The Rays recent trade of Drew Smyly was thought to put an end to the months of speculation regarding the team’s desire to part with a piece of their rotation; however, Erik Neander breathed new life into those rumors yesterday in an interview on MLB Network Radio. After online personalities Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette asked if the team would consider parting with another arm, Neander reportedly responded as this tweet notes:
#Rays GM Neander on if they'll trade another SP: "This deal does drop us down one established starter. We'll continue to have an open mind"— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) January 15, 2017
Perhaps, Neander is just posturing or doing his due diligence to see what could be out there, but I wouldn’t put it past the small market team to take advantage of the weak pitchers market.
The rotation is set to be Archer, Odorizzi, Snell, Cobb, and Andriese, but with Erasmo Ramirez and Chase Whitley already on the 25 man and a couple of younger pitchers waiting in the wings in the upper minors, they could feasibly still move someone and still have the depth to make it through the rigors of a major league season.
However, it is Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, and Chris Archer who have all been linked to other teams this offseason. Should we expect any of these guys to be headed out in the immediate future?
Alex Cobb’s Estimated Departure: 2017 Offseason/2017 Trade Deadline
Alex Cobb has been tabbed the most likely pitcher to go since his name began swirling around the market late last season as he returned from Tommy John surgery. Chances are that Cobb’s durability questions have ended up with a number of low ball offers from teams hoping to acquire a low risk/high reward type of player, or else the Rays would have likely traded him since he hits free agency after the 2017 season.
While Cobb could still be dealt this winter, I wouldn’t anticipate it unless Neander is trying to clear more cap space in an attempt to land a right handed bat like Chris Carter now that Joey Bats is off the market. It makes far more sense for Tampa Bay to allow Alex Cobb, who only costs $4 million this season, to contribute to the team while building up equity in hopes of bringing back a stronger return midseason if the Rays are out of contention or a guy like Honeywell is ready to take his place.
Nonethless, Cobb is the one of the three whose departure would least hinder the Rays ability to compete this season.
Jake Odorizzi’s Estimated Departure: 2017 Trade Deadline/2018 Offseason
Jake Odorizzi was linked to the Pirates at winter meetings as well as to a few others, but it seems nothing has developed with teams instead turning their attention to Jose Quintana.
Since Odorizzi is still under team control through 2019, the 26 year old should have at least another season in a Rays uniform if the team is truly looking to compete this season; and if the Rays disappoint, he could still find his way out at the deadline, but it is far more likely he’s dealt next offseason.
The small market Rays need to maximize value, and another full season of Odorizzi coming into his own will make that a reality. But if they wait much longer than that, he won’t have enough team control to warrant the haul he’s capable of bringing back.
Additionally, with a strong season, he could be in line for a $3-4 million dollar raise or more that would push the team to a place where a younger, cheaper option from the farm system would make more sense for the Rays’ 2018 salary constraints.
The only foreseeable situation is for Tampa to hold onto Odorizzi for now, but not past that time. Alternatively, should the Rays want to keep him, the team would require some real success in 2017.
If the Rays are coming off the playoff berth and the young replacement arms need more time to develop, perhaps the added revenue from the post season makes his salary increases more palatable.
Chris Archer’s Estimated Departure: 2019 Offseason/2020 Offseason
Unlike the number of other Rays’ starters who have been traded in recent years or the subject of present rumors, Chris Archer is under team control for five years at an incredibly reasonable deal. He is set to earn a mere $19 million through 2019 followed by two additional years of team options maxing out at $11 million per season. Granted, it’s the combination of talent with that team friendly deal that renders the ace pitcher one of the most coveted arms in the league, capable of netting a haul in line with what Chris Sale was worth this off-season.
Considering how anyone is available at the right price, it’s not impossible that Archer could be dealt, but I wouldn’t expect anything to be imminent. There’s far too much for the Rays to gain by keeping him at his current contract; listen to the words of Erik Neander at the end of this interview:
While he obviously doesn’t close the door on anything, Neander seems to suggest that Archer is unsurprisingly viewed as an essential piece of the team that hopes to compete.
It is of note that Bruce Levine of CBS Sports Chicago is reporting that teams are upping their offers for Jose Quintana, and as many of you may recall, Chicago’s previous demands already led the Astros to approach the Rays about a potential offer for Chris Archer, which the Rays flatly denied. Perhaps, the same scenario drives the Astros (or another team that misses out on Quintana) to offer a stronger proposal for Archer this offseason.
Barring that or a collapse of the current major league team, it’s considerably more advantageous for Tampa Bay to reap the rewards of their affordable top of the rotation arm for now with an aim to deal him at a high value in the 2019 or 2020 when he has just a couple of years of team control remaining.
Much of what the Rays do involves waiting on the market to develop, so unless they are pushed by something drastic, they’ll likely enter the season with the current expected rotation. Yet, even if they’re winning, it’d be difficult to not part with Cobb midseason unless he’s rekindled that ace potential he flashed so seemingly long ago.
Ultimately, the more likely arms to be traded, should a deal materialize, would be starters on the fringe of the rotation: RHP’s Matt Andriese, Erasmo Ramirez, and Chase Whitley, among whom only one will find a spot in next year’s rotation. That route enables the Rays to simultaneously acquire some value for surplus pieces and ensure the team is in the best position to compete for a playoff spot.