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Tampa Bay Rays 2010 Trade Deadline Handbook: The Wishlist Pt. 1

[Note by Tommy Rancel, 06/25/10 10:00 AM EDT ] The third article in a series prepared by Steve Slowinski, who is away on leave.

DRB Trade Deadline Handbook: The Beginning of the Wishlist

Let the countdown begin! I've created a list of the top ten players I believe the Rays should be targeting this trade season, and so without further ado, here are the first five players. 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.

10. Corey Hart - OF

-         Rest of Season Salary: $2.4M

-         Rest of Season Projection: .353 wOBA, 7.3 wRAA (~0.7 offensive WAR)

-         Contract Status: Eligible for final year of arbitration after 2010 season.

-         Notes: This isn't a perfect fit, but bear with me here. Hart is a good offensive player that is having a power surge this season (17 HRs already) and is suffering from some bad luck with balls in play (.259 BABIP). He's a player built in the mold that the Rays like - fast, aggressive, good command of the zone - and he's relatively cheap this season and would provide the Rays with OF/DH depth over the next two seasons. However, it does seem silly to be acquiring another outfielder when we already have Joyce and Jennings waiting for roster spots, and Hart is not a great defender (career -11.3 UZR in the outfield). I see him as a back-up plan if nothing else works out.

9. Josh Willingham - OF

-         Rest of Season Salary: $2.3M

-         Rest of Season Projection: .384 wOBA, 14.8 wRAA (~1.5 offensive WAR)

-         Contract Status: Eligible for final year of arbitration after 2010 season.

-         Notes: Willingham is a cheap outfielder that has great plate discipline (11.6% career walk rate) and provides some pop (.215 career ISO). He's been putting up a career year to date, posting a .412 wOBA and 2.5 WAR already. He's on the far side of 30, though, meaning that the Nationals might be shopping him around come the deadline. My main concern would be that like Hart, he's an outfielder with another year of arbitration eligibility and would clog the Rays' bench to a degree. Short term, though, you would be hard pressed to find another player that could put up comparable numbers for that cheap.

8. Russell Branyan - 1B

-         Rest of Season Salary: $1M

-         Rest of Season Projection: .348 wOBA, 4.1 wRAA (~0.4 offensive WAR)

-         Contract Status: Free agent after the season.

-         Notes: If you're looking for cheap offense, look no further than Russell Branyan. Branyan won't hit for a high average, but he will walk a lot (11.9% career rate) and hit for power (.255 career ISO). Of course, there's a reason he's so cheap; Branyan has had back problems the last few seasons, limiting his playing time. After starting the season hurt, Branyan has been healthy since the end of April and has been hitting better and better each month that passed. The Indians are in sell-mode and Branyan will certainly be available, although the Indians most likely won't get much in return for him. He's a good low cost, medium reward target.

7. Jack Cust - 1B/DH

-         Rest of Season Salary: $1.3M

-         Rest of Season Projection: .358 wOBA, 7.6 wRAA (0.8 offensive WAR)

-         Contract Status: Arbitration eligible after season.

-         Notes: If you don't like Pena's all-or-nothing approach, then you won't like Cust either. Cust is another Three True Outcomes hitter (walks, homeruns, strikeouts) and although he started off the season in the minors, he's been rocking it ever since he got called up (.352 wOBA so far this season). Don't ask him to play defense and don't expect him to hit lefties terribly well, but he can mash the ball against righties (career .375 wOBA). He's cheap, he's a great power hitter, and judging from his early season demotion, the A's don't value him too highly. I wouldn't want him to be on the Rays long-term (he's already 31 years old and he's got old player skills), but as a short term pick-up, he would work out well.

6. Chad Qualls - RP

-         Rest of Season Salary: $2.1M

-         Rest of Season Projection: 3.52 FIP, 38 IP

-         Contract Status: Free agent after season.

-         Notes: That 8.46 ERA might fool you, but Qualls has pitched well this season. He's striking out batters at a career high rate (9.27 K/9) and generating an extreme amount of groundballs (53.8%), but he's been hurt by balls in play (.474 BABIP!!), with letting runners on base score (51.3% LOB%), and with the homerun ball (15.8% HR/FB). He's walking more batters now than ever before in his career (4 BB/9), but that's projected to lower along with his strikeout numbers as the season progresses. In short, he's a damn good pitcher that's getting hosed by luck, and some team is going to be smart enough to pick him up for pennies on the dollar. Here's hoping it's the Rays.

Next up: the top five trade targets for the Rays. I know it's tough, but contain that excitement a bit longer.