After a particularly quiet offseason, the Rays started off the new year with a flurry of moves this month; however, despite their recent deals, Tampa Bay arguably still needs to bolster the bullpen and add a right handed bat if they want to enhance their position in the always difficult AL East.
There’s always the possibility that they roll out the current roster come Opening Day, but, it seems GM Erik Neander continues to be “open minded” to a possible trade. As such, we turn our attention to the division with the lowest winning percentage in Major League Baseball, the National League West, as we continue our examination of trade targets from every MLB club.
Every team in the NL West except San Diego is prepping for a competitive season in 2017, and even that could change for the Padres if the likes of Hunter Renfroe and Manny Margot breakout earlier than expected. Here are a few possible pieces that the Rays could target from these playoff hungry teams:
Los Angeles Dodgers: OF Scott Van Slyke
Los Angeles is already over the luxury tax but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to improve the team even if the deal adds a little salary. For weeks, they’ve been discussing a potential Jose De Leon and Brian Dozier trade; however, it seems the Twins asking price has them considering alternatives. If a Dozier trade doesn’t come to fruition, they have been rumored to be enamored with Logan Forsythe. It’s hard to imagine a Forsythe to the Dodgers deal getting done this offseason, but the Dodgers and Rays could hone in on a trade that moves one of LA’s six outfielders.
One of them, Scott Van Slyke, is a career fourth outfielder/platoon guy that is a solid option for the Rays even if it’s not the most appealing addition. Not only does he boast a career 138 wRC+ against southpaws, but he has been superb in left field, which makes him a perfect platoon mate for Dickerson. He’s slightly below average against righties, so he’s not going to push anyone for regular playing time, but he also isn’t going to greatly hinder the team if he’s pressed into action unlike the recently claimed Jason Coats.
The 30 year old is slated to earn a mere $1.3 million this season, and with only two years of team control remaining, he’d be a more efficient option than most of the outfielders left on the market. In terms of acquisition cost, Erik Neander could probably swing a deal for a couple of mediocre prospects since the Dodgers are motivated to move an outfielder prior to the start of the season.
San Diego Padres: RP Brad Hand
With the advent of its two top prospects late last season, San Diego captured a glimpse of the tantalizing future that awaits them. Unfortunately, the competitive window is still a couple of years out, so there’s no harm in parting with smaller pieces if they can get some value.
Former starting pitcher Brad Hand could just never seem to put it all together ever being selected in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft. Yet, he really seemed to thrive in his first full season out of the bullpen last year as he posted an impressive 2.92 era in 89 innings. This success can be largely attributed to a heavier reliance on his breaking ball, which he threw 37% of the time after eliminating a changeup that was a part of his arsenal as a member of the Marlins’ rotation.
Although he is a lefty (and the Ray’s have several already in the fold), Hand is more than a LOOGY; he limited right handed batters to a .233 average and has the endurance to go multiple innings when necessary.
Since Hand’s salary is set to be only $1.4 million for this season with two more years of arbitration before he hits the market, he’d likely stick with the Padres if they didn’t have a number of other bullpen arms with more control. He could probably be had for a guy with 45 FV and a lottery ticket type of arm.
San Francisco Giants: RP George Kontos
Last season the Giants made it to the playoffs but fell victim to the Cubbies on their path to the World Series. A great deal of that team is still intact, but they desperately need an upgrade in left field as well as some more bullpen depth. With those needs, they are not a particularly good trade fit for Tampa Bay; however, if they were pressed to make a deal, then George Kontos would be a strong candidate to be headed the Rays’ way.
Kontos is a 31 year old right handed arm who came up through the Yankees system before the Giants added him. Thanks to his above average cutter, he cruised through last season with a 2.53 era. Despite that success, his HR/9 has been sporadic the past four years (11.3, 2.7, 11.4, 5.9), so it’s difficult to predict what sort of success he will have in 2017 even if he is likely to be a decent option.
With an affordable contract and three years of team control, he’s not going anywhere unless the Rays want to overpay with a quality prospect.
Colorado Rockies: OF Charlie Blackmon
Last season, the only team to score more runs than the Colorado Rockies was the Boston Red Sox. Sure, you can attribute a portion of that to playing half their games at Coors Field, but it’s no secret that Rockies have a bevy of potent bats in their lineup. The emergence of David Dahl and the addition of Ian Desmond has pundits speculating about a potential Charlie Blackmon trade that Rockies GM Jeff Bridich has publicly denied.
Still, rumors have surfaced that the Rockies asked Toronto for Marcus Stroman and have insisted on a return similar to what the Adam Eaton blockbuster brought to Chicago. Since Eaton is younger, better, cheaper, and has two more years of control, this suggests that Bridrich is either serious about not dealing him or he is posturing for a stronger return than has been offered.
Offensively, Charlie Blackmon exploded last season with 29 homers and a .342/.381/.552 slash line and even if the power will likely subside some and the BABIP will regress, he’s become uncharacteristically improved hitter as he’s aged. Fangraphs Jeff Sullivan expounded on this when he wrote a piece last season focusing the adjustments Blackmon made; in particular, he’s become both more selective and has been crushing balls down in the zone with more authority and a better launch angle. Take a look at how his groundball rate has evinced that the past couple of years:
His defense has been trending the opposite direction, so while he can still play some centerfield, he’s better suited to play in the corners. With the glut of outfield depth the Rays already have, this may seem like a peculiar move, but rumors continue to swirl about adding a guy like Bautista, so it’s not out of the question that Blackmon could be a fall back option of the same mould.
Blackmon is under team control through 2018, and since he’s slated to only make a couple of million more than Drew Smyly was set to make, so the team could fit him into this season’s payroll effortlessly for this season. They’d likely be interested in Cobb since they boast one of the weakest rotations in all of baseball, and while the Rockies would undoubtedly insist on Honeywell, perhaps you could build a quality package around Cobb and a couple of legitimate prospects. It’d be costly; yet, it would give Colorado immediate help and prospect value while locking in a top of the order bat for the Rays in the same window the team has control over Ramos.
I’d count it quite unlikely to happen given the Rays track record, but it’s the best fit to improve the team in 2017 via a Colorado trade.
Arizona Diamondbacks: RP Jake Barrett
Arizona finished just one game better than Tampa Bay last season, but with the return of A.J. Pollock, they are poised to improve in 2017. They’ve already made noise this offseason by swapping SS Jean Segura in a deal that brought back uber talented Taijuan Walker and another speed SS in Ketel Marte.
In addition to the moves they’ve already made, the Diamondbacks are looking for a set up guy and possibly another starting pitcher given they have so many questions there.
A deal centered around Jake Barrett and some prospects for Erasmo Ramirez could be mutually beneficial, but if that’s not to either team’s liking, Barrett could probably be nabbed for a low level prospect.
Barrett has never projected to be anything spectacular, but he possess two plus pitches that helped him put up a 3.49 ERA in his first big league season. Furthermore, Barrett is only 25 and has 5 years of team control, which could give the Rays some depth in the back of their bullpen for the foreseeable future; however, at the cost and limited upside, they might as well look internally.