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MLB Winter Meetings: Who have the Tampa Bay Rays been connected to?

Who have the Rays been connected to at the Winter Meetings?

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Japan v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images

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:

OF Yoshitomo Tsutsugo

Japan v Los Angeles Dodgers
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo
Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images

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

American League Division Series Game 4: Boston Red Sox v. New York Yankees
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.”

You can read our full article on Betances here.

OF Avisail Garcia

2019 ALDS Game 5 - Tampa Bay Rays v. Houston Astros
Avisail Garcia
Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

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.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

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.

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

World Series - Washington Nationals v Houston Astros - Game Seven Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

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

MLB: Winter Meetings Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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.

[USA Today Sports]

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.