This week finally kicks off the winter meetings, and the stage is set for an entertaining Hot Stove cookout. You won't be there, and I won't be there, so what are we to do when the rumors start trickling in?
Here are a couple reminders to help set your expectations.
1. If there is a Rays rumor, it didn't come from the Rays
Inevitably, other teams will ask the Rays about every player on the roster, and then someone will tell a reporter there were conversations "about Evan Longoria" or some nonsense. Don't be fooled! The Rays aren't ones to discuss their hands, and aren't in a hurry in most circumstances either.
The stress, late hours, and hyper activity of the winter meetings makes a conservative franchise take a chill pill, not kick it up another level. As Matt Silverman told Marc Topkin, "The pace is always crazy—it's frenetic at this time of year." The Rays have no interest in becoming "over stretched."
There are only two teams we know about having active talks with the Rays—the Astros and Cubs—but we did not know when the Seattle talks were ongoing, and that's a deal that actually happened. That tells you as much as you need to know. The Rays have been, and will continue to be, discreet.
2. Chris Archer is not for sale
There are four players I cannot see being involved in any trade rumor: Chris Archer, Evan Longoria, Kevin Kiermaier, and Blake Snell. Everyone else is for sale, at the right price, if you insist.
This front office is slightly unpredictable in their second off-season, which was evident in the Nate Karns trade when more team control was dealt away than was received, but any more-veteran player with only one or two years remaining on their contract are more likely to be discussed.
Matt Silverman has been vocal enough to say the Rays have pitching depth to deal from, and are not afraid to do so. Is it from the Andrew Friedman smoke-screen playbook, or are the Rays on the verge of dealing Jake Odorizzi? Is he talking about the rehabbing southpaw Drew Smyly and Matt Moore?
3. Don't expect the Rays to do anything unexpected
If a trade gets done this week, it was most likely percolating for quite a while and merely concluded this week. Maybe that means we finally see a trade out of the Rays bullpen, but there's no guarantee the front office will use the winter meetings for anything more than laying groundwork.
A perfect example is the three-team trade that sent Wil Myers to the Padres, and flipped two prospects from the haul for Steven Souza Jr.. That trade did not happen until the Friday of the following the week, well after the winter meetings concluded.
If a trade is executed, Topkin lays out the familiar Rays mantra: "word is they would want back a player, or players, who can help the current team, which they consider playoff-caliber."
It's not a fire sale, and it never is.
4. Expect teams to get desperate for starting pitching
Big name free agent starters David Price, Zack Grienke and Jordan Zimmerman are off the board, then Lackey and Shark followed, which should allow the rest of the market to fall into place. One big piece already fell last night, with the Dodgers securing Hisashi Iwakuma, and Johnny Cueto could follow shortly.
If the Rays are so inclined, the winter meetings could be a perfect time to pull the trigger on trading a starter, with the Mariners and Dodgers being two teams who may get desperate for another great starter.
Then again, the winter meetings could be the perfect time to wait even longer.
5. Expect the 1B/DH market to move slowly
There were only 12 trades at last year's winter meetings of any kind, and only two free agent signings (RHP David Robertson and SS Clint Barmes). Unless thumping first-baseman Chris Davis signs on Monday morning, the likes of John Jaso, Chris Carter and Pedro Alvarez likely won't know their market, and the Designated Hitter market will remain stalled through the end of the week.
This complicates the Rays' hopes of moving their most cumbersome contract. The largest free agent contract in Rays history has turned out to not have been the best idea. Can you believe that?
If the Rays are interested in moving James Loney's $8m remaining, they probably won't know which teams might be interested until the dust settles on the 1B/DH front.