As Erik Neander & Co. continue to hammer out deals behind closed doors, we’re going to spend some time identifying potential trade targets from each team across the league. Our analysis will be limited to trade targets who have major league experience and could help the 2017 Rays. We will only focus on players if they are expendable to their current team, or rumored to be on the block.
Today, we begin in the American League West where the Rangers, Mariners, and Astros look like legitimate playoff contenders while the Angels and the Athletics are working hard to improve in the short term.
AL West Targets
Oakland Athletics: OF Jake Smolinski
Billy Beane has been laboring to a make big splash in free agency, but was unable to land Edwin Encarnacion. Oakland would undoubtedly like to make a few moves get out of the division cellar; however, that wouldn’t likely dissuade Beane from parting with fringe pieces like Jake Smolinski if he can upgrade the team somewhere else.
Although he was taken in the second round of the 2007 draft, Smolinski didn’t make it to the Big Leagues until 2014 when he earned a cup of coffee with the Rangers. Texas sent him down to the minors to begin the next season before placing him on waivers, enabling Oakland to claim him. He’s not a particularly talented hitter against right handed pitching, but with a a career .290/.361/.505 slash against southpaws he’d make a fine platoon mate for Dickerson. Additionally, Smolinski can play all three outfield positions although he’s better suited for the corner spots.
He’s currently slated as a potential starter for the A’s, but that is more out of a lack of current options than preference; Oakland is likely to add another outfielder before the season starts. In terms of cost, Smolinski could likely be netted for a couple of low level prospects, so he represents a cost effective way to provide the Rays with some much needed outfield depth.
Los Angeles Angels: 1B/3B Jefry Marte
While Los Angeles lacks outfield depth (even after adding Maybin and Revere), they have a useful piece in Jefry Marte who’s currently blocked behind Chris Cron and The Machine, Albert Pujols. Considering the team still owes a whopping $140 million to Pujols, that’s not likely to change any time soon.
Marte has never been an elite prospect, but he’s another guy who thrives against lefties with a career 129 wRC+ and .357 wOBA. He also has the defensive versatility that enables him to play anywhere from “the hot corner” to the outfield, but you’d likely prefer to utilize him as a cheap and controllable DH/1B against southpaws.
Since a couple of the Angels starting pitchers are recovering from Tommy John, they could use some rotational depth. The Rays have Cobb and Smyly available, but Marte isn’t a good center piece in a deal for either of them, although if combined with strong prospects a deal might be possible. Alternatively I’d suggest sending Erasmus Ramirez in exchange.
Houston Astros: OF Teoscar Hernandez
At present the Astros don’t seem to have room for the young but talented outfielder, Teoscar Hernandez, even as a fourth outfielder. Hernandez is a potential 20/20 guy with above average arm strength who just needs to get the strikeout rate under control if he wants to be an effective regular. Sound like anyone Rays’ fans know?
Alright, he doesn’t have quite the upside Steven Souza did when he came up, but he does have the potential to be an everyday player in this league. Despite his success against lefties last season, he’s not proven to be a reliable hitter against lefties in the minors, which makes him more of a candidate to be a fourth outfielder in 2017 than to supplant either Souza or Dickerson.
Since Houston has been linked to about every starting pitcher on the block, it’d be reasonable to think they’d be willing to part with a few prospects along with Hernandez for Cobb or Smyly. If not, Neander could probably nab the 24 year old for a younger prospect.
Seattle Mariners: OF Mitch Haniger
Like the Astros, Seattle is looking for pitching, and is therefore a logical trade partner for the pitching-rich Rays. Mitch Haniger (discussed here are part of a proposed Drew Smyly trade), seems to be the most intriguing target for Tampa Bay if Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto would be willing to part with him so soon after his acquisition. Haniger is major league ready and while he could push for a starting job immediately, he has a nice floor as a fourth outfielder capable of hitting both lefties and righties.
He would likely cost Tampa Bay a guy like Drew Smyly whose combination of team control and upside would surely be tempting for a team that’s pushing its chips to the center of the table.
Texas Rangers: RP Jeremy Jeffress
After missing out on Daniel Hudson, the Rays still find themselves seeking bullpen help. They’re likely still looking to sign someone, but if they elect to go the trade route, the Rangers have some depth after Matt Bush broke out last season to help transform them into a top five bullpen after the break.
Jeremy Jeffress fits the bill, but he has some red flags with a history of drug abuse and a DWI last season. If the Rays were willing to take a chance on him, he possesses quite an arsenal mixing his four seam and two seam fastballs with three offspeed pitches. His K/9 isn’t impressive (8.0 for his career, but lower in the past few seasons); however, he’s been the paragon of consistency, boasting three straight major league seasons with a sub 3.00 era (albeit is a FIP that is one run higher). According to Spotrac, Jeffress has three years of arbitration remaining and only a $2.9 million projected salary, so he is reasonably in the Rays’ price range.
Jeffress was recently targeted by the Reds in a possible Billy Hamilton trade prior to Texas resigning Gomez. After that, their conversation shifted to deals centered on Dan Straily or Anthony Desclafani, so they’re apparently looking for a significant piece in return. Perhaps a package including Drew Smyly could lock down a deal.