If you're looking for the homerun derby open thread it's right below this one.
With all the trade talk buzzing around it's probably time we took looks at the 10 most commonly mentioned targets as well as some of the potential trading chips from the Rays system. In doing so we'll examine the years left, salary, and most importantly the performance we could expect while weighing the pros and cons of each option.
Jason Bay OF Pittsburgh: signed through 2009 with an annual salary of 6.625 million
Bay is without a doubt the hottest name on the market thanks to the 29 year old having a rejuvenated season. Assuming Bay is about a win and a half better than the average player for the stretch despite poor defense thanks to knee injuries leaving questions about how well and long he would hold up on Tropicana Field's turf. Of course it's possible the option of placing him as the designated hitter two times a week could alleviate some of that damage. A career left fielder Bay has spent over 5,700 innings in left and 282 innings between center and right, even then only eight of those innings were in right field. Assuming Bay can be around three wins better than an average player next season and the Rays decided against re-signing him but offered him arbitration Bay would grab the Rays two first round compensatory draft picks in 2010. Of course if by whatever tragedies and jinxes land the Rays in the sellers' pool next July Bay could be dealt at the deadline for whatever prospects a two month rental can land.
Matt Holliday OF Colorado: signed through 2009 with an annual salary of 7.225 million.
The second hottest outfielder on the market, Holliday is a bit more complicated for two reasons: 1) The Coors Field effect, 2) David Price reportedly the target. Assuming reason two is complete and utter fluff reason one can't be as easily discarded as a worry. Holliday is likely around or above a .875 OPS away from Coors but with no need to move him the Rockies can sit steadily proclaiming Holliday as a 1.000 OPS player. Historically an above average left fielder Holliday is listed as below average this season, but not by much, a shift to right field probably doesn't help him much. Taking the positional change as well as the league and park changes into consideration Holliday is still probably worth around two and a half wins over a full season. Nearly four wins over a season and a half is far from awful, however you have to keep coming back to the point that the Rockies will almost definitely sell higher than they should be able to. Scott Boras is Holliday's agent; the Rays don't exactly have a rosy relationship with him despite the Carlos Pena extension.
Xavier Nady OF Pittsburgh: under team control through 2009, enters ARB3.
The second of three Pirates we'll touch on, Nady is the other coveted corner outfielder -- one of which should likely be moved for a Nate McClouth relocation. Nady is a lesser known commodity with right fielder experience, although he doesn't seem to be particularly a glove demon, he's done an above average job this season and two of the three seasons since landing in Pittsburgh. Nady is worth three wins this season due to his incredible first half, but let's assume he reverts to his old self and becomes a one win player next half and cap his number for a season and a half around two and a half to three wins. The Pirates would be wise to sell high, and the Rays would be much smarter to avoid the presumably inflated price tag since Nady is a nice player, but definitely not worth the farm, the tractor, or the farmer's wife, but maybe the wife's tractor and a few eggs, unless of course the Rays feel Nady has legitimately turned the corner on his career.
Casey Blake Corner Fielder Cleveland: signed through 2008 at 6.1 million.
What would a trade post be without a little speculation? Try this for instance, why did Andrew Friedman pick the Cleveland series to watch the team live for a few games? Maybe it's a pure coincidence, but with some murmurs last weekend about the Rays being interested in Blake the Indians definitely obliged by placing him in the middle of the order and at first three of the games with a cameo at third. Blake isn't really what the Rays are looking for - considering he's essentially a right handed Eric Hinske - but if he's used as purely as Jonny Gomes replacement he's not bad; he sees over four pitches per plate appearance and has a decent grasp on the zone. He's only worth a win a season, which is reasonable considering his price shouldn't be too great, and he's a type B free agent, meaning the Rays would get a first round supplemental pick if they decide to let him walk which they probably should, considering Blake turns 35 in late August.
Matt Murton OF Oakland: under team control through at least four more seasons
The red-headed stepchild of the outfielder class - get it, get it?! - Murton probably carries the least cost and would fill in best if a platoon is what the Rays hope to continuing using. A decent fielder in left we'll have to assume he drops off slightly in right field, but otherwise it's hard to get a true read on Murton in the majors. In 2007 he received 261 plate appearances and in 2006 over 500, what doesn't make a ton of sense is that Murton did a really good job in 2006, playing above average at the plate and in the field and making himself a two win player, but had his playing time split in half; Murton responded by becoming a one win player in half of the time. Either as a member of a platoon or a full time starter Murton would seem to be an above average player all ready, and with his cost controlled by the team for the foreseeable future, which should include his statistical prime.
Brian Fuentes LHP Colorado: signed through 2008 at 5.05 million.
The 32 year old Fuentes is death to lefties and righties alike as we've covered in the past. As a-on-again-off-again-now-a-closer-now-a-setup-man Fuentes has been a target of teams for the past few seasons. The Yankees and Red Sox surely have their eyes on him, which not only will raise his price, but perhaps also the urgency in which the Rays would acquire him. Fuentes has been good for five pitching runs above average this season, and he's probably good for around five down the stretch. Fuentes is a type-A free agent, meaning he'll bring the Rays back two early draft picks if he decides he'd really rather play out his career elsewhere, but the price might be too high for a rental.
Ron Mahay LHP Kansas City: signed through 2009 at 4 million annually.
The Rays were in fierce pursuit this past off-season of Mahay. They settled for Trever Miller, but with the Royals potentially selling off the older parts for some midrange prospects Mahay makes as much sense for the Rays as anyone. Mahay has pitched 11 runs above average this season, but that's quite a bit over his career average, much like his innings total. Assuming he's a one, maybe one and a half win reliever over the next season and a half a lower level prospect would seem to be the price.
