The 2019 MLB Winter Meetings are in full swing, and after an intense first day of action on Monday, here’s what we have learned about the Tampa Bay Rays and the players they’re pursuing.
CF Shogo Akiyama
Marc Topkin was the first to note that the Rays are interested in a couple of players from Japan; Shogo Akiyama and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo.
In November, Draysbay writer Homin noted that the Rays could be interested in each of the two outfielders, as well as infielder Ryosuke Kikuchi. Here’s what he had to say about Akiyama:
During 2015~2019 season:
- He didn’t miss one single game
- His lowest wRC+ was 130, and highest was 169
- 5× NPB All-Star
- .320/.399/.497 batting line
Many scouts have said he will not be a star at MLB level, but he could be a major league regular. He doesn’t have a great set of tools, but he has a good enough overall skillset.
Update - The connections keep coming, including on Rays Radio and in the tweet below:
Four teams have met with Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama . Cubs - Dbacks-Rays -Reds . Price range 2 years $8 mil to $10 mil total . Recovering from broken ankle . .376 OBP for career .9 years with Seibu Lions . No posting fee.— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 12, 2019
OF Yoshitomo Tsutsugo
Here’s what Homin had to say about the slugger Tsutsugo:
Tsutsugo has good power and patience at the plate. He is relatively young, a run-producer, and not strikeout prone. But his value is limited only at the plate. He is known for bad defense, having moved from 3B to 1B to recently LF, and projects as a 1B/DH/LF option at the MLB level.
Videos and more on both Japanese players can be found here.
RHP Dellin Betances
The biggest marquee name the Rays have been connected to is free agent reliever Dellin Betances. The Rays, like most teams, are probably interested in adding the talented pitcher who dominated opposing hitters from 2013 through 2018.
However, the only link we between the two sides this week is a tweet from Jack Curry of the YES Network, suggesting that Betances is likely to sign a one-year deal and telling the public to, “keep an eye on Tampa Bay.”
Betances is likely to sign 1-year deal to boost his value after a lost 2019. Yanks have engaged w/ him. Keep an eye on Tampa Bay, too. Also, FWIW, one of Beltran’s friends held a congratulatory dinner after he got the Mets job. The only active player who attended was Betances.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) December 9, 2019
You can read our full article on Betances here.
OF Avisail Garcia
Prior to the start of the Meetings, Topkin also noted that there are a couple of possible reunions in store for the Rays as the team has expressed interested in retaining outfielder Avisail Garcia as well as Guillermo Heredia. Garcia is receiving plenty of interest from around the league after his bounce back season in 2019.
OF Steven Souza Jr.
One other possible reunion would be for the Rays to bring back Steven Souza Jr., who the Rays dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training in 2018.
#Rays are interested in trying to bring back Avisail Garcia, who had a fine year for them in 2020. They also are interested in lefty swingers Shogo Akiyama, a center fielder, and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, a corner outfielder/DH type.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 10, 2019
Souza spent two injury-riddled seasons in Phoenix before being unceremoniously non-tendered a week ago. Now a free agent, Souza has expressed interest in returning to the Rays and said he is 100% ready to play.
C Robinson Chirinos
Robinson Chirinos market: Rangers, Houston , Detroit, Tampa, Pitts. So the 2 Texas teams, his last 2 teams, want him.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 11, 2019
Chirinos is another former Ray. He had 60 plate appearances for them in 2011 before a concussion derailed his career. In six seasons with Texas and one with Houston, he developed into one of the better hitters at his position in the league and could complement Zunino behind the plate. He batted .238/.347/.443 for the Astros in 2019.
Veteran Pitchers represented by Scott Boras
Speaking with the media, agent Scott Boras noted he will be in continued talks with the Rays on starting pitching.
Boras anticipates keeping touch with the Rays, too, noting that a club that leverages progressive pitching approaches to great success could nonetheless use another veteran arm.
That list is as follows (with 2019 stats):
- Hyun-Jin Ryu - 2.32 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 182.2 IP, 19.2 K-BB%, 4.8 WAR
- Dallas Keuchel - 3.75 ERA, 4.72 FIP, 112.2 IP, 10.7 K-BB%, 0.8 WAR
- Aaron Sanchez - 5.89 ERA, 5.25 FIP, 131.1 IP, 7.8 K-BB%, 0.8 WAR
- Matt Harvey - 7.09 ERA, 6.35 FIP, 59.2 IP, 3.8 K-BB%, -0.3 WAR
These are four very different kinds of signings, with the most likely candidate being Ryu, who the Rays should be more than willing to sign to a Charlie Morton style contract, although it’s hard to say what his market will be given his injury risk.
Check out Ryu’s appearances by season: 30 (2013), 26 (2014), 0 (2015), 1 (2016), 25 (2017), 15 (2018), 29 (2019). Would the 33-year old’s injury risk outweigh his coming of a 2nd place finish for the NL Cy Young?
Keuchel, well, you’d have to think that if he were someone the Rays wanted they would have nabbed him during the 2019 season when he was available mid-year and the Rays were missing starters due to injury.
You might remember Sanchez making headlines for a strong contribution to the Astros stretch run, but after blowing out his shoulder he will miss the start of the 2020 season.
Meanwhile, Harvey’s career has gone belly up, with the Angels parting ways with the starter via release last season, and then the Athletics keeping him in Triple-A through the end of the year, despite their own playoff run. He looks like a milb deal, not a major league offer.
We will continue to update this article as the Rays are connected to free agents or trade acquisitions this week.