The elephant in the room for a team rebuilding: What should the Rays do at the trade deadline?
For the Rays that is catcher Wilson Ramos, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, outfielder Carlos Gomez, right handed pitchers Sergio Romo and Nathan Eovaldi, and left handed pitcher Jonny Venters (disabled list).
Ramos is the most impactful player on that list. He’s been playing so well that Ramos has worked his way into the realm of a qualifying offer this winter. Going from Ramos starting 5 times a week and giving those starts to Jesus Sucre and whoever is called up to be the second catcher is a massive blow to the Rays overall, with or without the post season in mind.
The Rays have money with a payroll that likely enters the winter sitting in the mid to upper $30MMs. The clear hole for the near future is catcher. The Rays will likely need to make a deal in free agency for that catcher.
The good news is with catchers like Yasmany Grandal and Tyler Flowers available there will be options. A one year deal for big money or a couple year deal shouldn’t scare the front office. Of course trading Ramos now wouldn’t prevent them from signing him this winter if they both agree to a deal as well. The Rays will be able to find a catcher in 2019, but 2018 could cause this team and pitching staff to suffer.
Eovaldi might be needed as well to cover innings depending on the injury status of the other pitchers at that time. Chris Archer is scheduled to return before the deadline. You never know how healthy your pitchers will be so it could likely be a loss that could be easily replaced, or he could be needed. And like Ramos, he too is a candidate for a long term deal.
Last year the front office signaled to the fans that keeping guys like Adames, Bauers, and Honeywell in Triple-A to win a championship had value even if they would’ve helped the major league roster down the stretch. It stands to reason that winning in the majors matters too. Finishing the year on a strong note could have positive impact for the future, and the team and the fans deserve the opportunity to see the team end up above .500 for the first time since 2013.
The Rays have 23 games until the trade deadline comes on the afternoon of July 31, and the schedule is very favorable. Of those 23 games the Rays play the Miami Marlins for six, the Minnesota Twins and Baltimore Orioles four times, and the New York Mets, Detroit Tigers, and New York Yankees for three a piece. The Yankees are the only team that currently sits better than ten games under .500. The weighted winning percentage for this run is .428 or a 69 win pace.
So, what should the Rays do at the trade deadline? Particularly in a depressed trade market?
Allow the young guys to win.
The Rays shouldn’t be in the market to acquire rentals, but the discussion should be more about adding than subtracting talent at the MLB level. The focus should be on the future.
The future for this group is bright, but that doesn’t mean we should forget about the present. Let the youngsters play, but also give them a real chance of winning.
The Rays have 79 games left. The Rays will likely need to run like the sun in order to close the gap that the Mariners have created. The Rays next window of contention isn’t fully open yet, but the window is starting to open. Losing a couple more games doesn’t help your draft status at this point.
Show the fans and team that winning in the majors matters.
If the Rays get blown away for some players on the periphery, go ahead, but let this team know they can succeed, and get ready to blow the doors of the thing in 2019.