Yesterday afternoon, SB Nation's Chris Cotillo reported the Rays are listening on veterans David DeJesus, John Jaso, and Kevin Jepsen, while rebuffing requests for any pitchers under long term control.
All of this coincides with the Rays also being in the market for a catcher, and asking for non-rentals in any major league pieces offered. In other words, they want players with years of control.
The Rays have plenty of outfielders and made it this far without Jaso, so the first two rumors are less of a surprise. DeJesus and the DH Jaso could be rentals for any team that comes calling and, in my opinion, are quality bats for any team who just needs one more piece. As the week progresses, and if the Rays turn into 'sellers' for the upcoming trade deadline, it makes sense that either would be shopped now.
What's possibly more surprising is Jepsen, one of the Rays' top relievers. The team has not decided to be sellers, and while they are not buyers, having a fringe wild card position (as they did in 2013) shows the Rays may be interested in adding relievers or possibly an extra bat.
In fact, the current iteration of the Rays has the team heavily reliant on their bullpen, which has also become their biggest weakness in the summer months. For a team built on run prevention, and only four games out of the playoffs with two months to go, are they truly selling one of the four best relievers on the team?
The answer is probably!
This morning Marc Topkin added to Cotillo's reporting to say the Rays are considering dealing a top reliever, though he could not specify which between closer Brad Boxberger, the high-leverage Jake McGee, or the aforementioned Kevin Jepsen -- who lit the world on fire in the early months but has since cooled a bit.
Among those three names, Boxberger and McGee would command a huge return, with research showing the Rays could expect a return of a prospect ranked in the 11-50 range on industry lists. That's a great return! It makes sense you would listen for those offers to come through.
Jepsen, however, does not command the same return. With one more year of control remaining, Jepsen is near the end of his years of contract arbitration and is likely to see his salary finally reach what would be considered market value, up to $6M. For a small market team with limited finances, that's more than what the team would consider reasonable.
Dealing Jepsen at the deadline likely allows the Rays to command a higher return than in the off-season. Teams are more eager to add a reliever performing well as soon as possible, where as in the winter it's a bit more obvious the Rays are avoiding the higher salary.
Jake McGee is likewise only getting more expensive as the years go by, but by losing his role as closer (due to happenstance more than ability), his arbitration may come out a bit cheaper for the Rays next season. If the decision to trade a reliever is monetarily motivated, Jepsen and McGee may cost the same in 2016. It makes sense to deal the lesser-talented party (Jake McGee 1.30 FIP this season isn't far off his career norms, and marks him as one of the best relievers in baseball, while Kevin Jepsen's 4.12 FIP fails to back up his strong ERA).
Teams will come knocking for Boxberger or McGee, but they might leave with Jepsen instead. If you're a playoff team, his five saves a 2.88 ERA are still a nice get.