This week Rays general manager Erik Neander will have a lot of options when discussing potential deals with other general managers this week at the winter meetings. The Tampa Bay Rays have a lot of MLB talent that have varying degrees of value and interest in the trade market.
The roster could look very different come opening day or it could look mostly the same with a few changes on the margin. Almost any player could be dealt, but who is most likely to be dealt?
It depends on what tier of talent that player is in.
Tier 1: Godfather Offers
These are the pieces that are under long term team control, make money, and are the best players on the team. Chris Archer, Kevin Kiermaier, and Evan Longoria
Archer has four years of control. Kiermaier has six years of control. Longoria has six years of control.
If any of these players are traded it’s because the Rays got an offer they just couldn’t refuse.
Of the group I think Archer is the most likely. It would take one team really making an over the top offer. There are teams that have the need and ability to make the kind of offer it would take for the Rays to ship out their most valuable trade asset. The only way I see it happening though is if the offer includes elite prospects or young MLB talent that the Rays can’t pry away with other pieces.
Kiermaier is an elite defender. He’s very valuable. Teams still don’t pay for defense as much as offense. I expect this to continue and his value is more to the Rays than in trade.
Longoria is the Rays. He’s owed a large amount of money in Rays terms. He’s owed 5/$87MM with $11.5MM of that being deferred. He has about $25MM in surplus using the 3.1 fWAR Steamer projection baseline. That doesn’t include the deferred money which lowered the original value of the deal by almost $5MM. He’s the one guy on the roster I fully don’t expect to be traded. A team would have to likely value him like a four win player to even get an offer that would make the Rays think about it.
Tier 2: Probably Not
Steven Souza Jr. and Wilson Ramos are useful veterans. The Rays need those.
Souza is projected to get $3.6MM in his first year of arbitration. The Rays currently don’t have any reasonable replacements in house. Every other outfielder for the Rays on the MLB roster and in the upper minors bats left handed. The Rays need another right handed outfielder not to subtract one.
Ramos is owed $10.5MM in 2018. The Rays bet on him getting healthy after tearing his ACL late in 2016. Ramos showed he was healthy. I don’t think they signed him in order to trade him this winter, but I wouldn’t put the odds at zero.
Tier 3: If the return and freed money make the team better
Alex Colome, Corey Dickerson, and Brad Miller, y’all are expensive.
Colome ($5.5MM), Dickerson ($6.4MM), and Miller ($4.4MM) are all arbitration eligible projected to make a little bit of cash. Colome has three years of team control remaining. Dickerson and Miller have two years of team control remaining.
Of this group Colome is the most likely to be traded. There is a lot of interest and leading the league in saves has inflated his arbitration award. The structure of a trade would be very similar to the January 2016 trade that sent Jake McGee for Corey Dickerson. McGee was projected to make $5.0MM in arbitration with two years of team control remaining while Dickerson had four years of control remaining including one year at league minimum. The day after the trade the Rays signed Steve Pearce to a 1/$4.75MM deal in reallocating the money McGee would have received.
Dickerson and Miller could also be moved in similar fashions. If another team gives them an offer they like and they can line up a deal either through trading for a contract or through free agency any of these could be moved. I think Miller would be the most likely followed by Dickerson.
Tier 4: He gone
Jake Odorizzi, thanks for your service.
The Rays currently sit at a projected opening day payroll of just under $80MM. Stu Sternberg has been on record saying it will be lower than where the team ended last year just above $80MM. I believe the payroll will land somewhere between $70-75MM.
To get down to that range Odorizzi is the most expendable player. They have similar even if slightly worse options available to fill the roster spot for league minimum instead of the $6.5MM projected arbitration total. That would put their payroll around $74MM if they don’t bring any veteran in as part of the deal.
Odorizzi has similar value to what Drew Smyly did last off-season. A backend to just off the top 100 list as a headliner with a couple lottery tickets should get it done.
Then there’s everybody else
The guys making league minimum expected to play big roles on the 2018 team like Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, and Matt Andriese would take a large return for the Rays to move. It’s not impossible, but players at league minimum have more value to the Rays considering their payroll than anybody else.
Matt Duffy is expected to receive $900k in his first year of arbitration after missing the whole 2017 season due to an injured heel. He doesn’t make much, so the savings for the Rays is only a couple hundred thousand over a league minimum roster spot. Getting him healthy and productive would increase his trade value. I can’t imagine he’d bring back much right now, so he’s the one arbitration eligible guy that I think is most unlikely to get moved.
Adeiny Hechavarria ($5.0MM) and Jesus Sucre ($1.3MM) are only dealt if they get a SS or catcher in another trade. These guys are unlikely to be traded on their own, but could be thrown in as a part of deal such as Sucre going to the Cardinals if the Rays were to acquire Carson Kelly.
I don’t expect the Rays to trade any of their high value prospects, but outside of Willy Adames and Brent Honeywell I could see players being added to balance out trades. Nobody is particularly safe, but I don’t think there’s anybody specific that is going to be dealt.
Important Reminder: The Opening Day roster is not set
The roster the Rays enter the winter meetings with is not going to be the one they enter spring training with. They are going to deal some MLB assets. They are going to acquire either by trade or free agency some MLB assets.
Trying to predict what the Rays will do is a tough game. They keep discussions tight lipped and most of the time you don’t know about a trade going down until it’s getting finalized. If scenarios are floated by the media it generally is something that was talked about in the past and not currently being discussed or it’s another team leaking information.
This winter the Rays can do almost anything and I wouldn’t be totally shocked. That’s the case most winters.