We are now mere hours away from the deadline, and Rays rumors are beginning to swirl again. It's no secret the Rays and Dodgers have often been linked this offseason as the two have been mentioned in Archer and Longoria deals. As Daniel covered yesterday, the Rays could be engaged in discussions with the Dodgers and Reds to coordinate a three-team trade. Some reports have since dismissed this claim, but even if it's not of the three team or Archer/Longo variety, I believe the Rays and Dodgers are very likely trade partners.
There is the Friedman connection, and because the Dodgers are still uncertain about Kershaw's return timetable from his back injury, it makes sense that they would covet one of the Rays starters. Los Angeles is only one game behind San Francisco in the West, and they have a strong farm system they could as trade currency to help them leap back into first. As far as that strong farm system, it's chalk full of guys that could be enticing to the Rays so let's take a look at some potential trade targets.
Jose De Leon - RHP
De Leon went un-drafted out of high school, but he been outstanding throughout his minor league career and has flown up the prospect ranks of late (wasn't ranked in BA's Top 100 in 2015, but was recently ranked as 25th best prospect in their midseason report). He is currently owns one of the best changeups in the minors and projects to be a strong number 2 or 3 starter.
Over 11 starts this season; De Leon has a 3.84 FIP, 11.30 K/9, 3.14 BB/9. He is 23 years old and considered to be close enough to make an impact in the majors soon. Over at truebluela.com they had this to say about De Leon:
Though he just cleared 100 professional innings in a single season for the first time last season, De Leon will be turning 24 this season and should be ready to take on a larger load in 2016, including a potential call up to the big league rotation. De Leon is in the 70-grade tier of prospects for me because I think he could enter the majors already fairly close to his ceiling, albeit that ceiling may not be quite as high as his not-yet-ranked counterparts.
Baseball America just ranked De Leon as the 25th best prospect in their midseason report. De Leon would fit in well with a retooled approach as he is close to MLB ready and could potentially contribute to the MLB team in 2017.
Frankie Montas - RHP
Drafted by Boston in 2009, Montas has been involved in two big three team trades since starting his pro career. He went to the White Sox in the deal that brought Jake Peavy to the Red Sox and has landed in Los Angeles in the deal that sent Peraza to the Reds, and Todd Fraizer to Chicago.
He has struggled with injuries in 2016 in the form of a stress reaction that required surgery. He has recovered and started pitching this year in AAA, and has flashed his powerful arm when healthy as he can reach 100 MPH on his imposing fastball. So far this year over 20.2 innings this year he has struck out 29 batters while only walking 4. If Montas can stay healthy and continue to improve his fastball command he has the ability to pitch in the majors in 2017.
Willie Calhoun - 2B
Calhoun is an interesting prospect for the Rays because of a couple of reasons. First off, Calhoun is a small guy that flashes power at the 2B position; some believe he has the potential to hit 20 home runs per season once he makes the major leagues, while others think he'll sit under the 20 mark. Regardless Calhoun has been a hitting machine in the minors. Ranked #98 on Baseball America's midseason prospect report, he has produced a 128 wRC+ and hit 22 home runs at AA this season.
Calhoun has been criticized for his defense in the past which has lead some to believe that the will not stick at 2B in the future. David Hood at truebluela writes about how Willie may eventually end up in left field.
Most scouting reports are not kind to Calhoun on his defense, with many predicting a future move to left field. From brief looks at his pre-college showcases, Calhoun is not a natural mover at second and his hands work a little stiff, but that was two years ago. He made 18 errors at the position in just 73 professional games, but was used around the diamond in junior college.
Some reports say that Calhoun has been improving his defense this season, but time will tell if his great work ethic can correct his questionable glove. Calhoun will be 22 at the start of next season, and could crack the major league roster some time towards the end of the 2017 season.
These three prospects are some of the Dodgers best to offer. They are all relatively close to making the major leagues and could help the 2017-2018 Rays team. The Rays should expect a lot in return from the Dodgers if a trade is completed for Moore/Odo/Archer, and the package will obviously require multiple prospects coming back to play in St. Pete. Silverman should be bringing up these three in any discussions within the next couple of hours.