WAR)
- Contract Status: $5.5M club option for 2011.
- Notes: If only San Diego wasn't in first place! Even though they would get a better return for Gonzalez by trading him this season, it seems unlikely that the Padres will deal Gonzalez while their team is still contending, especially considering that he's signed to such a team-friendly deal through next season. If he is placed on the trading block, though, the Rays would potentially be able to acquire a premier slugger without spending much money. Of course, they would have to give up a pretty penny in minor league talent and there would be lots of other teams bidding as well; it may not work out in the end, but the Rays would be silly not to inquire and give it a try.
1. Cliff Lee - SP
- Rest of Season Salary: $4M
- Rest of Season Projection: 3.08 FIP, 121 IP
- Contract Status: Free agent following 2010 season; Type A status
- Notes: When you take all the variables into consideration - cost, contract status, potential draft picks, and talent - Cliff Lee is a superb fit for the Rays. He's one of the three best pitchers in the majors, would only cost $4M, and would not lock the Rays in to a long-term contract. Instead, they'd be able to let Cliff Lee walk at the end of the season and get two draft picks back, off-setting the cost of acquiring him somewhat and re-opening a rotation spot for Jeremy Hellickson or Wade Davis. There are going to be lots of teams trying to acquire Lee, but the Rays have a deep farm system and major-league-ready talent like Wade Davis. Again, the odds are going to be steep, but the Rays should make a big push to get Lee. He's the steal of the trade deadline.