The Rays have always been good at taking advantage of undervalued assets. The revival of Fernando Rodney's career, the development path of Chris Archer and the gem that was Ben Zobrist are good examples of this. With this new Nick Ahmed rumor, the Rays could be doing two things at once if they possibly deal for a glove-first shortstop.
Filling a hole with a solid depth player
It's becoming clear that Matt Duffy's heel isn't healthy enough to start the season, and the Rays will have to come up with some sort of plan to muddle through at least the first couple of weeks without him. Tim Beckham is the next logical step, as he's a better defender than Brad Miller or Nick Franklin and has MLB experience. Rookie Daniel Robertson is another option. Both are average defenders at short, Beckham wielding a reasonable power bat while Robertson is much more contact-first.
Neither of these players are awful options as short-term stopgaps, but Ahmed's defense might make him more valuable than Robertson, even if it's only in a utility role. Over the past two seasons, Ahmed has racked up 32 Defensive Runs Saved and has an Ultimate Zone Rating of 19. Ahmed is a defensive wiz and would far outclass Beckham and Robertson in the field.
Continue to buy low on solid talent
Nick Ahmed is only on the market because of his truly dismal offensive production. In 459 PAs in 2015 he had a wRC+ of 66. In 2016, he was even worse with a wRC+ of 42. A late hip injury might be to blame for the decline, but even getting back to his 2015 would still make him a black hole in a lineup. Ahmed has shown no ability to do anything productive at the plate. He makes a decent amount of contact, but that's completely nullified by the awful quality of his contact, not to mention his tendency to chase bad pitches and hit weak infield flies. Because of his dearth of offense, the Diamondbacks seemingly want to see what kind of value he has on the trade market, especially with Ketel Marte and Chris Owings able to hold down short.
The Rays are always prowling for undervalued players and possibly maximizing them down the road. They took that approach after acquiring injured and underperforming Matt Duffy with the intent of returning him to his initial position. Of course, the Rays have a glut of young and cheap middle infielders coming soon in the form of prospects Willy Adames and Daniel Robertson and even further down the road in teenagers Adrian Rondon and Lucius Fox. But a cheap back-up plans could help out in the short run.
The Nick Ahmed fit isn't a great one. The Rays have short-term options who may not be great defenders but should hit way more than Ahmed will. Ahmed himself had hip surgery at the end of the 2016 season and doesn't have a great health outlook in his own right. Then there's the possible cost, which might be a bit too much for a player who's main purpose would be a two or three-week replacement position. Ahmed could be a good idea if the Rays don't give up a top 30-35 prospect, but if the Diamondbacks are trying to extract real value out of Ahmed, the rays should stay away.