The Rays have been circling the Cubs and Rockies in trade rumors throughout the off-season, particularly in the pursuit of young,power hitters with plenty of team control.
This has led the team to target Cubs infielder Javier Baez (83 HR, .235 ISO across all levels since 2013), and Rockies left fielder Corey Dickerson (34 HR, .247 ISO at MLB level since 2014).
Early projections expect both players to have their handful of strikeouts (28% for Baez, 21% for Dickerson), but in an attempt to find offensive production with respectable defense and years of control, the Rays have been willing to bite the bullet on strikeouts.
The Rays followed that trend late last week by supposedly landing renaissance power hitter 1B/OF Steve Pearce, agreeing to a one-year deal with the player, but the Rays have been delaying his signing for nearly a week.
We've thought the team has been trying to find the perfect 40-man roster move or trade to clear a spot for Pearce, but what if something massive is planned?
Since the above are the only Rays rumors we have to work with, having just one possible Cubs prospect name to work with (the game's top catching prospect Willson Contreras). Let's charge on anyway, and build ourselves a three-team deal.
We know the Cubs have their sights set on RP Jake McGee, a closer on par with the best in baseball and coming off injury, and that they also have a keen interest in picking up a Rays starter, possibly Alex Cobb, or change-of-scenery candidate outfielder Desmond Jennings for some insurance in center field.
The Rockies interest isn't entirely clear. Wafts from the hot stove also suggest they want Jake McGee, although they seem to be farther away from contention. Colorado would also be an excellent suitor for lefty-swinging 1B James Loney, who would better suit the team's first base platoon between Ben Paulsen and Mark Reynolds.
That kicks off the framework of a deal like so:
Cubs get: RP Jake McGee (TB - 2yr), OF Desmond Jennings (TB - 2yr)
Rays get: SS Javier Baez (CHI - 6yr), OF Corey Dickerson (COL - 4yr)
Rockies get: SP Erasmo Ramirez (TB - 4yr), 1B James Loney (TB - 1yr)
This would all need balanced out with a couple prospects going back and forth, and that's what brings about the three-team aspect. I would imagine it would be Chicago pieces balancing out the scales, but there's advantages on each side.
Chicago moves a top prospect without a position, picks up a respectable defender who can cover center field if needed, and nab another closer to keep up with the Jones's stockpiling relief talent.
Tampa Bay lands two white whales of the off-season and sells high on the new-and-improved Erasmo Ramirez, while freeing the left field slot for Dickerson and the first base slot for their glut of 1B/3B/OF types.
Colorado upgrades their first base platoon with a respectable defender who may benefit from Coors, and add a starter with a near-50% ground ball rate.
The trouble is that making this a three-team deal could balloon the exchange of players to a huge amount.
Maybe the Rays demands are high, and they're looking to land another big piece from the Cubs. Maybe the Cubs demands are high and they're looking for a Rays starter to round out the deal. Maybe Colorado wants salary relief, which the Rays could pluck from the Cubs.
And if it's the Rays who are asking for the moon -- by adding C Willson Contreras or one of the may top Cubs outfielder prospects to the discussion -- maybe Tampa Bay adds recovering ace Alex Cobb to the discussion, blowing this deal out further.
Whatever the gaps in value are between the three teams, a shuffling of prospects between the Cubs, Rays and Rockies should be able to get it done, although adding more players with high MLB salaries only benefits the Rays. If so, Tampa Bay could reallocate that money back into the free agent market, where players like Ian Desmond, Mat Latos, and Tyler Clippard remain un-signed.
What say you? Is this framework enough for these three teams to build upon?