With the July 31 MLB trade deadline fast approaching, and with the Rays still in the thick of the AL playoff race (despite the recent skid), the team could certainly look to make a buy or two. There are rumors aplenty about certain bullpen arms the club is targeting, but there are also bigger fish out there if the Rays really feel like making a splash. If the Rays wanted to enter the Yu Darvish or Justin Verlander sweepstakes (neither of which I would say I am in favor of as of right now), the cost would be a lot higher than trying to acquire a proven reliever like Justin Wilson or A.J. Ramos.
The Rangers or Tigers (or any hypothetical big-fish seller) would immediately look to the Rays absolutely stacked farm system, and they would likely target several of the Rays top minor leaguers. With that in mind, here are the three prospects that the Rays should avoid trading at all cost. (The obvious caveat being that anyone can really be traded if the price is right. If the Rangers GM got infected with some sort of disease that made him lose his mind and offer Darvish and Joey Gallo straight up for one of these guys, the Rays should obviously take it. We’re just dealing with the real, likely realm of possibilities here.)
1B/OF Jake Bauers
Bauers has seen his star rise in recent seasons, to the point that he is now among the Rays Untouchables. Bauers has shown he can play more than just first base, adding to the side of his resume that is a bit lighter than his offensive profile. With the stick, Bauers has an OPS of .800 at Triple-A right now, with a batting eye that is bound to intrigue Rays fans. His OBP (.375) is nearly 100 points higher than his BA (.277), and he has some pop as well, with 34 extra-base hits in 92 games with Durham this season. Fangraphs’s KATOH system believes this will translate well at the major league level.
Bauers has always been young for the level he has played at, making his career .788 OPS in the minors all the more impressive. The smooth-swinging lefty is still just 21 years old and should feature prominently in the Rays future plans. In fact, it might not even be that far in the future, as Light Tower Bauers could well see an MLB debut sometime next season with 1B Logan Morrison set to depart in free agency.
SS Willy Adames
Adames is the Rays number one prospect according to Baseball America, and he is a consensus top-20 prospect in all of baseball right now. He has been a midseason All-Star in each of the past three seasons, having moved up the ladder from Single-A to Double-A to Triple-A over that stretch.
Adames came over to the Rays as the lone minor leaguer from the David Price deal three seasons ago, and he has the chance to be the best player moved in that deal. Adames is an all-around stud who has been covered in great detail here at DRB so we don’t need to wade too deep into the bushes. Long story short, he has an exceptionally high floor, and he could easily slot into the Rays shortstop role for the next decade as soon as 2019 or late 2018. If the Rays trade King Cobra there could be a severe blowback in the greater Tampa Bay area.
RHP Brent Honeywell
If the Rays ended up dealing Bauers or Adames, I’d be upset. If they dealt Honeywell, I’d be borderline apoplectic.
Maybe it’s something about pitching prospects being flashier than hitting prospects, but Honeywell is just about the sexiest prospect out there right now. He’s the second-best pitching prospect in baseball right now, according to MLB.com’s midseason rankings (trailing only Michael Kopech) and easily the Rays top pitching prospect.
All of this praise is deserved, as he has been absolutely dealing this season. He has a 3.96 ERA with 135 strikeouts in 102.1 innings this season, with the vast majority of those innings coming at the Triple-A level.
The 22-year-old has a minor league ERA below 3.00 for his career, and he absolutely has put-away stuff. His forkball/screwball/whateverball is the stuff of legend, and he represented the Rays at this year’s Future’s Game - where he took home MVP honors.
Others might not be quite as high on Honeywell as I am (he does have a 1.39 WHIP at Triple-A this season and pitching prospects are always a bit scary), but the response would be a strong one if the Rays parted ways with the young righty.
For more on these Untouchables, listen to our Rays Podcast The Hit Show, which discussed these three prospects in depth.