Damaso Marte LHP Pittsburgh: signed through 2009 at a 4 million average.
Finally we can get rid of the Pittsburgh targets by discussing Marte. He seems to make a ton of sense, perhaps more than Mahay. Marte's ceiling is a two win reliever, something he achieved back with the White Sox in 2003, but his mid-range seems to be around half of a win, which is fine for a guy who will probably give you around 60 innings. The Pirates have indicated they aren't actively looking to deal Marte, but "looking" and "listening" is not the same thing.
Jon Rauch RHP Washington: signed through 2010 at a 2.1 million average.
Another former south side member, Rauch is a 29 year old who is currently having his fourth straight good season. He's been worth nearly a 1.5 wins this year, but even if he regresses to being worth say two wins over the length of his contract that's still quite reasonable for a set-up/closer type. Rauch doesn't seem like a relief ace, but then again relief aces are rarely available as it is, he's just a really good reliever with an extremely reasonable contract that has normal throwing tendencies - unlike the oddball lefties on the list.
Huston Street RHP Oakland: under team control through 2010, entering ARB2 this off-season.
No list would be complete without Street's presence. He's probably slightly better than Rauch when you consider Street is five years younger. Early in Streets career he was worth two wins, last year he was worth a win, and with a few struggles this season Street will likely end up around a half win, but worth two wins over the next two seasons. If one doesn't get caught up in the mythology surrounding the closer it's possible Beane would trade for less than an arm and a leg. Why? Because Beane is open to trading anyone at anytime, and apparently walked away from extension talks earlier this season.
Now that we've looked at the targets, what about the bullets the Rays will use in their gun to acquire them?
Reid Brignac 22 years old SS
His recent stint completely irrelevant to the decision making process. Brignac is still very young, but he doesn't appear close to reaching the point where's above average with the bat and glove at the same time.
Jeff Niemann 25 years old RHP
Talbot got the call over Niemann before it was known to be a 72 hour stop and drop. Prone to flyballs and long innings Niemann would probably be a reasonable four/five as it stands, but he's starting to get a little too old to be considered a prospect.
Wade Davis 22 years old RHP
Perhaps the most valuable of non-Price arms? He had a little bit of a problem at AA, but recently got told he'll be in Durham post-break.
Jeremy Hellickson 21 years old RHP: Rays personnel who have seen Hellickson seem to love him.
Christopher Mason 23 years old RHP: Has hit a bit of a wall in AAA, might still have some trade value as a potential pen arm.
Mitch Talbot 24 years old RHP: Another possible reliever.
James Houser Jr. 23 years old LHP: Having an extremely strong showing this season.
Fernando Perez 25 years old CF: Speedster with some on-base skills. Think Joey Gathright, and that probably accurately describes his future with the Rays, although he's brilliant.
John Jaso 24 years old C/DH: Almost features a 2/1 BB/K ratio this season, and 1/1 for his career.
Nick Barnese 19 years old RHP: A sleeper trade target from last year's draft class.
Let's assume of those players only Niemann, Talbot, and Perez could play at the majors at this point, even then only Niemann would likely be above average, and only two wins. Talbot and Perez would probably approach one win, with no guarantees either would reach it. Essentially with the remaining prospects you're discussing future value - the younger the player the wider the range, both high and low. Where as we can guess Brignac is probably a two win player during most of his career there's no solid ground for a player like Tim Beckham.
So, it's probably time to answer the question that folks have thrown at me for a while: well what would you do? I'm going to assume that one thing is simply not happening: the Rays signing Barry Bonds. I think it's possible David Price is up this season, but maybe in a relief role. Working with that in mind there's only one trade that I've absolutely fallen in love with and it shouldn't be any surprise what it is.
Trade Reid Brignac, Fernando Perez, and Nick Barnese for Huston Street and Matt Murton.
Here's my math:
Brignac over six years is worth, let's say, around 10 wins, Perez around five, and Barnese probably two, since frankly I don't expect him to be MLB ready for three or so seasons.
That's 17 wins above average.
Street over three seasons is worth about four, maybe five wins and four seasons worth of Murton playing some platoon some full time worth six.
So around 11 wins above average.
But the Rays losing six wins above average so that's a bad deal right? Well, until you consider that none of the players given up are realistically helping this season and probably not next season. Six seasons of Street and Murton are worth 11 wins compared about 15 seasons worth of our package is worth 17 wins. The math isn't exact, and I'm being optimistic on every case, but can anyone see Brignac being a three win player, or Perez more than a single win player?
So why would Oakland do this? They're getting a young shortstop who is plus with the glove and not injury prone, a decent fourth outfielder option with good on-base skills, and a high potential19 year old pitcher with a 65% ground ball rate. Yes, Oakland all ready has an impressive decoration of young arms, but Barnese fits the Beane mold.
Of course I suck at this airmchair GMing thing, so it's possible I'm overlooking even deals that would be "better"; such as making Niemann, Davis, or Hellickson one of the key components, and Perez likely has no value, but he has more options than Justin Ruggiano and can probably be a decent defender.
The roster, pre-Price
Lineup: Navarro/Pena/Iwamura/Longoria/Bartlett/Crawford/Upton/Murton and Gross/Hinske
What happens with Price comes up? I'm not really sure, but I imagine by then Reyes or Percival will have an ache to be cured with 15 days off.